Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye, Abuja
President Muhammadu Buhari has announced a complete lockdown in Abuja, Lagos and Ogun for the next two weeks.
The measure, he said, is to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19), said to have been linked to persons who have travelled from these centres.
In a national address to Nigerians, Buhari said interstate and intercity movements are restricted to prevent further spread.
He said: “Based on the advice of the Federal Ministry of Health and the NCDC, I am directing the cessation of all movements in Lagos and the FCT for an initial period of 14 days with effect from 11 pm on Monday, 30th March 2020. This restriction will also apply to Ogun State due to its close proximity to Lagos and the high traffic between the two States.
“All citizens in these areas are to stay in their homes. Travel to or from other states should be postponed. All businesses and offices within these locations should be fully closed during this period.
“The Governors of Lagos and Ogun States, as well as the Minister of the FCT, have been notified. Furthermore, heads of security and intelligence agencies have also been briefed.
“We will use this containment period to identify, trace and isolate all individuals that have come into contact with confirmed cases. We will ensure the treatment of confirmed cases while restricting further spread to other States.”
The President said the order does not apply to hospitals and all related medical establishments as well as organisations in healthcare-related manufacturing and distribution.
He added that commercial establishments such as; food processing, distribution and retail companies; petroleum distribution and retail entities, power generation, transmission and distribution companies; and private security companies are also exempted.
President Buhari, however, warned that access to the exempted establishments will be restricted and monitored.
He added that workers in telecommunication companies, broadcasters, print and electronic media staff who can prove they are unable to work from home are also exempted.
The President added that all seaports in Lagos shall remain operational in accordance with the guidelines earlier issued. Buhari said: “Vehicles and drivers conveying essential cargoes from these Ports to other parts of the country will be screened thoroughly before departure by the Ports Health Authority.
“Furthermore, all vehicles conveying food and other essential humanitarian items into these locations from other parts of the country will also be screened thoroughly before they are allowed to enter these restricted areas.”
Buhari said he has directed Minister of Health to redeploy all Port Health Authority employees previously stationed in the Lagos and Abuja Airports to key roads that serve as entry and exit points to these restricted zones.
He said: “Movements of all passenger aircraft, both commercial and private jets, are hereby suspended. Special permits will be issued on a needs basis.
“We are fully aware that such measures will cause much hardship and inconvenience to many citizens. But this is a matter of life and death if we look at the dreadful daily toll of deaths in Italy, France and Spain. “However, we must all see this as our national and patriotic duty to control and contain the spread of this virus. I will, therefore, ask all of us affected by this order to put aside our personal comfort to safeguard ourselves and fellow human beings. This common enemy can only be controlled if we all come together and obey scientific and medical advice.
“As we remain ready to enforce these measures, we should see this as our individual contribution in the war against COVID-19. Many other countries have taken far stricter measures in a bid to control the spread of the virus with positive results.”
The President said relief materials will be deployed to ease the pains of residents of satellite towns in Abuja and Lagos.
According to him, “For residents of satellite and commuter towns and communities around Lagos and Abuja whose livelihoods will surely be affected by some of these restrictive measures, we shall deploy relief materials to ease their pains in the coming weeks.”
Buhari said he has also directed Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development to work with State Governments to develop a strategy on how to sustain the school feeding programme during the period even though schools are closed buy without compromising social distancing policies.
The President said he has also directed that a three-month repayment moratorium for all TraderMoni, MarketMoni and FarmerMoni loans be implemented with immediate effect.
He has also directed that a similar moratorium be given to all Federal Government funded loans issued by the Bank of Industry, Bank of Agriculture and the Nigeria Export-Import Bank.
For on-lending facilities using capital from international and multilateral development partners, Buhari said: “I have directed our development financial institutions to engage these development partners and negotiate concessions to ease the pains of the borrowers.
“For the most vulnerable in our society, I have directed that the conditional cash transfers for the next two months be paid immediately. Our Internally displaced persons will also receive two months of food rations in the coming weeks.”