Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye Abuja
The Federal Government has cautioned governors to rethink their decision to lift ban on congregational, adding that the Coronavirus pandemic was still much with us.
Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF) and Chairman of PTF on COVID-19, Boss Mustapha, said this at the daily briefing one the task force, while reacting to Governor Abdullahi Ganduje of Kano State, announcing lifting of the ban on congregational and ‘Eid’ prayers while insisting that congregants must continue to obey the physical distancing rule.
The governor’s directive came moments after the SGF announced President Muhammadu Buhari’s extension of the lockdown in Kano by additional two weeks.
Mustapha said: “I’m particular about congregational gatherings. Large gatherings will exposed even the 20 persons that we want to protect. We want our sub-nationals government to really reconsider their decisions on allowing large gatherings to take place until when we have been fully prepared and we can adjudge that the moment has come for that to be allowed.”
Mustapha, who shared stories of people he knows who have lost their lives to drive home the point that COVID-19 is real, said in the virtual meeting of the National Economic Council with Vice President and all the governors earlier yesterday, the issue of alignment of their state level actions with the guidelines issued was emphasised.
“Similarly emphasised is the need for states to diligently implement and enforce compliance. Particularly, I underscored the need for the governors to provide personal and strong leadership, carry the policy of community ownership to the grass roots and create deeper awareness.
“The governors were also advised on the decision taken by some of their colleagues to permit large gatherings as such decisions could inadvertently endanger the elderly, the sick and those with underlying factors during such gatherings. The strong advisory from the PTF is that large gatherings beyond 20 persons remains prohibited and should be adhered to.”
PTF National Coordinator, Sani Aliyu said governors will henceforth own the response as the centre will not continue to drive the process.
“First of all, I will like to say that the continuous measures that we advise, always take into cognisance the social, economic, religious, cultural implications of these measures. In addition to that, we know that the effectiveness of the measures really depends on the acceptability, the owning by the communities. Whenever the PTF puts out guidelines, it is never done in isolation to state governments. We always tell them in advance what the likely recommendations will be. If we get approval from Mr. President, we go back to them and tell them what part of their recommendations have been agreed on or not.
“We will continue to work with the state governments to make sure that whatever is put in place is in the best interest of their citizens.
“We are in the business of saving lives. When it comes to restrictions, I will like to give you an example. Saudi Arabia for instance, I’m sure you are aware, they had about 240 deaths, they have had over 40,000 infections. So, their case fatality rate is much lower than Nigeria’s. But what have they done? They are planning to actually lockdown the country, 24 hours lockdown for five days during the period of the eid. Have we had any umrah this year? No. Are we likely to have hajj? We probably wouldn’t. So we are living in an usual situations, we are living in an usual times. As far as we are concerned, the role of government is to protect the lives of the citizens and ensure their well being.
Meanwhile, the SGF has warned against self-medication, noting that it is fraught with danger of increasing risks of avoidable casualties.
“Through the surveillance system set up by the PTF, we have received reports that Nigerians have been purchasing Hydrxoychloroquine in large quantities. We wish to reiterate that this drug has not been certified for use in treating COVID-19 in Nigeria by the relevant health and pharmaceutical authorities…If you’re sick, please seek medical advice and if you are confirmed positive, kindly self-isolate in an approved facility. The COVID-19 is highly infectious and dangerous.”
Early discharge of positive patients
Director-General, Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), Dr. Chikwe Ihekweazu, has announced plans to discharge patients earlier than their required treatment and isolation period at the different centres, even though they were still positive.
Ihekweazu said in a bid to decongest isolation centres, the Centre has begun testing people for COVID-19 only once as against its earlier stance on second testing before discharge. This is also done to
“Up till now, we have kept patients in care or advised that patients be kept in care until they turn out to be negative on the test that we are using the PCR tests. New evidence is emerging that even when the test is still positive, in certain circumstances, after that patient have been in care for a certain amount of time.
“It is possible and safe to discharge that patient to home isolation. So we are looking at the evidence and we might change our guidelines over time,” he said.
Oil revenues fall by N125bn
The Federal Government said oil revenue target earlier put at N940.91 billion has crashed to N125 billion in the first quarter of 2020.
Minister of Finance, Mrs. Zainab Ahmed, attributed it to the raving impact of COVID-19 pandemic.
According to her, the fall represented 31 per cent of the projected oil revenue target.
She also said the government would suspend debt reductions from states’ allocations to support their economies.
Ahmed, said with Nigeria’s poverty rate put at 40 percent, this drastic fall in oil revenue would only exacerbate Nigeria’s state of squalor, pointing out that economic situation will be worsened with the gross domestic product (GDP) growth expected to contract by 8.94 per cent this year.
She, however, said if the measures being put in place to ameliorate the state of the economy works as planned, the contraction might only be by 4.4 per cent without fiscal stimulus.
Ahmed also explained that with effective fiscal stimulus in place during this pandemic, the situation might bring the contraction down to as low as 0.5 per cent.