Louis Ibah, Romanus Uguwu and Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye, Abuja
Three days after President Muhammadu Buhari broke his prolonged silence and addressed the nation’s during which he announced a 14-day lockdown in Abuja, Lagos and Ogun, the Presidency has released in detail actions he has taken and those in the pipeline to win the Coronavirus (COVID-19) war.
Presidential spokesman, Femi Adesina, in a statement yesterday, titled: “What President Buhari has done, and is doing” listed the measures to include the signing of the COVID-19 Regulations, 2020 into law, the setting up of the presidential task force, the release of funds to Lagos State, the epicentre of COVID-19 in Nigeria, and the support provided to the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) to boost their operations and the imposition of travel ban on 13 countries with high cases of the virus.
Acording to him, oJanuary 28, one month before the first case of Corona Virus, Federal Government announced the airports as Enugu, Lagos, Rivers, Kano and the FCT while two days later, it set up a Coronavirus Preparedness Group to mitigate the impact of the virus if it eventually spreads to the country.
Early March, few days after Nigeria reported its first case, health minister, Dr. Osagie Ehanire, announced that 60 persons who had contact with the index Italian patient were under isolation – 40 in Ogun State and 20 in Lagos State, while on March 9, Buhari established a Presidential Task Force for the control of the virus in the country and also postponed the 20th National Sports Festival.
Following its spread, Nigeria stopped issuance of visas placed a travel ban on 13 countries with high cases of the virus namely: United States, United Kingdom, South Korea, Switzerland, Germany, France, Italy, China, Spain, Netherlands, Norway, Japan and Iran.
Measures also adopted by Buhari incuded extension of travel ban to two more countries, Sweden and Austria and closure of international airports in Enugu, Port Harcourt and Kano on March 20 while the Nigerian Railway Corporation announced the suspension of all passenger services from 23 March as well as closure of the remaining two international airports in Abuja and Lagos.
•March 23: The Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Tanko Muhammad ordered all courts in Nigeria to shut down from 24 March.
•March 23: Nigeria announced the suspension of Federal Executive Council, (FEC) and National Council of State (NCS) meetings indefinitely.
•March 23: The Independent National Electoral Commission announced suspension of all activities for 14 days.
•March 24: The Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board suspends activities for two weeks.
•March 24: The National Examination Council announced an indefinite postponement of the 2020 common entrance examination into 104 Unity schools in Nigeria, which was scheduled to hold on 28 March.
•March 24: The Federal Capital Territory Administration ordered the immediate closure of shops in the markets and neighbourhood centres, except those selling food items, medicines and other essential commodities.
•March 24: FCT also directed the immediate suspension of gathering in churches and mosques.
•March 25: Government announced the closure of Asaba airport with effect from March 27; land borders from March 29.
•March 26: CBN announced COVID-19 fund contributions by seven Nigerian billionaires and banks. Access Bank Plc, Nigeria’s biggest lender by assets, is teaming up with Africa’s richest man, Aliko Dangote, to provide treatment and isolation centres across Africa’s most populous nation as it braces for the impact of the coronavirus.
•March 26: Federal Government received 107 boxes of medical supplies from China, comprising surgical masks, protective clothing, face shields and detection kits.
•March 27: Federal Government released 10 Billion Naira to Lagos State, and 5 billion Naira special intervention fund to NCDC to equip, expand and provide personnel to its facilities and laboratories across the country.
•Closure of the nation’s international Airports and Land Borders for four weeks in the first instance, to enable the country put up the appropriate policies, processes and infrastructure to cope with suspected and confirmed cases at home, without risking compounding of the situation with more imported cases.
You’re no scientist, stick to your fiction writing, Presidency replies Soyinka
The Presidency has reacted to Nobel Laureate Professor Wole Soyinka questioning of the legality of the presidential order restricting movement in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Lagos and Ogun States.
In a statement, yesterday, Garba Shehu, said: “Yesterday (Tuesday), the esteemed Nobel Laureate, Prof. Wole Soyinka made comments on the legal status and description of 14-day lockdown announced by President Muhammadu Buhari.
“Professor Soyinka is not a medical professor. His qualifications are in English literature, and his prizes are for writing books and plays for theatres. He is of course entitled to his opinions – but that is exactly all they are: semantics, not science. They cannot – and should not – therefore be judged as professional expertise in this matter in any shape or form.
“Across the world – from parts of the United States and China, to countries including the United Kingdom and France, government – mandated lockdowns are in place to slow and defeat the spread of coronavirus. All have been declared, and all have been made necessary, based on medical and scientific evidence. The guidance of the Nigerian Government’s medical specialists is to advise the same.
“Professor Soyinka has also declared, doubtless based on his specialism as a playwright, that: “We are not in a war emergency’’.
Eminent scientists say otherwise: “Dr Richard Hatchett, Head of the International Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (and former Director of the US Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority) has said, ‘War is an appropriate analogy’.
“Professor Anthony Fauci, Director of the United States National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and member of the White House Coronavirus Task Force has said of the battle against the pandemic: ‘It’s almost like the fog of war’.
“As for the legality of the lock down, the Government of Nigeria’s primary duty in law and action is the defence of the people of Nigeria. We face a global pandemic. Nigeria is now affected. The scientific and medical guidance the world over is clear: the way to defeat the virus is to halt its spread through limitation of movement of people.
“Perhaps Wole Soyinka may write a play on the coronavirus pandemic, after this emergency is over. In the meantime, we ask the people of Nigeria to trust the words of our doctors and scientists – and not fiction writers – at this time of national crisis.”
Legal debate distraction to govt, APC govs
The All Progressives Congress (APC) Progressive Governors Forum (PGF) has raised the alarm that continued debate over the legality of the lockdown order was distracting to government in tackling the challenge of the disease.
Specifically reacting to Femi Falana, Ebun-olu Adegborua (SANs) and Soyinka, the forum, through its Director-General, Salihu Moh. Lukman, said the “debate” was unwarranted and unnecessary.
He urged them to stop playing to the gallery.
“What is the objective of this debate? Is it to strengthen the capacity of our democracy to respond to emergency situations, especially when human life is at great risk on accounts of the outbreak of diseases? Or is it to simply show some legal muscles based on which the actions of the government are delegitimised? How else could government isolate, care and treat victims of Covid-19 in these cities given the scientific evidence that you could be carrier without showing any sign of symptoms? In other word, everybody could be a carrier.
“Whether lockdown is desirable and the best in the circumstance is immaterial…
“In fact, Adegboruwa, Falana and virtually all the lawyers expressing reservations about the legality or otherwise of the lockdown as announced by the president are in agreement that there should be lockdown. Their grouse is simply that the President should seek for the approval of the National Assembly as provided under the Constitution.
“All the energy we expend to question the legality of decisions of government to lockdown these three cities with the highest potential to spread Covid-19 virus to every part of the country may only serve to distract the attention of government from the critical issue of ensuring effective response to contain the spread of Covid-19.
“Rather than asking the question whether locking down Abuja, Lagos and Abeokuta is sufficient to contain the spread of Covid-19, we are seeking to undermine the government. Good enough, our state governments are responding in a way that expand the jurisdiction of the lockdown to cover virtually all parts of the country…
Certainly, both Adegborunwa, Falana, Soyinka and all those criticising the current lockdown of Abuja, Lagos and Abeokuta, may have some selfish reasons to express opposition,” he said.
Cooking gas sales not banned during lockdown – NALPGAM
The Nigerian Association of Liquefied Petroleum Gas Marketers (NALPGAM) has said the sale of Liquefied Petroleum Gas, also known as cooking gas, was not banned in Abuja, Lagos and Ogun states following the lockdown order by the Federal Government to contain the coronavirus pandemic.
NALPGAM made the clarification in a statement, yesterday, by its Executive Secretary, Mr. Bassey Essien, urging members to open up their businesses to the public.
He said NALPGAM had sought for a clarification from the government if gas plants and retailer outlets were included as essential services alongside the sales of petroleum products like petrol, kerosene and diesel.
He said the clarification was sought to avoid the overzealousness of security personnel in enforcing the order.
“The fact that people have to stay indoors for two weeks in the first instance entail that households must cook and eat. The Lagos State Ministry of Energy and Mineral Resources granted the approval that gas plants and cooking gas retailers and their personnel were classified as essential service providers and their product essential in ensuring the sustainability of the people’s continued stay at home to curtail the spread of COVID-19.
Therefore LPG plants are part of the essential services and are thus exempted from the lockdown. Gas filling plants are allowed to work within the period of the lockdown,and should be granted access to the smooth running of their facilities and operations, and also free movement of their personnel from their homes to the facilities,” Essien said.