…says Nigeria on course to stopping COVID-19
…hails Sanwo-Olu, team on quick response
By Olasunkanmi Akoni
The presidential Task Force on COVID-19 has said only President Muhammadu Buhari can decide if the lockdown of Lagos, Ogun and the Federal Capital Territory, FCT, Abuja, over the Coronavirus pandemic will be extended or not depending on expert advice.
Recall that Buhari had, a week ago, ordered a total lockdown of Lagos, Ogun and the FCT for 14 days in the first instance, to checkmate the spread of Coronavirus.
Secretary to the Government of the Federation and Chairman, Presidential Task Force on COVID-19, Boss Mustapha, made the remarks on Tuesday, while briefing state House Correspondents in Lagos House, Marina, after an inspection of isolation facilities in different parts of the state.
The task force, accompanied by Lagos State Governor, Mr. Babajide Sanwo-Olu, had earlier inspected isolation facilities at Mobolaji Johnson Arena, Onikan, Lagos Island; Mainland Infectious Disease Hospital, IDH, Yaba; Lagos University Teaching Hospital, LUTH, Idi-Araba and Gbagada General Hospital, Isolation Centre, Gbagada.
Also in the entourage was Minister for Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed; Minister of Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire, and Minister of Interior Affairs, Rauf Aregbesola, among other key government functionaries.
Mustapha said: “Basically, this is part of the consultation we are looking at the objectives that were set when the Lockdown and Quarantine Declaration 2020 was signed by the President and subsequently by other state.
“Before the end of the week, we will do an evaluation and see how the objectives that were set are being met.
“At the end of that exercise, we will have the responsibility of reporting back to Mr. President. The President did say the declaration was on the advice of Minister of Health and experts.
“At the end of our valuation, our advice and recommendation will be presented to Mr. President and at that point, he and he alone can take that decision when the lockdown would either be extended or it will stop at the expiration of 14 days.
“In his address to the nation, he did say 14 days in the first instance. So it is opened. It is based on what has happened within these 14 days: have they been met? Have they satisfied the objectives? Has it gone in the direction we wanted it go?
“If that has been achieved, he will look at all the information available to him as the President of Nigeria and I can assure you that he will take a decision that is in the best interest of Nigerians.”
Earlier, Mustapha in a briefing, said the task force was in Lagos to inspect facilities put in place by the government for the control of the COVID-19 pandemic.
He assured all Nigerians of the unwavering commitment of Buhari to this war against COVID-19 and his readiness to mobilise resources to achieve national objectives.
He stated that it was not the desire of government to punish its citizen by restricting their movement, but rather out of the abundance of caution, that difficult decision was taken to save lives by preventing spread.
His words: “Reports have been received on the general level of satisfactory compliance in Lagos with the lockdown order and we have similarly received reports of violations. In this case, I commend the instant action taken by the Lagos State Government by prosecuting and convicting notable violators, which shows that nobody should be above the law.
“In recognition of the impact of the lockdown order on the poor, physically challenged, the elderly and the vulnerable, Mr. President approved the release of 70,000 metric tons of grains from the strategic grains reserve.
“Out of this, about 6,800 will be distributed in Lagos, Ogun and FCT, while the rest will be distributed to the 13 frontline states that have recorded cases of the COVID-19 disease. I assure you that the distribution of the Lagos State share will commence shortly.
“Mr. President has similarly approved the payment of two months Conditional Cash Transfer to 2.6 million poor and vulnerable already registered in the social safety net programme.
“On behalf of Mr. President, I wish to commend the government of Lagos State magnificently controlling the pandemic and for putting in place isolation centres, ICU facilities as well as establishing a wide network of contact tracing.”
Mustapha stressed that the nation was at war with an unseen but very potent enemy and that to successfully prosecute this war, “we must own it, participate in it, create awareness, obey rules and regulations, stay at home when ordered and we must not conceal any information from the medical and disease control authorities.
“One person, who is infected in a community can endanger the entire community regardless of its size and status or position of the people living there. Coronavirus is real and dangerous. Let me appeal to Lagosians, indeed, all Nigerians to play our roles in defeating Coronavirus.
“To win the war, we must abide by instructions to stay at home, maintain social distancing, personal hygiene and report all suspected cases to the designated health authorities.”
On arrival at the Lagos State House, Mustapha had expressed optimism that the current challenge of the ravaging COVID-19 in Nigeria would soon be over in view of sustained efforts to curtail it in the country.
He, however, commanded efforts of the Lagos State Government towards curtailing the ravaging pandemic, saying “Lagos is doing a great job” on containment.
Mustapha, therefore, urged residents of the state to continue to give government necessary support in the fight against COVID-19 inorder to kick it out of the country.
He continued, “Thank you for the great job that you’re doing in supporting the work that is being undertaken by His Excellency, the Governor of Lagos State and his team.
“We’ve just taken a tour of this facility that is a very important place, in anticipation that we’ll have to receive patients here.
“So far, I think Lagos State is doing a great job. From what I’ve seen here, they’re putting up a first-class and a world-class facility that will help us in the management of those that are affected with COVID-19.
“I think we are on course and the basic strategy of the national response is containment; try as much as possible to reduce spreads to tracking of those that have already been infected so that we minimise the case of community transmission.”
Mustapha, charged the media to continue to broadcast to the people on the need to “maintain social distances, personal hygiene and to report anybody within the community who has shown symptoms of the infection, so that as quickly as possible, the help that is desired can be extended to those persons.”
Also speaking, Governor Sanwo-Olu commended the task force for coming to the state to inspect the facilities, saying efforts were being intensified to ensure that the COVID-19 pandemic is defeated.