•Apologises over violation of protocols at Kyari’s burial
•Pledges to pay ex-Nigeria Airways staff
By Omeiza Ajayi
ABUJA — Alarmed by the increasing number of persons testing positive for coronavirus in the country, the federal government yesterday announced that it was developing a new national action plan to combat the scourge, expressing concerns that the pandemic was far from over.
It also apologized for what it described as “unintentional” violation of its own containment protocols during last Saturday’s burial of the Chief of Staff to the President, Mallam Abba Kyari. Chairman of the Presidential Taskforce on COVID-19 and Secretary to the Government of the Federation SGF, Mr Boss Mustapha, disclosed this alongside the Minister of Health, Dr Osagie Ehanire during the daily briefing by the Taskforce.
In his opening remarks, the SGF said: “Given the increase in the number of confirmed cases in the last week, the PTF remains conscious of the fact that we are far from the end of this outbreak in Nigeria. We, therefore, must focus even more vigorously on our strategy of increasing testing, isolating confirmed cases, following up with contacts of cases and managing confirmed cases to recovery.
“The PTF recognizes, regrettably, the unintentional violation of the principles and protocols that form the core of our message to Nigerians, at the funeral of the late Chief of Staff. These principles for emphasis, include: the guidance provided on mass gatherings; social distancing; Personal Hygiene; and restriction of movements.
“Lessons have been learned and appropriate measures have been taken to close all gaps. We assure all Nigerians of their safety and the determination of the PTF to combat the pandemic. “The significant increase in the number of cases and distribution across states underscore the importance of remaining focused as citizens and as a nation because of the enormity of the challenges ahead.
“This is the time for all hands to be on deck so that the PTF can improve on its delivery. We must all come together because we face a common enemy and potential risk. We must flatten the curve at all cost and restore our country to full activity”, he added. National Coordinator of the Taskforce, Dr Sani Aliyu also apologised for the indiscretion of top government officials who went for the burial.
He said; “We will like to acknowledge and apologise for the mistakes that were made regarding the burial of the late Chief of Staff. We realised that crowd control failed. It was not intentional. In a pandemic situation, you do not discriminate against the poor or the rich because the pandemic itself does not discriminate. We have learned from this and we will ensure future events are adequately regulated and follow the terms or protocols. The Gudu Cemetery had since been decontaminated. The Personal Protective Equipment discarded at the site had since been burnt and discarded according to NCDC guidelines”.
Health minister, Dr Osagie Ehanire who recalled several actions already taken by the federal government to address the pandemic, however said a new national action plan is underway to strengthen national response to Covid-19.
“The worrying increase in the frequency and number of new persons with Covid-19 being recorded daily is attributable to these new strategies in combination with our community transmission. A new national action plan is under development to adjust and address this development”, he stated.
On his part, Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika, said the federal government has not forgotten its commitment to staff of the defunct Nigeria Airways, saying the Federal Ministry of Finance had been asked to draw up modalities for payment of outstanding emolument.
He said: “Regarding the Nigeria Airways issue, if you recall in 2004, they hurriedly liquidated the Nigeria Airways with the workers. No provision was made for them and they were ignored for a very long time.
“But when this government came, remember the national revenue was going down. At a time, oil prices plummeted from $140 to below $30. Even at that time, Mr President was very concerned about the workers and we were asked to compile the list and compute the amount which we did neatly and sent to Mr President. The president paid some money at that time and promised to pay the rest. ”The Ministry of Finance has been asked to draw up modalities for payment of the balance and that will be done.
In civil aviation, we have done our part. We have computed and we have forwarded to government, we have secured the payment and the payment is going on and between Finance Ministry and Pension Transitional Arrangement Directorate, PTAD, the remaining balance will be paid.”