By Nofisat Marindoti
President Muhammadu Buhar has ordered the complete lockdown of Lagos, Abuja and Ogun States because of the number of Coronavirus cases in the States.
Buhari announced this during an address to Nigerians on the deadly disease.
"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 11pm 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 State.
"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."
He explained that the decision became imperative to contain and support other States and regions.
In his words, "as we are all aware, Lagos and Abuja have the majority of confirmed cases in Nigeria. Our focus therefore remains to urgently and drastically contain these cases, and to support other states and regions in the best way we can. This is why we provided an initial intervention of fifteen billion Naira (N15b) to support the national response as we fight to contain and control the spread."
He however added that the order does not apply to hospitals and all related medical establishments as well as organizations in health care related manufacturing and distribution. Furthermore, 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.
"Although these establishments are exempted, access will be restricted and monitored. Workers in telecommunication companies, broadcasters, print and electronic media staff who can prove they are unable to work from home are also exempted.
Buhari who noted that his government's goal is to ensure all States have the right support and manpower to respond immediately, also urged Nigerians to adhere to guidelines as they are released from time to time.
The President added that he has created a Presidential Task Force (PTF) to develop a workable National Response Strategy that is being reviewed on a daily basis as the requirements change and has recruited hundreds of ad-hoc staff to man the call centers and support tracing and testing efforts in Lagos and Abuja.
"As of today, COVID-19 has no cure. Scientists around the world are working very hard to develop a vaccine. We are in touch with these institutions as they work towards a solution that will be certified by international and local medical authorities within the shortest possible time. For now, the best and most efficient way to avoid getting infected is through regular hygienic and sanitary practices as well as social distancing.
"As individuals, we remain the greatest weapon to fight this pandemic. By washing our hands regularly with clean water and soap, disinfecting frequently used surfaces and areas, coughing into a tissue or elbow and strictly adhering to infection prevention control measures in health facilities, we can contain this virus.
"Since the outbreak was reported in China, our Government has been monitoring the situation closely and studying the various responses adopted by other countries. Indeed, the Director General of the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) was one of ten global health leaders invited by the World Health Organisation to visit China and understudy their response approach. I am personally very proud of Dr Ihekweazu for doing this on behalf of all Nigerians.
"In Nigeria, we are taking a two step approach. First, to protect the lives of our fellow Nigerians and residents living here and second, to preserve the livelihoods of workers and business owners to ensure their families get through this very difficult time in dignity and with hope and peace of mind.
"In Nigeria’s fight against COVID-19, there is no such thing as an overreaction or an under reaction. It is all about the right reaction by the right agencies and trained experts. Accordingly, as a Government, we will continue to rely on guidance of our medical professionals and experts at the Ministry of Health, NCDC and other relevant agencies through this difficult time.
"I also requested, through the Nigeria Governors Forum, for all State Governments to nominate Doctors and Nurses who will be trained by the NCDC and Lagos State Government on tactical and operational response to the virus in case it spreads to other states. This training will also include medical representatives from our armed forces, paramilitary and security and intelligence agencies."
Buhari also announced the government will deploy relief materials to ease the pains of residents of satellite and commuter towns and communities around Lagos and Abuja whose livelihoods will surely be affected by some of these restrictive measures in the coming weeks.
"Furthermore, although schools are closed, I have instructed the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development to work with State Governments in developing a strategy on how to sustain the school feeding program during this period without compromising our social distancing policies. The Minister will be contacting the affected States and agree on detailed next steps.
"Furthermore, I have directed that a three month repayment moratorium for all TraderMoni, MarketMoni and FarmerMoni loans be implemented with immediate effect. I have 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 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.
"I will therefore implore you again to strictly comply with the guidelines issued and also do your bit to support Government and the most vulnerable in your communities", he added.