COVID-19: Buhari, PTF meet in Aso Rock
ABUJA — AS the second phase of the lockdown in Lagos, Ogun and the Federal Capital Territory, FCT, Abuja for 14 days expires Monday, President Muhammadu Buhari on Sunday met with the Minister of Health, Dr Osagie Ehanire and the Director General of the Nigerian Center for Disease Control, NCDC, Dr. Chikwe Ihekweazu at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.
Recall that President Buhari had ordered for a complete lockdown of Lagos, Abuja and the FCT said to be the epicenter of the COVID-19 pandemic for 14 days starting from March 29 and even extended the lockdown for another 14 days from April 13, 2020.
The President is expected to address Nigerians today whether to relax the lockdown or extend it for the third time in view of the report that the dreaded Coronavirus transmission was spreading in communities despite the measures put in place to contain it.
Personal Assistant to the President on New Media, Bashir Ahmed, through his verified twitter handle @BashirAhmaad tweeted: “FLASH: President @MBuhari receives briefing on Nigeria’s #COVID19 situation, from Minister of Health Dr. Osagie Ehanire and Director-General of the NCDC, Dr. Chikwe Ihekweazu this evening at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.”
Ehanire, who appeared on Channels Television Sunday night when asked when the lockdown will be relaxed or lifted said: “The president will make that announcement in his own time, we have given him the facts, he will consider the facts and make his own announcement using his wisdom.”
Asked if it made sense to relax the lockdown now that Nigeria’s cases are over one thousand, the minister said: “well, what happens is that in every country we balance the medical and health-related benefits from the economic-related benefits because you have an economy you don’t want to kill and you also have a health sector you don’t want to destroy.
“So it is a very delicate balance which you need to do and all countries do that. It is not only in our country, even in the United States you have that debate all the time, do we open the economy now or do we not open the economy now.
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The decision has to be tailored according to the needs of our country, every country weighs his own benefits and decides what is best for her.
“In our case, we have presented the facts to His Excellency, Mr. President, we thought of the pros and cons and then gave him the options and then leave him to use his wisdom to make the choice.”
Recall also that President Buhari at his last broadcast to the nation said the extension became necessary having considered the briefings and Report from the Presidential Task Force and the various options offered.
He said the approach to the virus remains in two steps – “First, to protect the lives of our fellow Nigerians and residents living here and second, to preserve the livelihoods of workers and business owners.
“With this in mind and having carefully considered the briefings and Report from the Presidential Task Force and the various options offered, it has become necessary to extend the current restriction of movement in Lagos and Ogun States as well as the FCT for another 14 days effective from 11:59 pm on Monday, 13th of April, 2020.
“I am therefore once again asking you all to work with Government in this fight.”
The governors of 36 states of the federation had through the Nigeria Governors Forum (NGF) asked that the lockdown be scaled down to partial mode with relaxed restriction.
In a letter dated April 24, 2020, and addressed to the Secretary to the Government of the Federation/Chairman, Presidential Task Force on COVID-19, Boss Mustapha, the NGF requested for, subject to the president’s approval, internal free movement in all the states, but with restrictions on large gatherings.
The other things the governors want to be incorporated into President Buhari’s impending pronouncement on the lockdown are: “Inter-state lockdown, excluding movement of essential supplies- food, beverages, medical and pharmaceutical, petroleum supplies and agricultural products; internal free movement but with restrictions on large gatherings and assemblies; overnight curfews; lockdown of flights; and compulsory use of face masks/coverings in the public.”