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Minister cancels COVID-19 briefing as FCT resident doctors suspend strike

By Azimazi Momoh Jimoh, Nkechi Onyedika-Ugoeze (Abuja) and Lawrence Njoku (Enugu)
25 March 2020   |   4:00 am
The Minister of Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire, yesterday cancelled the ministry’s briefing on developments relating to the Coronavirus pandemic in the country.

National Assembly workers stay at home, Enugu locked down for virus

The Minister of Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire, yesterday cancelled the ministry’s briefing on developments relating to the Coronavirus pandemic in the country.

Earlier fixed for 1:00 pm, the meeting was later shifted to 3:00 pm before its final cancellation on the pretext that the minister was attending to other official duties.

During this period, representatives of the 10 select media organisations had converged on the minister’s conference room in Abuja, only to be told that Ehanire was at the meeting of the Presidential Taskforce on COVID-19.

The minister had on Monday during a press conference told journalists that as part of measures to observe the social distancing directive given by the Federal Government, the ministry would reduce the number of reporters that would be covering its subsequent briefings through the rotation.

The newsmen, who were eagerly waiting to know the true situation of things regarding the alleged infection of President Muhammadu Buhari’s Chief of Staff, Aba Kyari, by the virus were eventually addressed at 5:00 pm by the minister’s Technical Assistant, Chris Isokunwe, officially notifying them of the cancellation.

Amid apology, the aide told the journalists that he was not sure of when the meeting would end hence the postponement till today.

Efforts to ascertain from the aide Kyari’s alleged infection was rebuffed, as reporters were told to wait till today.
Meanwhile, the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) chapter of the Association of Resident Doctors has suspended its eight-day-old strike.

Speaking yesterday in Abuja, president of the association, Dr. Roland Aigbovo, stated: “The eight-day long strike embarked on by members of ARD-FCTA has been suspended”, urging members to immediately return to their duty posts.

Aigbovo explained that that the decision followed the directive of the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA) president, Dr. Francis Faduyile, in that respect.

The chapter, comprising comprises practising doctors in the 14 district and general hospitals, Department of Public Health and Primary Healthcare Development Board under the Federal Capital Territory Administration (FCTA), had on March 16 begun an industrial action over alleged irregularities in salaries and shortfalls since the introduction of the Integrated Personnel and Payroll Information System by the FCT authorities.

However, the National Assembly has ordered its workers to stay at home from today.

The order was contained in a circular issued by the Clerk to the National Assembly, Mohammed Ataba Sani-Omolori, yesterday in Abuja.

The document said the employees are to remain at home for an initial period of two weeks.

Also yesterday, the Enugu state government went full throttle in its response to the ravaging Coronavirus, as it directed civil servants to work from home henceforth.

Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi, who addressed a press conference in Enugu, also announced the suspension of all school activities and social gatherings in the state.

He, however, exempted public and civil servants on essential duties.

The governor said forthwith, all public transport operators in the state are to convey in each instance not more than two passengers for tricycles and commuter buses as well as not more than three passengers for city cabs.

He said the government had strengthened the state emergency operations centre.