Nigeria plans troop deployment as Aisha Buhari urges total shutdown
• Nigeria records first COVID-19 death, six new cases in Edo, FCT, Lagos
• FG orders full closure of land borders, suspension of FEC meetings
The Federal Government has said it wouldn’t rule out tougher decisions in its bid to control the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), even as it warned that things could get worse.
“For those who will not cooperate by submitting to the authorities, as required, the government will use all lawful means at its disposal to trace and bring them in. We will not hesitate to use the military and the police to enforce social distancing as well as contact tracing if not cases of coronavirus will multiply,” Minister of Information and Culture Lai Mohammed disclosed yesterday.
This came as the First Lady, Aisha Buhari, yesterday called for a total shutdown of the country via a tweet on her verified handle, @aishambuhari.
“It is commendable that state governors have closed down schools; however, this could be counterproductive if parents are still going to work. We should not isolate students and expose their parents. Let us remember that they will meet at home,” she tweeted with the hashtags, #TotalLockDown, #StayAtHome.
At a press conference in Abuja, the minister said the country is “hoping for the best in our efforts to contain the disease, but we are prepared for the worst. The truth is that things may yet get worse than it is now, hence the need for all hands to be on deck.”
He noted that at the highest level of government, President Muhammadu Buhari was already leading by example, avoiding especially the shaking of hands.
“One of the president’s daughters is in self-isolation. The meeting of the heads of state of the Chad Basin Commission, scheduled for next week, has been cancelled. Visitors to the State House get their hands sanitised and their temperature taken,” he said.
The minister warned: “This is not the time to engage in name calling, second-guessing the government or playing politics. Coronavirus does not select its victims on the basis of their political party affiliation, their religion or ethnicity. Therefore, Nigerians must come together as one to stop coronavirus dead in its tracks, just like we did to Ebola.”
The minister again cautioned Nigerians against peddling fake news about COVID-19, describing the trend as worse than the virus itself.
“Suddenly, coronavirus pundits are popping up everywhere, in particular on WhatsApp, prescribing Chloroquine (which has not been approved for treating coronavirus), garlic, hot bath, etc., as the cure-all for the disease. We implore Nigerians to shun these charlatans and follow the directives from the relevant authorities,” said Mohammed.
The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) yesterday said six new confirmed cases of COVID-19 were recorded in the country, bringing the confirmed cases to 36, with two persons discharged and one death (the first in the country) recorded.
According to the NCDC, “Of the five new cases, one is in Edo State, two are in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), and three are in Lagos State.
“The case in Edo State is being treated at Irrua Specialist Teaching Hospital; cases in the FCT are being treated at the University of Abuja Teaching Hospital (UATH), Gwagwalada; and the cases in Lagos State are being treated at the Infectious Disease Hospital (IDH), Yaba. All the six new cases have mild to moderate symptoms and are currently receiving treatment.”
Sulaiman Achimugu, aged 67, became the first Nigerian victim to die of COVID-19. He was the managing director of Petroleum Products Marketing Company (PPMC) between 2003 and 2007.
With the looming ‘tougher measures’ by the Federal Government, the possibility of a total lockdown is not envisaged, argued Dr. Muda Yusuf, Director General of the Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
He told The Guardian: “I don’t think we have got to the point of a lockdown. Government will need to continue to monitor the borders and trace people. We have an economy that is largely informal and many people live on daily income. This is quite unlike other countries where their economies are very formal.
“Coping with the challenges of survival is key. Already, supply chains are affected seriously right now. The good thing is that majority of what people eat are local foods and not based on imported items.”
Yusuf noted that while there might be issues with bread, given that flour is imported, food security remains assured because there are various alternatives. “The only concern is medical security. Our medicines and active ingredients are actively imported,” he added.
The Nigerian military nevertheless maintained that it has the capacity to ensure compliance whenever it is drafted to enforce a lockdown in the country.
Coordinator, Directorate of Defense Media Operations, Maj. Gen. John Enenche, stated this at a press briefing in Abuja, yesterday.
He also said Defence Headquarters would bolster efforts at containing the pandemic by activating its hospitals. According to him, “Four of our military hospitals are already on standby and are part of facilities to support the ministry of health. The hospitals are the Nigerian Air Force (NAF) Hospital, along Airport Road, Abuja; Kaduna Reference Hospital; Port Harcourt Military Hospital; and Lagos.”
Enenche added that military bases are also implementing new restrictions on troops to limit the spread of the virus.
As part of measures to contain the pandemic, the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) said it has adopted new measures.
Some of these include: expedited/emergency approvals for products necessary and critical to support response to the pandemic; limited Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP) inspections for local facilities; applications for registration of products deemed to have urgent public health impact would be processed and given conditional and limited approvals.
“The situation is fast evolving and we will continue to monitor and adjust our responses accordingly,” said NAFDAC Director General Mojisola Christianah Adeyeye.
The Federal Government meanwhile has ordered the total closure of land borders, suspension of Federal Executive Meetings, and postponement of the Council of State meeting scheduled for Thursday, March 26.
Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Boss Mustapha, made this known yesterday in Abuja at a news conference to update the media on further decisions to monitor the spread of coronavirus in the country.
Mustapha, who is also the chairman, Presidential Task Force (PTF) on COVID-19, said: “In furtherance of our ongoing engagement with the public and stakeholders through the PTF and the Minister of Health, I find it necessary to update you on recent developments regarding the management of matters arising from COVID-19 pandemic.
“President Muhammadu Buhari on the recommendation of PTF has approved the following additional measures: all land borders that have been hitherto under partial closure shall now be closed for human traffic for four weeks effective, March 23.
“In order to protect federal civil and public servants, a circular to be issued by the Head of Civil Service of the Federation shall direct on actions to be taken immediately.
“All Abuja and Lagos residents are strongly advised to stay at home, avoid mass congregation of any kind as well as non-essential outings, until further advice is given,” he said.