Nation Awaits Buhari’s Review of Quarantine Regulations as Lockdown Expires Today

President Muhammadu Buhari,

•FG, NMA finalise agreement on insurance package for frontline health workers this week
•COVID-19 cases rise to 323 with 85 discharged, 10 dead
•23 returnees from Togo arrive Lagos
•Anxiety in Kano over index case
•Babangida seeks more collaborative efforts to contain virus
•Atiku: Nigeria will defeat scourge
•AU appoints Okonjo-Iweala, others special envoy

Martins Ifijeh in Lagos, Akinwale Adedayo in Abuja and Laleye Dipo in Minna

As the two-week lockdown imposed on the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja, Lagos and Ogun states by President Muhammadu Buhari expires today, the nation awaits the next move of the president on COVID-19 Regulations 2020 he handed down effective from March 30, pursuant to Sections 2, 3 and 4 of the Quarantine Act (CAP Q2 LFN 2004).

His Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Mr. Garba Shehu, had said on Saturday that the lockdown would subsist for as long as necessary.

But lawyers, who spoke to THISDAY last night, said the regulations being based on a law would have to be reviewed by the president through an amendment to the proclamation he made on March 30, specifying clearly the number of days the lockdown would be extended.
THISDAY presidency sources said yesterday that the president was considering the interim report of the Presidential Task Force, which reportedly recommended an extension by 14 days.

While the president ponders on the likely extension of the lockdown, the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA) and the federal government would this week come to a compromise on insurance package and other incentives for doctors fighting COVID-19 in Nigeria.

This was coming as the number of confirmed cases rose by five bringing the tally to 323 with 85 discharged and 10 dead.

Lagos State Government yesterday discharged five more COVID-19 patients from its isolation centres, bringing to 55 the total number of successfully managed cases in the state. The FCT and Osun State follow with 11; Oyo, four; Ogun, two; and Ekiti, one.
The dead are spread over Lagos with five; FCT two; Edo one; Delta one; and Katsina one.

FG, NMA to Finalise Agreement on Insurance Package

In the meantime, NMA and the federal government would this week come to a compromise on insurance package and other incentives for doctors fighting COVID-19 in Nigeria.

In an exclusive interview with THISDAY yesterday, NMA President, Dr. Francis Faduyile, said many NMA members at the frontline of the battle against COVID-19 were unhappy with their present situation, but that there was hope.

He said: “The Chairman of the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19, Mr. Boss Mustapha, has informed us that the federal government was working on an insurance package and other incentives for everyone on the frontline, including doctors and other health workers.

“It is too early for us to say how well the federal government has gone on the package for our members and other health workers, so we are not clear yet what the packages are. However, we are hoping to discuss with the PTF chairman this week. In the course of the week, we shall finalise on this.”

He said the federal government had also promised to improve the relationship with the association this week, adding that it hoped things would get better in the coming days.

Speaking on the viral video where the Minister of Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire, was reported to have said he was not aware if the health workers were being paid hazard allowance, he said he had watched the full clip and that it didn’t appear the minister made the comment in relation to health workers in the hospital.

“I watched the full clip of the interaction the minister had with the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila, at the National Assembly. He was talking about those checking temperature at the Port Health Service.

“But even at that, the issue of compassion and being able to take care of doctors and other health workers should be important to the leadership of the health ministry.
“There is no time more important for the Ministry of Health to think about the country’s health workers than now, especially because we are fighting the coronavirus pandemic at this time,” he said.

Lagos Discharges Five More Patients

Meanwhile, Lagos State Government has discharged five more COVID-19 patients from its isolation centres, bringing to 55 the total number of successfully managed cases in the state.

Announcing this yesterday, the Incident Commander on COVID-19 in Lagos State, Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu, said the discharged patients include four females and one male.

He said: “With the newly discharged patients, we now have a total of 55 people that have been successfully managed for COVID-19 at our isolation facilities and discharged to the community
“This news, especially on this important day gives me joy and I am sure it does the same to you too.

“While we look forward to more great news from our effort to contain COVID-19, let’s continue to do the right thing. Stay at home, practice social distancing, observe the highest possible personal hygiene and report suspicious cases to the appropriate persons.”

Nigeria’s COVID-19 Cases Rise by Five to 323

In a related development, Nigeria’s COVID-19 cases rose by five last night to 323.

Out of the five new cases, Lagos recorded two; Kwara two; and Katsina one.
A breakdown of the figures showed that Lagos had 176 cases, FCT had 56, Osun 20, Edo 12, Oyo 11, Ogun seven, Bauchi and Kaduna six each, Akwa Ibom five, Katsina five, Delta three, Kwara four, Enugu, Ekiti, Rivers, and Ondo two each, while Benue, Niger, Anambra, and Kano had one each.

23 Togo Returnees Arrive Lagos

In another development, no fewer than 23 persons yesterday arrived from Lome, Togo to Nigeria.

The returnees were received by officials of the Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS) at Seme-Krake Joint Border Post.

NIS Public Relations Officer, Mr. Sunday James, who confirmed the development in a statement titled, “23 Nigerian returnees from Lome-Togo,” said NIS yesterday received at Seme-Krake Joint Border Post 23 Nigerian returnees who arrived from Lome, Togo.

James said: “The Nigeria Immigration Service received 23 Nigerian returnees that arrived from Lome-Togo today, Sunday, April 12 at Seme-Krake Joint Border Post.

“The Comptroller General of NIS, Muhammad Babandede, on receiving the report of the returnees directed that the Control post carry out proper profiling and documentation of the returnees who were 23 in number with the following breakdown: Anambra – six, Ogun – three, Delta – three, Edo – two, Imo – two, Oyo – one, Benue – one, Abia – one, Enugu – one, and Ekiti – one. They were properly screened by WHO and Port Health Officials before the NIS profiling.

“The returnees were handed over to Lagos State Government Ministry of Health Officials for onward processing in line with NCDC health procedures for returning Nigerians.”

Babangida Seeks More Collaborative Efforts to Contain Pandemic

Meanwhile, a former military president, General Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida (rtd) has called for more collaborative efforts on the part of all stakeholders for the containment of the pandemic in the country.

Babangida made the call in a statement made available to journalists in Minna yesterday in which he also called for synergy between the federal and state governments in their plans to check the spread of the pandemic.

Although Babangida said the figure of those concerned had continued to rise, he commended the three tiers of government “on the efforts so far made towards managing the spread of COVID-19 in Nigeria.”

However, the presidency has said it’s taking a two-step approach in response to the COVID-19 outbreak in the country.

In a tweet yesterday, the presidency said the president was taking the approach as a national response to COVID-19.

“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,” it said.

Nigeria Will Defeat Scourge, Says Atiku

But the former Vice President, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, is positive that Nigeria would rise and defeat COVID-19.

The former presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) stated this yesterday in his message to Christians on the celebration of Easter.

Atiku, in a series of tweets, stated that he had a strong faith in God that the nation in togetherness would bid farewell to COVID-19.

He also urged Nigerians to learn the relevant lessons that should be obtained in this period and profit from their experiences.

COVID-19 is Not a Death Sentence, Says WHO

Meanwhile, the World Health Organisation (WHO) Office in Nigeria has said COVID-19 is not a death sentence.

The UN health agency, in its official Twitter account @WHONigeria, commended the country’s health workers for the feat.

“COVID-19 is not a death sentence. Thanks to all the health care workers serving tirelessly to ensure no lives are lost and more people discharged.

“Physical distancing is one of the most effective ways to prevent the spread of the COVID19,” it tweeted
The agency also advised people to say no to hug at Easter and adopt nodding as a way of greeting.

“Avoid hugging, limit close contact with others, especially if they are showing flu-like symptoms,” it said.

Anxiety in Kano over Index Case

Meanwhile, there was anxiety in Kano yesterday as reports filtered out that index case confirmed in the state on Saturday attended the Jumat service at Kano Central Mosque on Friday.

The general fear was that he might have spread the virus to people around him at the crowded gathering, making contract tracing a herculean task.

Kano State Commissioner of Health, Dr. Aminu Tsanyawa, had confirmed the case on Saturday with Governor Abdullahi Ganduje calming nerves that the situation was under control.

THISDAY learnt last night that the governor was considering meeting with Muslim clerics today to take a firm decision on possible shutdown of mosques and other places of worship as a containment strategy.

AU Appoints Okonjo-Iweala, Others Special Envoy

As part of the efforts to clamp down on the impact of COVID-19, the African Union (AU) has appointed Nigeria’s former Minister of Finance and Coordinating Minister for the Economy, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala; Dr. Donald Kaberuka; Mr. Tidjane Thiam and Mr. Trevor Manuel as special envoys to mobilise international support for the continent to address the economic challenges African countries would face as a result of the pandemic.

AU Chairperson and the President of the Republic of South Africa, Mr. Cyril Ramaphosa, who disclosed this in a statement issued yesterday, said the special envoys would be tasked with soliciting rapid and concrete support as pledged by the G20, the European Union and other international financial institutions.

He explained that the appointment of the special envoys would expedite the process of securing economic support to enable countries on the continent to respond swiftly to this grave public health emergency.

Ramaphosa noted that the envoys brought with them a wealth of experience and enjoyed longstanding relationships in the international financial community.

He stated: “In the light of the devastating socio-economic and political impact of the pandemic on African countries these institutions need to support African economies that are facing serious economic challenges with a comprehensive stimulus package for Africa, including deferred debt and interest payments.

“The impact of the pandemic has been global in both scale and reach, and this necessitates coordinated international action to capacitate all countries to respond effectively, but most particularly developing countries that continue to shoulder a historical burden of poverty, inequality, and underdevelopment.

“The sentiment expressed in two recent letters written to the G20 by a group of world leaders and a team of esteemed economists underscore the importance of bolstering health systems in poorer countries; this can only be done with the support of the international community.”