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 Tuesday.
Guardian reports that the First Lady, Aisha Buhari, Tuesday 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 is 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 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, Tuesday.
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.
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.
“The situation is fast evolving and we will continue to monitor and adjust our responses accordingly. For further information, visit our website: nafdac.gov.ng.
“The agency wishes to assure the public that it remains committed to safeguarding public health and executing its mandate by ensuring that regulated products meet set standards,” it said.