REMARKS BY THE SECRETARY TO THE GOVERNMENT OF THE FEDERATION/CHAIRMAN OF THE PTF ON COVID-19 AT THE NATIONAL BRIEFING OF THURSDAY, 21ST MAY, 2020
I welcome you to the National Briefing by the Presidential Task Force (PTF) on COVID-19 for Thursday, 21st May, 2020.
2.As we progress in the first week of the extension of phase One of the eased lockdown measures as directed by Mr. President, it is necessary to remind Nigerians of the objectives of this course of action which is primarily to save lives. It is also of utmost importance to remind our sub-national entities on the need to diligently implement the guidelines and to exercise caution in relaxing restrictions in a manner that is capable of setting back the gains already made. Above all, it is imperative for each of us to take personal and collective responsibility.
3.The foregoing admonition becomes critical as we prepare for celebrations at the end of the month of Ramadan. It is the prayer of the PTF that we shall all celebrate this Sallah and many more in good health and beseech the Almighty to accept our supplication and look upon our Nation and the World, with mercy.
4.I, therefore use this opportunity to wish all our Muslim brothers and sisters a very happy and safe Eid celebrations. But as we celebrate, we want to once again caution on the need to wear a mask, keep physical distances, avoid large congregations, avoid unnecessary inter-state travels and observe personal hygiene amongst other suggested safety measures.
5.The PTF on COVID-19 is pleased to inform you that in order to underscore the seriousness attached to this COVID-19 pandemic, the House of Representatives has set up an Ad-Hoc COVID-19 Committee. In deepening the existing collaborative spirit, we shall work together with the legislature to be more productive and add value to the overall delivery of service to Nigerians on behalf of whom we hold our responsibility in trust.
6.In the same sprit of collaboration and coordination, I wish to inform you that I participated in the virtual meeting of the National Economic Council with Vice President and all the State Governors. This is coming on the heels of an earlier virtual meeting between the President and the Governors in a space of one week.
7.During the meeting, the issue of alignment of their state level actions with the guidelines issued was emphasized. Similarly emphasized is the need for states to diligently implement and enforce compliance. Particularly, I underscored the need for the Governors to provide personal and strong leadership, carry the policy of community ownership to the grass roots and create deeper awareness.
8.The Governors were also advised on the decision taken by some of their colleagues to permit large gatherings as such decisions could inadvertently endanger the elderly, the sick and those with underlying factors during such gatherings. The strong advisory from the PTF is that large gatherings beyond twenty persons remains prohibited and should be adhered to.
9.On Monday, 18th May, 2020 when we briefed the Nation on the next steps of our National Response as approved by Mr. President. I mentioned that the guidelines for this phase would be explained in details and published. I am pleased to inform you that the document is now ready and the National Coordinator will present it today. This would further clarify any ambiguity hitherto perceived and no doubt clearly let us know where each and every one of us stand in playing our roles to make the guidelines work.
10.For sometimes now, the PTF has consistently answered questions and provided explanations on the categories of persons and services exempted from some aspects of these guidelines particularly as it relates to restrictions on inter- state movement and curfew. For the avoidance of doubt, essential workers including our indefatigable medical personnel, diligent journalists, courageous fire service personnel, telecommunications workers, are all exempted.
11.The Inspector General of Police has further clarified the categories of essential workers in alignment with the guidelines and has issued instructions to security agents to work on the approved exemptions. With this clarification, we sincerely hope that the persistent complaints of harassment by these categories of essential workers, especially medical personnel and journalists would be put to rest so that we can harmoniously work in battling this pandemic.
12.The PTF COVID-19 urges all essential workers to go about their legitimate businesses carrying with them valid means of identification and to exercise courtesy in approaching security personnel.
13.Through the surveillance system set up by the PTF, we have received reports that Nigerians have been purchasing Hydrxoychloroquine in large quantities. We wish to reiterate that this drug has not being certified for use in treating COVID-19 in Nigeria by the relevant health and pharmaceutical authorities. Self-medication of any kind, is fraught with the danger of increasing risks of avoidable casualties. We, therefore strongly warn against self-medication. If you are sick, please seek medical advice and if you are confirmed positive, kindly self-isolate in an approved facility. The COVID-19 is highly infectious and dangerous.
14.The PTF continues to receive support, donation of equipment and solidarity messages from professional organisations. In this regard, we want to acknowledge the Nigerian Institute of Quantity Surveyors (NIQS), Chemical Society of Nigeria (CSN) and the NNPC and its partner, Messrs OCEA S.A through its Nigerian representative, Mystrose defense Systems Limited.
15.Yesterday, Wednesday, May 20th 2020, served as a stark reminder to the entire world about the severity of the COVID-19 when the World Health Organisation (WHO) reminded the world that we still have a long way to go in fighting this pandemic. According to Dr Tedros Ghebreyesus, the WHO Director General, 106,000 cases were recorded globally in twenty-four hours, representing the highest single day number since the outbreak of the pandemic. This is significant because it brings to realization, the relentless assault, of the virus on humanity.
16.For us in Nigeria, the importance of this message is very clear. We need to eschew skepticism about the existence of this virus and its potency, change our behavior and commit to joining hands in tackling this pandemic.
17.I now call on the Hon. Minister of Health and the DG NCDC to update the nation, while the National Coordinator would intimate us with the critical elements of the guidelines.
18.I thank you all for your kind attention.