Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 has lamented the lack of compliance with safety guidelines such as social distancing and wearing of masks after residents in Lagos, Ogun States and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) came out of five weeks of lockdown on Monday.
President Muhammadu Buhari had earlier directed the relaxation of the lockdown and introduction of new measures nationwide to curtail the spread of the novel coronavirus disease, COVID-19, Nigeria.
But on Monday, residents ignored the measures on social distancing and wearing of masks, with several videos of chaotic bank scenes flooding the internet.
Speaking at Monday’s national briefing, Secretary to the Government of the Federation/Chairman of the PTF on COVID-19, Boss Mustapha, warned that the danger of infection has not passed.
He promised that security operatives will respect the human rights of Nigerians as they enforce measures put in place by government while urging citizens not to attack the security personnel.
“The PTF has been monitoring the level of compliance with some of the measures and early observations showed lack of compliance with social distancing and wearing of masks,” Mustapha said.
“We note particularly the chaotic scenes around the banks and other financial institutions. We must reiterate that the danger of infection is not over and that individual actions will contribute to the success or failure of our measures.
“We urge citizens to minimize the risk of getting infected while trying to transact in the banks. We similarly urge the banks to ensure that their ATMs and online banking systems are in good order and stocked regularly to avoid convergence of customers in their premises.
“The PTF fully understands the desire of Nigerians to come out to continue their lives after five weeks of lockdown. States Governments and Security agencies have however, been advised to enforce the measures rigidly and violators will be prosecuted.
“Let me remind you, once more, that this easing up is in phases and those who are permitted to open have clearly been defined. Our admonition to Nigerians is that it is still desirable to stay at home if there is no compelling reason to go out and to comply with the measures always, whether at home or not.
“The PTF has also received reports on the level of compliance with the nationwide ban on inter-state movement. The objective of the ban is to slow down the spread of virus across state boundaries. The determination of government to enforce this policy is not in doubt and as we progress, we believe that proper alignment with the directives of Mr. President would be pursued.
“There has been very noticeable relocation of Almajiris from one state to another, up until yesterday. With the ban on interstate movement, the continuation of this exercise will not be in alignment with the guidelines issued. The PTF shall engage with the respective State Governments on how to achieve their objectives.
“As we journey into this new phase of measures, it is imperative that I reiterate the importance of adherence to the guidelines more so that preliminary reports indicate that there is observable high level of breaches by the citizenry.
“I wish to at this point convey the assurances of the security forces , that the rights of Nigerians will be protected and their lives and property protected. Therefore, I passionately appeal to Nigerians to desist from attacking security personnel in the discharge of their duties and not recourse to taking the laws into their hands.”
On the situation of Kano State, the SGF said success has been recorded in improved manpower support, increased testing capacity and treatment centres.
He said efforts are also underway to upscale the training of medical personnel in the state on the management of infectious diseases.
The PTF chairman urged hospitals not to turn back sick patients for fear of their illnesses being COVID-19 related in order to guard against avoidable deaths.
“With regard to Kano, the teams dispatched from Abuja have continued to work with the State Structure and appreciable achievements have been recorded in improving manpower support, deploying appropriate equipment, increased testing capacity and treatment centres,” Mustapha said.
“Efforts are also ongoing to upscale the training of medical personnel in the Kano and neighboring States on the management of infectious diseases and to provide them with PPEs for protection. Private hospitals have also been advised to seek accreditation before taking up the management of infectious diseases.
“Our collaboration with the Kano State Government still remains focused on strengthening their existing structures, especially for sustainability. The results coming out from the state is a comforting indication that efforts put in place, which are being strengthened, would yield expected results.
“The PTF has also received reports about medical facilities and doctors turning back sick patients for fear of their illnesses being COVID-19 related. The PTF appeals to these facilities especially public hospitals not to neglect treatment of other ailments because such actions have resulted in avoidable deaths. The Honourable Minister of Health will engage the management of our tertiary health institutions to address this.
“Ladies and gentlemen, I must as always, appreciate the tremendous support of all Nigerians during the previous phase. Worthy of mention are our Religious and Community Leaders, our frontline health workers, administrators, the members of the Press as well as all individuals and groups that have contributed to the successes achieved then. The battle is still ahead of us as a nation. Together we shall overcome.
“As we commence this new phase today, we would require your greater understanding and support to ensure that our decision does not result in compromising our health for our wealth. I count on the resilient Nigerian spirit and call on all of us to make this phase work. It can only be done with the active cooperation of the citizenry.”
On Sunday’s celebration of the World Press Freedom Day, the SGF congratulated “hard working” and “diligent” men and women of the Nigerian Media who had “consistently served as a necessary watch-dog” of the society.
He urged the media to work hard to eliminate the scourge of “fake and hate news” in the country.
“This role has been made more manifest in our current efforts at tackling the COVID-19 pandemic. Your complementary support in drawing Government’ attention to areas of improvement, creation of awareness and broadcasting the daily press briefing in a professional manner is highly appreciated,” Mustapha said.
“Let me reiterate a significant portion of Mr. President’s goodwill message, in which he decried the negative impact of the on-going disinformation, fake news and hate news perpetuated through the digital platforms. This is fraught with undesirable consequences for a country like Nigeria because this is the time for us to remain united as a nation, to fight the COVID-19 pandemic.
“In line with Mr. President’s plea to the media, I also wish to urge you to continually work together to eliminate this unpleasant phenomenon.”