President Muhammadu Buhari has approved the extension by two weeks of phase one of the relaxation of the lockdown he had imposed on the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Lagos and Ogun states to check the spread of COVID-19.
Specifically, the nationwide curfew, the ban on interstate travel and the lockdown of Kano State, which had emerged the third epicentre of the pandemic, would continue until June 1, according to the Chairman of the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19, Mr. Boss Mustapha, who conveyed the presidential directive at the daily briefing of the task force in Abuja yesterday.
The president had through a regulation signed on May 3 pursuant to the Quarantine Act eased the lockdown he had imposed on March 30, in an effort to balance the requirements of public health safety and the need to safeguard the economy from total collapse.
Mustapha said Buhari granted the extension based on the recommendation of the task force.
In the meantime, the virus increased the number of its victims by 216 yesterday, bringing the total infection to 6,175 with 1,644 persons discharged and 191 dead.
Announcing this last night, the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) said Lagos recorded 74 new cases, Katsina 33, Oyo 19, Kano 17, Edo 13, Zamfara 10, Ogun, Gombe and Borno eight each, Bauchi and Kwara seven each, Federal Capital Territory (FCT) four, Kaduna and Enugu three each, while Rivers has two cases.
This was coming as the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) accused Mustapha, who is also the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), of usurpation of presidential powers by announcing an extension of the curfew in the country.
Announcing the president’s decision, the SGF stated that the extension of the restriction across the federation takes effect from Monday, May 18 to June 1, 2020.
He also said the total lockdown on Kano State had been extended by another two weeks, while a precision lockdown would be imposed on states or metropolitan areas that had been identified as high burden areas.
He also said the government would henceforth engage in aggressive scaling up of community participation in the campaign against the COVID-19 scourge.
He, however, informed again that all the exemptions that had earlier been given as the first phase of eased lockdown commenced would remain as before, especially as it related to farmers who need to resume for planting season.
“Ladies and gentlemen, the reality is that in spite of the modest progress made, Nigeria is not yet ready for full opening of the economy and tough decisions have to be taken for the good of the greater majority. Any relaxation will only portend grave danger for our populace,” he said, adding: “Advisedly, the current phase of eased restriction will be maintained for another two weeks during which stricter enforcement and persuasion measures will be pursued.”
He said the two-week extension was also to enable other segments of the economy prepare adequately for compliance with the guidelines, preparatory to reopening in the coming weeks.
“For the PTF, we share your pains but our future is in the hands of every Nigerian and future decisions will depend greatly on our compliance,” he said.
He stated that the presidential approvals were “based on the recommendations of the PTF.”
He said: “Mr. President has approved the following: The measures, exemptions, advisories, and scope of entities allowed to reopen under phase one of the eased locked down, shall be maintained across the federation for another two weeks effective from 12.00 midnight today, May 18, 2020 to June 1, 2020;
“Intensifying efforts to ‘tell (communicate), trace (identify) and treat (manage)’ cases; elevating the level of community ownership of non-pharmaceutical interventions;
“Maintain the existing lockdown order in Kano State for an additional two weeks; “Imposition of precision lockdown in states, or in metropolitan/high-burden LGAs, that are reporting a rapidly increasing number of cases, when the need arises. This would be complemented with the provision of palliatives and continued re-evaluation of the impact of the interventions;” and
“Aggressive scale up of efforts to ensure that communities are informed, engaged and participating in the response with enhanced public awareness in high-risk states.”
He also said the nationwide curfew imposed from 8.00 p.m. to 6.00 a.m. in addition to the ban of interstate movement would also be in place.
Mustapha noted the time was not ripe for the government to relax its containment protocols against COVID-19.
The PTF said the fight against the pandemic is a long term as the virus is not likely to go away very soon, with the situation further underscored by the fact that no vaccine is expected till around the end of 2021.
Buhari Tasks Govs to Work with PTF
Meanwhile, for better harmony in the fight against the pandemic, Buhari yesterday appealed to governors to work closely with the Presidential Task Force (PTF) on the disease.
Following the appeal, the president cancelled his scheduled nationwide broadcast yesterday.
Speaking during an online meeting with members of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF), the president told the governors that PTF had briefed him on the way forward on the national response to the pandemic.
Consequently, he said he had instructed the task force to work effectively with the governors.
“I have directed that they work very closely with the governors,” he said.
The president, according to a tweet by his media adviser, Mr. Femi Adesina, on his Twitter handle, @FemAdesina, had left the responsibility of unveiling the new guideline for PTF.
A statement later by Adesina said the president during his meeting with governors, remarked that the pandemic was “beyond technology, power, and resources.”
According to him, the countries which have all such resources had recorded the highest rate of casualties across the world.
PDP Accuses Mustapha of Usurping Presidential Powers
In a related development, PDP has accused Mustapha of usurpation of presidential powers by announcing an extension of lockdown and curfew in the country.
PDP, in a statement by its National Publicity Secretary, Mr. Kola Ologbondiyan, pointed out that nowhere in the laws of Nigeria are the powers to broadcast presidential executive orders to declare curfew and restriction of movements vested in the Office of the SGF.
Thye opposition party said the action of the SGF has brought serious confusion in the polity regarding the legality or otherwise of the directives contained in the SGF’s announcement.
“Such powers are vested in the person and office of Mr. President and not exercisable by proxy, directly or indirectly; which makes the action of the SGF a recipe for a serious constitutional crisis in our country.
“Our nation is a state governed by dictates of the law, particularly in the exercise of powers vested in statutory offices, especially that of the president,” the party said.
PDP added that it holds that the announcement by the SGF is, therefore, another manifestation of abuse of the statutory offices arising from the abdication of responsibilities by the president since the last five years, which had also become more pronounced in this fight against COVID-19.
“Our party, therefore, invites Mr. President to end the confusion in the polity, arising from the action of the SGF, by immediately addressing Nigerians in his official capacity to fulfill the demands of our laws in respect of the necessary protocols on restrictions and other management procedures in the fight against the spread of COVID-19 pandemic in our country.”