By Elizabeth Chukwuma
When Femi Adesina, Special Assistant to President Muhammadu Buhari on Media and Publicity, disclosed that he will address the nation on Sunday, March 30, 2020, Nigerians from all walks of life were very happy to hear from their Leader . This is because other world leaders had been alive to their duties in this trying and difficult times to talk their people about the COVID 19 and efforts being put in place to solvei the global health challenge.
The initial refusal of the katsina born Nigerian President to speak on the matter when the disease was speading like wild fire in countries in Asia, Europe , North American and the African Continents may have forced Ahmadu Lawan, the Senate President and his Colleagues to cry out to the President to address the nation on the matter.
The Presidency may not have found the Hallowed Chamber call funny. Garba Shehu, Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity he described the Senators call as “othing but cheap politics’, appealing to Nigerians to unite against the COVID 19.
Indeed, the President may have known that the battle line have been drawn if he dares ignore the Lawmakers who had been in support of his him to ensure that he achieve his electioneering campaign promises by giving prompt approval to all his executive bills he may not have wanted a repeat of what happened between the leadership of the 8th National Assembly and the Presidency.
This may have informed why he made the last minute decision to address the nation on the matter. Note that the President delay in addressing the nation all this while may not be out be out of basic information or what to speak on the matter. Perhaps he believes that Osagie Ehanire , the minister of Health, Chikwe Ihekweazu, Director General, Nigerian Centre For Disease Control. NCDC, and other top government Functionaries including various Committees set up to look into the case are doing good job.
But when it became clear that the President had made up his mind to address the nation on the issue on Sunday, March 30, 2019, as disclosed by the Adesina, the Media Aide,
Igndeed, given the assurance by the Presidential Media Aide, it gave opportunity to millions of Nigerians who had waited anxiously for such a time and period to remained glued to their Television Sets last Sunday to listen to the Presidential Speech. The President may have given a good account of himself when he came on screen to address the nation on the health crisis as he opened up.
“From the first signs that the Coronavirus ,or COVID 19 was turning into pandemic and was officially declared a world-wide emergency, the Federal government started planning preventive, containment and curative measures in the event the disease hits Nigeria’’, he had said.
He disclosed that whole instrument of government were mobilized to confront what has now become both a “ health and economic crisis’’. Ehanire, the minister of Health and Ihekweazu, the Director General, NCDC, were alive to their duties as several Committee were set up with members drawn from the Federa,state ministries of Health and other government agencies. One of such agencies was the Nigerian Ports Authority, NPA.Another agency that was said to have contribute personnel to the Committees was the Federal Airport Authority of Nigeria, FAAN.
The President may have gladdened the heart of Nigerians when he disclosed that the government are in touch with the institutions around the world hard to develop a vaccine for the cure of the disease which at present has no cure. He noted that the government had been monitoring the situation closely and studying the various responses adopted by other countries. He may have alluded to the Asian country of China, where the sickness had emerged from the Wuhan town, in hebei Province, Italy, Germany, Spain, China, South Korea, New Zealand, Iran and the north American country of the United States, US. This is addition to the African countries of Senegal, Morocco, Algeria , Egypt and South Africa among others.
Recall that Chikweazu, the NCDC, Director General was among the ten global World Health Leaders that were invited by the World Health Organisation , WHO, to visit China, the home of Cornavirus and understudy their response approach. The ncdc boss had placed himself on self quarantine for two weeks on return to avoid coming in contact with Staff and family members until he was satisfied clean by medical personnel who had tested him of the virus but turned out to be negative.
He had saidm“I am personally proud of Ihekweazu” for honouring the WHO invitation without dragging his feet on behalf of all Nigerians. He may have won the heart of Nigerians who are been speculating different figures about the amount that had been spent by the government to fight the spread of the COVID 19 when he said N15 billion was provided initially for it. He however failed to disclose the total amount had been spent sofar for it.
For now, he believes that the best and most efficient way to avoid getting effected is through” regular hygienic washing and sanitary practices as well as social distancing’’. He noted that by washing hands regularly with clean water and soap, disinfecting frequently used surfaces and areas, coughing into a disposable tissue and elbow greeting it would be difficult to contact the disease.
Appealing to Nigerians to strictly adhere to the infection prevention measures in health facilities, he declared “we can contain this virus’’.
In spite f the preventive measures put in place to contain the diseases in the country, the NCDC, had confirmed 97 cases, from the first index case last January which was contacted by an Italian, this may have heightened fears of more people getting infected, particular in Lagos, the country’s Commercial nerve center, Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory, FCT , and the Seat of power.
Worried at the spread of the disease in Lagos and Abuja, and to avoid spreading it to other states of the Federation, the President gave a standing order restricting movement in Lagos and the FCT, for an inititial time frame of two weeks.
The directive , which came into force , on Monday , March 30, 2020, , is expected to come to elapse on April 13, 2020. The President may have prepared the mind of residents of the two Nigerian cities that it may be renewed for another two weeks, if the number of infected persons continued to be on the rise. Ihekwazu, the Director General, NCDC, may have given ammunition to extend the cessation of movement in the two Cities as the number of Coronavirus had continued to be on the rise.The NCDC, disclosed that few hours after the President address to the nation the number of confirmed cases had increased to 111. He further disclosed that the agency are on the trail of the suspected 6000 persons who were said to have come in contact with the confirmed carriers of the disease.
Note that given the close proximity of Ogun to Lagos state, the President had extended the cessation of movement directive to the state. According to him the decision was taken in order to contain the high traffic between the two states. Prior to the Presidential directive extending restricting the movement of persons in the state for the next two weeks,,Dapo Abiodun, the state governor, had closed the borders across the state with Benin republic to restrict movement of persons between the Border Communities.
The blanket order stopping the movement of persons for the two weeks period was said to have affected movements of all passenger aircraft, both Commercial and private Jets as well. He had a soft landing for those who have special cases to use their private Jet. “ Special permits will be issued on a needs basis” to such Jet ownes. Although he had directed that Businesses and offices including schools , would not open for the two weeks period of cessation of movement in Lagos and Ogun states including Abuja, FCT, he was said told Nigerian Ports Authority, NPA, officials, order to keep the Lagos seaports operational for ocean-going vessels to sail to the Lagos ports and discharge their cargoes.
Given that the agency do not want congestion at the ports, the agency had enjoined importers with their agents to take advantage of the opportunity to take delivery of their cargoes at the port as the Nigerian Customs personnel are on ground to attend to them.
The good news was that the President had reached out to the “ governors of Lagos and Ogun states including the minister of the FCT, in taking the hard decision to avoid taking them unawares. Muhammed Adamu, the Inspector General of Police, IGP and Heads of other security agency had been given a Presidential mandate to use this two weeks Containment period to “ identify, trace and isolate all individuals that have come into contact with the confirmed Coronavirus cases” to facilitate Treatment and forestall further spread of the disease in the country. Already Abba Kyari, Chief of to the President, Nasir el-Rufai and Bala Muhammed, of Kaduna and Bauch states respectively including some undisclosed top government Functionaries were said to have contacted the deadly disease.