President Muhammadu Buhari, GCFR, addressed the nation on Sunday, 29th March 2020 on the COVID-19 situation in Nigeria and his government’s on-going efforts to tackle and contain the pandemic. In his address, he also announced new directives and orders. Below are key highlights from the speech:
- Update on number of COVID-19 cases in Nigeria & its Epicenter in Nigeria
The President announced that the number of COVID-19 cases as at the morning of March 29th, 2020, has risen to ninety-seven and declared both Lagos and Abuja as COVID-19 epicentres in Nigeria with Lagos and the FCT having the majority of confirmed cases in Nigeria.
2. Steps to Avoid Contracting the Virus
The President emphasized the need for Nigerians to continue with regular hygienic and sanitary practices as well as social distancing practices such as regular handwashing with clean water and soap, disinfecting frequently used surfaces and areas, coughing into a tissue or elbow, etc.
3. Lock Down in Lagos, Ogun States and FCT Abuja
President Buhari issued a 14-day lockdown in Lagos and the Ogun States as well as, Abuja commencing from 11 pm on Monday, 30th March 2020. Consequently, offices and businesses in these locations are to be fully closed within the period of the lockdown.
4. Exemptions to Lock Down Order
Businesses and Organisations exempt by the order of the President include:
a. Hospitals and all related medical establishments.
b. Food processing, distribution and retail companies;
c. Petroleum distribution and retail companies,
d. Power generation, transmission and distribution companies,
e. Private security companies
f. Telecommunication companies,
g. Broadcasters, Print and electronic media staff who can prove they are unable to work from home.
5. Government Measures Combating COVID-19 Effect
In his address, the President mentioned the measures undertaken by his Government to tackle the spread of the virus. He mentioned the healthcare measures led by the Federal Ministry of Health (FMoH) and National Center For Disease Control (NCDC), border security measures through Nigeria Customs and the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN), fiscal and monetary policies led by the Central Bank of Nigeria. Some of the monetary measures include a 9% to 5% interest rate reduction on all CBN intervention facilities, directive to banks to temporarily restructure loan given to organisations and households affected by the pandemic, creation of an N50 billion credit facility to organisations (SMEs) and households affected by the pandemic, etc.
6. Suspension of Commercial and Private Flights With Nigeria.
The President announced the suspension of all inter-states or community flights in Nigeria. This covers both commercial and private flights. However, an exception was made for flights with special permits granted by the Federal Government through its appropriate agencies.
7. Federal Government Funded Loans
The President announced a directive to relevant government agencies, e.g. CBN, Bank of Industry and Nigeria Export-Import Bank, to give a moratorium to borrowers of all Federal Government funded loans.
In addition, he announced a directive to Nigerian development financial institutions to engage and negotiate concessions with international and multilateral development partners in favour of borrowers based in Nigeria.
8. CSR and Citizen Support
While recognising private efforts so far, the President urged all Nigerian citizens and businesses to assist the Federal Government by taking personal responsibility to support and provide for those who are vulnerable within their communities.
9. Coordination of Donations
The President reiterated that all contributions and donations will be organized and coordinated by the Presidential Task Force. The Task Force is the central coordinating body on the COVID-19 response.
10 Guidance of the National Bodies
In Nigeria’s fight against COVID-19, President Buhari recognized the coordinated efforts and guidance of important bodies such as medical professionals and experts at the Ministry of Health, NCDC, the Presidential Task Force (PTF) and other relevant agencies. He advised Nigerians to continue to adhere to their guidelines as they are released from time to time.
As the President said, “there is no such thing as an overreaction or an under-reaction. It is all about the right reaction by the right agencies and trained experts”. We as people have to work together to protect ourselves and the community at large.