Top government officials who might have met Bauchi State governor, Bala Mohammed before his self-isolation have been left in a state of fear.
There are strong indications that the vice president and governors may be in palpable fear following report of self-isolation of the Bauchi State governor, Bala Mohammed, over the coronavirus pandemic.
Such fears may have become rife following contact between the Bauchi governor and son of former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, who has tested positive for coronavirus.
Governor Mohammed and Atiku’s son were said to have exchanged pleasantries inside the aircraft prior to the National Economic Council (NEC) meeting, which held at the Presidential Villa on Thursday, last week.
At that meeting usually chaired by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, Governor Mohammed was believed to have come in contact with the vice president, including other governors whom he may have exchanged pleasantries with.
Governors spotted at the Presidential Villa on Thursday for the National Economic Council (NEC) meeting chaired by the vice president, were Edo, Godwin Obaseki; Nasarawa, Abdullahi Sule; Lagos, Babajide Sanwo-Olu; Kano, Abdullahi Ganduje; Jigawa, Abubakar Badaru; Ebonyi, David Umahi; Kebbi, Atiku Bagudu; Anambra, Willie Obiano, among others.
The meeting which lasted several hours also took presentations from some Ministry of Health officials, including the Director General of the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), who is also a consultant epidemiologist, Dr. Chikwe Ihekweazu.
Recall that Ihekweazu recently came out of self-isolation which he started on Tuesday, March 3, 2020 after a trip to China.
Bauchi State government said on Monday that Gov. Bala Mohammad would be “isolating” himself for some time following contact with Mohammed Abubakar, son of former Vice President Atiku Abubakar.
This revelation is contained in a statement issued to newsmen in Bauchi by Muktar Gidado, Senior Special Assistant (SSA), Media, to the governor.
“This is to inform the general public that His Excellency, Gov. Bala Mohammed has gone into self-isolation.
“This development is sequel to the report from the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) that the son of the former Vice President of Nigeria, Mohammed Atiku Abubakar, was tested positive to coronavirus upon his return from an international trip through Lagos.
“It would be recalled that Gov. Bala Mohammed, who also recently returned from an official trip in Lagos, met with Mohammed Atiku Abubakar in Aero Contractors aircraft, where they shook hands and exchanged pleasantries.
“So far, the governor did not exhibit any symptom of the disease, but based on the recommendation of the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control, he will remain in isolation in order to avoid the risk of spread in the disease,” said Gidado.
The aide to the governor also disclosed that the blood sample of Mohammad had been taken and is currently undergoing clinical tests.
“For the period of the clinical testing, the governor and his entourage will remain in isolation, pending the outcome of the clinical result.
“Consequently, therefore, the governor has cancelled all his appointments with immediate effect and any inconveniences caused are highly regretted,” said Gidado.
Meanwhile, as tension over the outbreak of coronavirus continues, wife of the president, Aisha Buhari, has called on the Federal Government to bar workers at all levels from going to work.
She said the measure have become necessary if the country must check the spread of coronavirus in Nigeria.
Aisha, who took to her Twitter handle to make the suggestion, said it would be counterproductive, if children are barred from going to school while their parents keep going to work.
The first lady gave her opinion in a tweet on Monday, where she described the recent school lockdown in the country as commendable.
She said, “It is commendable that state governors have closed down schools; however, this could be counterproductive if parents are still going to work. We should not isolate students and expose their parents. Let us remember that they will meet at home”.
FG Considers Partial Lockdown
Again, as Nigeria records 36 cases and one death from coronavirus (COVID-19), the Federal Government said on Monday that it may consider a partial shutdown of the country in order to enforce social distancing to contain the spread and keep Nigerians safe.
Alhaji Lai Mohammed, Minister of Information and Culture, who stated this at a news conference on COVID-19 in Abuja, however, assured that any decision to be taken would be in the best interest of Nigerians.
He appealed to Nigerians to continue to support the efforts of the government at all levels to defeat coronavirus.
“We are hoping for the best in our efforts to contain the disease, but we are prepared for the worst.
“The truth is that things may yet get worse than they are now, hence the need for all hands to be on deck.
“Tougher decisions may yet be on the way to contain this disease. But whatever decision is taken will be in the best interest of Nigerians,” he said.
The minister disclosed that the country now had a total of 36 cases and had recorded its first coronavirus death, a 67-year-old man in Abuja with serious underlying diseases.
He said the presidential task force had directed that with immediate effect, all passengers on domestic flights are to be properly screened, just like it is done for international travelers.
“All federal schools are already shut down and the Executive Secretary, National Universities Commission (NUC), will be directed to close all universities, both public and private.
“While Nigeria has refused to succumb to panic in tackling this disease, it has not wavered in its preparedness,” Mohammed said.
He recalled that the government had taken a number of measures to contain the disease, including restrictions on travel from 15 countries that had recorded more than 1,000 confirmed cases of Covid-19.
He listed the countries as: China, Italy, Iran, South Korea, Spain, Japan, France, Germany, the U.S., Norway, UK, Netherlands, Switzerland, Austria and Sweden.
According to him, government has suspended issuance of visas on arrival and has canceled those issued to nationals of the countries.
Mohammed further recalled that the government had shutdown international airports in Abuja, Lagos, Kano and Port Harcourt, and had reduced fuel price from N145 to N125 per litre following the outbreak.
He said the government had also granted credit relief of N1.1 trillion as announced by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to businesses affected by the pandemic.
The minister listed other relief measures to include the establishment of a credit facility by the CBN for households, small and medium enterprises, and reduction of interest rates for loans from nine percent to five percent.
The government admonished religious and political leaders to show great responsibility and obey directives in its efforts at containing coronavirus.
“The Federal Government is aware that some political and religious leaders have either denied the existence of coronavirus or have defied the directives to avoid a large gathering.
“Leaders of all hues must show great responsibility at this time. They must avoid putting the lives of not just their followers but also those of the general public in danger.
“Nigerians too must take responsibility, do what they are requested to do to stay safe and stop blaming others.
“For those who would continue to willfully flout the directives aimed at checking the spread of this disease, the long arm of the law will soon catch them,” he said.
The minister solicited the cooperation of all Nigerians in the area of “contact tracing”.
He said the government would not hesitate to deploy the police and the military in tracing suspected individuals in hiding.
“As you may be aware, health services use ‘contact tracing’ to find people who may have been exposed to an infectious disease, in this case coronavirus.
“Those who have come into close contact with others who have coronavirus are at higher risk of infection, and of potentially infecting others.
“For those who will not cooperate by submitting to the authorities as required, the government will use all lawful means at its disposal to trace and bring them in.
“Having now shut our gateway airports, the biggest assignment for us is ‘contact tracing’ to find all those who may have come into contact with those who have the disease,” he said.
Mohammed warned against playing politics with coronavirus, stressing that the disease “does not select its victims on the basis of their political party affiliation, their religion or ethnicity.”
He reiterated President Muhammadu Buhari’s assurances to Nigerians that the government was on top of the situation and that there was no cause for panic.
“The government at the highest level is already leading by example. Mr. President has cut down the number of courtesy visits and he is not shaking hands.
“One of the president’s daughters is in self isolation.
“The meeting of the heads of state of the Chad Basin Commission scheduled for next week has been cancelled.
“Visitors to the State House get their hands sanitised and their temperature taken at several points before reaching the executive council chambers,” he said.
FG Suspends FEC, Tightens Grip On Land Borders
Meanwhile, Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Boss Mustapha, has announced government’s decision to further tighten its shut down of all land borders into the country.
The measure, which is part of actions to contain the spread of coronavirus pandemic in the country, has also led to the suspension of the Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting until the situation improves.
Also suspended is the Council of State meeting, earlier scheduled for Thursday this week, where former Heads of State and Presidents meet to proffer solutions on burning national issues.
Mustapha made these pronouncements in his capacity as chairman of the presidential task team on the control of coronavirus pandemic.
He said, “In furtherance of our ongoing engagement with the public and stakeholders through the Presidential Task Force (PTF) and the Honourable Minister of Health (HMoH), I have found it necessary to update you on recent developments regarding the management of matters arising from COVID-19 pandemic.
“Let me remind you that as at the time the Honourable Minister of Health (HMoH), briefed you earlier today, the numbers from the World Health Organisation (WHO) confirmed that the virus has covered 192 countries, reporting over 329,000 cases.
“In Africa, 42 out of 54 countries have reported cases while 48 deaths have been recorded.
“In Nigeria, 36 cases have been reported and one fatality has occurred. The first responders, particularly the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), continues to attend to reports received through telephone calls and other mediums.
“We commend Nigerians for stepping out to report and/ or make enquires through the dedicated hotlines. Records show that on Sunday, 22nd March, 2020, over 4500 calls were received. This shows the high level of awareness amongst Nigerians”.
He said the strategy of government was to focus on testing, detection and containment through contact tracking in order to minimise hugely, the possibility of community spread.
He urged anyone experiencing the symptoms of the virus or has been in contact with anyone who has been suspected or tested positive to please report at the nearest medical facility or the designated centre.
Boss noted that the Presidential Task Force (PTF) will continue to monitor the global and domestic developments and has isolated Lagos and Abuja for particular attention in view of their population, mobility and number of cases already reported.
“As you are all aware, a number of advisories have been issued and measures taken. Part of the measures being taken presently include the following: escalating the nation’s capacity for testing and detection through the acquisition of more testing kits and establishment of additional test centres.
“Acquisition of personnel protection equipment (PPE) for different categories of frontline personnel; enhancing contact tracking; deepening awareness creation; mobilisation of experts and trained personnel whether in service or retired; introduction of social distancing policies and banning mass gathering of over fifty persons, closure of schools and tertiary institutions; and the total ban on international travels shall commence at 12.00 midnight tonight at all our airports; and leaders of different faiths have been encouraged to restrict services and activities that involve mass gathering of more than fifty of their adherents. State governments are also enforcing this policy at different levels.
“Ladies and gentlemen, after a further review, Mr. President on the recommendation of Presidential Task Force (PTF) has approved the following additional measures: suspension of the weekly FEC meetings until further notice.
“Postponement of the meeting of the Council of State scheduled for Thursday 26th March, 2020; including all land borders that have been hitherto under partial closure shall now be closed for human traffic for four weeks effective 23rd March, 2020.
“In order to protect Federal Civil and Public Servants, a circular to be issued by the Head of Civil Service of the Federation (HCSF) shall direct on actions to be taken immediately; if and when the need arises, any national assets required for use in the response to COVID-19 shall be mobilised and deployed.”
CJN Shuts All Courts Over Coronavirus
Similarly, Ibrahim Muhammad, Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), has ordered that all courts in the nation should suspend judicial activities in order to prevent the spread of coronavirus.
Muhammad gave the directive on Monday evening.
On Friday, the CJN had issued a circular mandating all staff and court visitors (including lawyers, litigants, press, orderlies), to undergo screening at the court entrance.
According to the notice, “Anyone who refuses to undergo temperature screening at the entrance should be sent back.”
On Monday, the CJN directed all courts to close for at least two weeks, effective from Tuesday, March 24.
However, the CJN said matters which are time bound would be treated.
“Further to my earlier circular Ref. No. NJC/CIR/ HOC/II/629 dated 20th March, 2020, on the above subject matter. In view of the reality of the COVID-19 in the country and in order to take further preventive steps, all heads of courts are, from tomorrow, the 24th day of March 2020, directed to suspend court sittings for an initial period of two weeks at the first instance, except in matters that are urgent, essential or time bound according to our extant laws,” he said.
“Your Lordships are hereby directed to bring the content of this circular to the notice of all stakeholders in justice administration, please.”