The Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 on Wednesday lamented Nigerians’ non-compliance with guidelines on the gradual reopening of the economy. The task force Chairman, Boss Mustapha, who stated this at the PTF press conference in Abuja, said disregard for the ban on interstate movements and other guidelines was an indication of the danger ahead.
But the Nigeria Governors’ Forum told The PUNCH that security agencies must live up to their responsibilities by stopping violation of the ban on interstate movements.
The NGF stated this as the Arewa Consultative Forum hit northern governors on the shoddy implementation of the evacuation of Almajiris to their states of origin.
The President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), had, in his broadcast on April 27, banned interstate movements.
The PTF a few days later issued guidelines on social distancing and the ban on any gathering of more than 20 people.
But despite the ban on interstate movements, trucks carrying youths from the northern parts of the country have been finding their way into the south.
Nigerians yet to come to terms with COVID-19 deadliness
Assessing compliance with guidelines, the PTF chairman, Mustapha, said an early assessment of the ease of lockdown indicated that Nigerians had yet to come to terms with the deadliness and the virulent nature of the COVID-19.
According to him, if Nigerians continue to disregard social distancing and other guidelines released by the PTF, there is danger ahead.
The SGF said some of the PTF worries included non-compliance with social/physical distancing guidelines evidenced by higher-than-advised congregation of people in banks, traffic gridlocks, especially at entry points to metropolitan areas and disregard for guidelines on carrying capacity of vehicles.
PTF decries dubious concealment of passengers in food trucks
He lamented that there was an increased level of interstate movements worsened by the dubious concealment of people in vehicles carrying foods, and unhygienic and ill-advised use and sharing of masks especially multiple fittings before buying from vendors.
He said, “The overall assessment of compliance with the measures and the outcome of modelling we have developed, point in the direction of danger ahead. We therefore need personal discipline, increased awareness and enforcement.”
The PTF chairman also recognised the challenges encountered at banks.
He stated, “I wish to repeat my call to the banks to also quickly address issues related to difficulty with using their online platforms, especially revalidating expired ATM cards, among others.”
Educate your members on ban on interstate movements, FG begs transport union
The PTF chairman also urged transportation unions to educate their members on the ban imposed on interstate travels.
He said, “In view of the fact that public transportation is a major clustering area through which the virus can easily be transmitted, we call on the leadership of various transport unions to properly enlighten their members on the danger associated with non-adherence to the COVID-19 containment guidelines.
“Once again, we appeal to the governors to please align their plan for the movement of almajiris with the ban imposed by the President. We shall intensify our dialogue on this matter.”
Mustapha said the NCDC would visit Kogi and Cross River states, which had yet record any COVID-19 case to provide support for them.
He added that Buhari had expressed worry over the infection of health workers in the country.
FG probes Gombe protest
The SGF said an investigation had been carried out into a viral video of infected persons in Gombe State protesting the conditions of their health care.
He stated, “We have similarly received reports about the emerging situation in isolation centres in Gombe circulating in a viral video clip.
“We have investigated and I wish to assure you that the NCDC team is on ground in Gombe to support the state. Similarly, I can confirm that the testing laboratory in Gombe will be activated soon.”
We won’t give any patient to herbal practitioners – Minister
Also at the PTF press briefing, the Minister of Health, Dr Osagie Ehanire, said many traditional medicines that were being suggested by some herbal practitioners in the country as cures for COVID-19 had not been tested and might be toxic.
The minister, who spoke amid criticism that the Federal Government was not looking inward in search of the COVID-19 cure, said the traditional cures must first be tested on animals and certified not to be toxic.
He said the Federal Government would not give COVID-19 patients to traditional or alternative medical practitioners to test the efficacy of their drugs as there were no “human guinea pigs.”
He said, “On the cure of COVID-19, the traditional medicines that have been given to us or rather that people said they had, we have referred them to Traditional Medicine Complementary Department of the Federal Ministry of Health and to the Nigerian Institute of Pharmaceutical Research and Development to evaluate.
“But some of them, who have written to me that they have medicines, have asked me to give them 10 patients so that they can cure them. They say ‘give me 10, give me one and I will cure them, and you will see that it works.’
“But we don’t do it like that in medicine. We don’t have human guinea pigs. Anybody who knows that he or she has a cure must prove to me that it was tried and it worked. Many of the cures are not tested on anyone at all.”
“Of course, I am not giving them anyone to go and carry out their tests. That is why they have to go through the research cycle to make sure that their medicines are not toxic and you can also check the efficacy. So, those are things that will be tested.
“Any kind of medicine can be toxic. The toxicity can be checked and you can also check the efficacy. And as you know, you have to try it on animals such as rats and mouse, before it is certified.”
Ehanire added that the Federal Government would mandate states to improve the conditions of the isolation centres because of the complaints about the poor feeding and living conditions in some of the centres.
He also said the Federal Government was making efforts to get more materials for COVID-19 treatment.
The minister stated, “We are increasing our intensive care units beds and ventilators. We have some on order and we are also getting from countries. The United States President promised Nigeria some ventilators. We also got a letter that the government of China is sending us another load of relief materials to attend to COVID-19. So it is a question of fixing them particularly in our teaching hospitals and federal medical centres.
“Without drawing any conclusion, the number of persons who have required ventilators so far is very few.
“The fatalities arising from COVID-19 are overwhelmingly connected to pre-existing conditions such as kidney disease, high blood pressure, cancer and tuberculosis. They are connected to age and underlying conditions.
He said the PTF was preparing to have isolation and ICU centres in all states.
The health minister directed state governments to increase the number of isolation centres as the Nigerian cases of COVID-19 soared close to 3,000.
The health minister added that the Federal Government had taken note of several complaints about the turnaround time to get the results of the COVID-19 tests.
Ehanire said, “While we are striving to increase our testing capacity, we have noted the complaints about turnaround time to get the results of tests conducted. We are doing what we can to resolve them.”
The NCDC Director General, Dr Chikwe Ihekweazu, in his address, highlighted the importance of data gathering and analysis to the COVID-19 national response.
Ihekweazu explained that after the Ebola outbreak, one of the biggest lessons learnt was that the country needed to collect electronic information on infectious diseases.
On efforts to increase the country’s testing capacity, Ihekweazu said, “This week, we have a team looking at Port Harcourt, Owerri and Anambra, as well as another team in Gombe and Yola. Very soon, we will have five more labs.”
The National Coordinator, PTF, Dr Sani Aliyu, appealed to state governments, particularly those that had yet to ensure the provision of isolation facilities, to make sure they had, at least, 300 beds available.
Security agents must stop violation of interstate movements, says NGF
But the NGF challenged security agencies to ensure that the ban on inter-state movements was not violated.
In spite of the ban, trucks carrying hundreds of youths from the northern part of the country have been finding their ways into southern states such as Ondo, Lagos and Delta.
The Head of Media and Public Affairs of the NGF, Abdulrazaque Bello-Barkindo, said security agencies had the responsibility of enforcing the ban on interstate movements.
He was responding to inquiries from The PUNCH about what was being done about reported cases of people moving from the northern to the southern part of the country and vice versa, in spite of the inter-state lockdown.
Bello-Barkindo referred The PUNCH correspondent to the communiqué signed by the Chairman of the NGF, Governor Kayode Fayemi, after the 6th teleconference meeting of the forum in April when the governors unanimously agreed to implement the interstate lockdown.
The NGF spokesperson said, “The guidelines for the lockdown made exemptions for the movement of agricultural products, foodstuff and pharmaceuticals. It did not include the movement of human cargo.
“Security agencies have the responsibility for enforcement of these guidelines and it is expected that they enforce these rules. Where they find people taking undue advantage of this provision, they are empowered by law to take actions in line with approved rules of engagement.”
ACF hits northern govs over clumsy implementation of Almajiris’ evacuation
Meanwhile, the apex northern socio-political organisation, the ACF, on Wednesday said it agreed with the decision of the northern governors to repatriate Almajiris to their states of origin.
The National Publicity Secretary of the ACF, Emmanuel Yawe, who spoke to one of our correspondents on the telephone in Kaduna, however, faulted the implementation of the decision by the governors.
Yawe said the Almajirai menace was retrogressive and completely at variance with development, adding that the implementation of the repatriation implementation was clumsy and uncoordinated.
He said, “The decision of repatriating Almajirai to their states was taken by the Northern Governors’ Forum and we have no quarrel with that because we don’t believe in the Almajirai system.
“It is a retrogressive system. We don’t believe in it at all. It is against the human development of the north and the development of the country. So, the ACF is against the Almajiri system.
“So, the decision of the governors to take them to their states of origin to find their families, we totally agree with it. This is because if somebody has given birth to a child, he should be in the position to look after that child and not to throw the child onto the streets.
“We support that decision. But the only problem is with the implementation. The implementation is very clumsy and the governors should sit up and implement it in a proper way.
“They (governors) are implementing it haphazardly. It is not properly implemented. You can’t just carry the Almajirai in your(one) state and without proper coordination with another state and go and drop them in another state and go away.”
The forum spokesman noted that the implication of the northern governors not properly implementing the policy, would force the children back to the streets.
But the northern governors said there was no going back on their decision to return the Almajirai to their home states of origin.
Spokesman for the Chairman of the forum, Dr Macham Makut stated this on Wednesday while referring one of our correspondents to the decision of the northern governors in their meeting held on April 21, 2020.
In a statement issued after the meeting, the northern governors had vowed never to allow the system to persist any longer because of the social challenges associated with it including the perpetuation of poverty, illiteracy, insecurity and social disorder.
Kano evacuates 1,172 Almajiris to five states – Chairman
In Kano State, the state government says it has so far evacuated 1,172 Almajiris to five states since the exercise began about two weeks ago.
The state Commissioner of Education and Chairman of the Almajiris Evacuation Committee, Alhaji Sanusi Kiru disclosed this in an interview with The Punch in Kano on Wednesday.
He said out of the total number of Almajiris that had been repatriated to their state of origin, 419 were deported to Katsina State, 524 to Jigawa State, 155 to Kaduna State, while Bauchi and Gombe states had 38 and 36 Almajiris respectively.
In a related development, four members of the Nigeria Society of Physiotherapy have tested positive for COVID-19 in Bauchi, Kano, Lagos and Jigawa states.
The association has also lost one of its members in Uyo, the Akwa Ibom State capital, as a result of the pandemic.
The National President of the association, Dr Rufai Ahmad, disclosed this in an interview with journalists in Kano on Wednesday.
Jigawa 47 deaths not linked to COVID-19 – LG chair
Meanwhile, the Chairman of the Hadejia Local Government Area of Jigawa State, Abdullahi Maikanti, has said the 47 deaths recorded in the area had no link to COVID-19.
According to the News Agency of Nigeria, the council chairman said after a second audit on Tuesday, it was confirmed that 47 people died in the area.
Maikanti the deceased were elderly people with pre-existing conditions.
By John Alechenu, Tobi Aworinde, Olaleye Aluko, Tukur Muntari, James Abraham and Godwin Isenyo