The Federal Government yesterday warned states against undermining its efforts to contain spread of coronavirus in the country.
The government also disclosed its readiness to accredit private hospitals with the capacity to manage the virus.
Chairman of the Presidential Taskforce on COVID-19 and Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Mr Boss Mustapha, who disclosed this at a briefing in Abuja yesterday, said: “Let me at this juncture, emphasise the protocol of social distancing and personal hygiene. This is a war against a potent and invisible enemy and I admonish all citizens to please observe diligently. I also urge all state authorities not to make pronouncements or take decisions that will undermine public safety in this regard.”
Some state governments recently met with religious leaders and relaxed their regulations with respect to having a gathering of not less than 30 or even 20 people gathered in a place at any given time.
While the Federal Government proclaimed the lockdown of Abuja, Lagos and Ogun states, several other states in the country have also keyed into the decision by ordering a sit-at-home in their individual states.
However, Governor Aminu Masari of Katsina State had on Tuesday, issued a directive allowing Islamic congregational prayers in the state but with a caveat that sermons at such services be shortened.
On the management of COVID-19 cases in the country, Mustapha urged private hospitals which have the capacity to seek accreditation from the Federal Ministry of Health.
He said: “The expansion of the infrastructure for treatment is important. However, private hospitals that have capacity to manage COVID-19 cases shall seek certification by the Committee of Infectious Disease Experts assembled by the Federal Ministry of Health for standardisation and safety of frontline staff and other patients.’’
The SGF said in the next few days, Nigeria would be receiving equipment and other technical support through the United Nations System, as well as other donors.
The Federal Government also described as “a dangerous exhibition of ignorance” the arrest of two pilots of Caverton Helicopters by Rivers State Command of the Nigeria Police Force, acting in concert with the state government.
Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika, who stated this yesterday in Abuja, noted that civil aviation was on the Exclusive List, adding that the government authorised the said flight to shore up its revenue profile in the face of dwindling crude oil prices.
He said: “The Airforce officer, who jumped and ignored the Commander-in-Chief, who also jumped and ignored the Chief of Defence Staff, who jumped the Chief of Air Staff to call a governor to come into the property of the Federal Government to make an arrest has exhibited dangerous ignorance and gross incompetence.
‘’So, the police officers that followed the governor there have also exhibited dangerous ignorance from our perspective in civil aviation.
“Whether we have approval for the flight? Yes, we did. And we did that in national interest. All of those flights are for the purposes of improving the national revenue, which Rivers State is the greatest beneficiary.
‘’So, those flights by Caverton, Aero Contractors, Arik, Bristow were for national interest and to increase national revenue at a time oil has gone below $30 and the cost of production is $30. So, in the wisdom of President Muhammadu Buhari, he thought that this be allowed, even in this period of pandemic, so the nation will not be crippled and national revenue will not be lost.
‘’It is against this background that we have the authority and drawing it exclusively from the Exclusive Legislative List and we have the powers guided by the Civil Aviation Act 2006 to approve such flights. And those flights were approved lawfully, legally and correctly.
‘’Yes, we will do everything lawful and legal and reasonable to get those pilots back and the operations will continue in national interest.”
On his part, Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, dismissed reports that members of the taskforce were placed on a N500,000 daily sitting allowance.
The minister said he has continued to receive several requests from people for financial assistance since the rumour was made in the social media.
Minister of Health, Dr Osagie Ehanire, who was represented by the Minister of State for Health, Sen. Olorunnimbe Mamora, asked hospitals in the country not to reject patients for fear of coronavirus.
He said: “Health facilities, both public and private, are called upon not to reject patients without giving them advise on what to do, but to follow NCDC guidelines and refer suspected cases to COVID-19 test sites.
‘’In all cases, essential health service is to be rendered, including emergencies, since the arrival of coronavirus does not mean disappearance of other diseases. Additionally, all health facilities are reminded that coronavirus is an extremely dangerous pathogen, which spreads very easily.
‘’It is not advisable to accept persons suspected of such infection for treatment if the facility is not so accredited, but to offer them a referral to test centers or accredited treatment centres.’’
On his part, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Enyeama, said 94 Nigerians returning from various African countries would be made to go into isolation for 14 days.
“A doctor who was part of the team that was caught outside the country made his way to Benin Republic and we were able to engage with the government of the Republic of Benin and they gave him safe passage through and he came into the country yesterday (Tuesday).
‘’We also have 68 Nigerians, including women and children, who were in Ivory Coast. So, we needed to engage with the governments of Togo and Benin Republic for them to go through and they are now at the Nigerian border and we have got authorisation for them to come into the country.
‘’They will be in isolation for the mandatory 14 days once they have come in. We have another 24 Nigerians in a hotel in Togo and they are going to be tested. We also have got the permission of the government of Benin Republic for them to move through Beninoise territory and come into Nigeria possibly by tomorrow (today).
We have arranged also a place where they will all be confined when they come into the country and everything has been going on very smoothly,” he said.
Meanwhile, a 15-man medical team from China arrived the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja, yesterday, with the Minister of Health, Osagie Ehanire, receiving it.
The team arrived in Nigeria in a chartered Air Peace aircraft and they are expected to assist Nigeria in efforts to contain the COVID-19 pandemic.