The Federal Government is not disposed to the call by State Governors for the relaxation of the current lockdown in the country on account of the coronavirus pandemic, The Nation gathered last night.
The federal authorities, sources said, are much in favour of partial restrictions in 33 of the 36 states with a view to mitigating the effects of the current lockdown in many parts of the country as against the relaxation being sought by the governors. Governors Willie Obiano of Anambra State and Seyi Makinde have already relaxed the restrictions in their states.
The Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 which President Muhammadu Buhari relies on principally for advice on the pandemic is not in agreement with the governors that government should soft pedal in the FCT, Lagos, Ogun and Kano States. Buhari who is billed to address the nation on Monday is said to be weighing the options before him.
Members of the PTF were locked in a marathon meeting on Saturday on the format of the partial restrictions to put in place in 33 states without fueling the spread of the Coronavirus. The task force considered the status report on COVID-19 spread in each state of the federation, the input of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF) and local and international technical evaluation of the pandemic in the country.
A top level source said: “We are inching towards partial restrictions in some states and the Federal Capital Territory. There is clamour for the partial lifting of the lockdown. This is why the PTF is meeting. “The PTF has received many suggestions but we are being careful not to reverse the gains of the last few weeks in the battle against Coronavirus.
“One of the knotty issues is a recommendation by the NGF that there should be internal free movement but with restrictions on large gatherings and assemblies nationwide. But the PTF took exception to partial lifting of the lockdown in the FCT, Lagos, Ogun and Kano states.” When contacted, a member of the NGF said the Forum was on the same page with the PTF on the input of the governors except for one recommendation.
The source said: “I don’t think they (the PTF on COVID-19) have serious objection except with internal free movement where they believe that we should not relax the lockdown in the epicentres of Lagos, Kano, FCT and Ogun. They may be right. “We have done our bit by presenting our input. You can contact the Chairman of PTF on COVID-19, Mr. Boss Mustapha for details.”
The NGF in the Friday letter to the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Mr. Boss Mustapha, said: “Please refer to the above subject matter and to our Teleconference meeting with the Vice President on Wednesday, 22 April 2020.
“Recall at that meeting it was agreed that the Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF) articulates the issues that it would want to be included in the next Presidential Pronouncement on Covid-19 so as to have a Uniform and Coordinated Policy on Covid-19 at both the national and sub-national levels.
“Subject to Mr. President’s approval, the NGF would want the following incorporated into Mr. President’s Pronouncements:
*Inter-State lockdown excluding movement of essential supplies foods, beverages, medical and pharmaceuticals, petroleum supplies and agricultural products:
*Internal free movement but with restrictions on large gatherings and assemblies;
*Lockdown of flights: and
*Compulsory use of face masks/ coverings in the public.
Another top source said last night that the NGF’s letter was “inexplicit on what qualified as internal movement.” The source said: “We may end up with tough advisory on partial restrictions. We cannot allow the governors to reopen schools; there will be no wedding, funeral outings; churches and mosques cannot operate and we will only allow access to markets in the neighbourhood.
“Don’t forget that the Federal Government and the PTF only locked down the FCT, Lagos and Ogun states. We did not lockdown the remaining 34 states. But we cannot close our eyes when Coronavirus infections get out of control in any state.
“This is why we believe the governors must be cautious in putting in place partial restrictions. We should avoid creating a situation where the pandemic will get out of control in any state.
“For instance, Governor Willie Obiano of Anambra State did not consult with the PTF or Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) before directing that churches should resume normal activities. No technical or empirical basis for his decision. Does the state have the where withal to manage the consequences of exposing its citizens to Coronavirus spread?
Responding to a question, the source added: “The PTF members will still meet on Sunday. We may come up with tough advisory if there will be internal movement in any state as part of the conditions of partial restrictions.”
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