By Monsuru Olowoopejo
President Muhammadu Buhari has ordered the lockdown of Lagos, Ogun states and Federal Capital Territory (FCT) Abuja, as a preventive measure to curtail the spread of coronavirus in the country.
The President stated that the states would be lockdown for the next 14 days to prevent interstate movement of persons that have already been affected by the deadly disease in the country.
Buhari stated this on Sunday while addressing Nigerians on efforts already done by the government to contain the disease in the country since it outbreak several weeks ago.
He said: “Based on the advice of the Federal Ministry of Health and the NCDC, I am directing the cessation of all movements in Lagos and the FCT for an initial period of 14 days with effect from 11pm on Monday, 30th March 2020. This restriction will also apply to Ogun State due to its close proximity to Lagos and the high traffic between the two States.
“All citizens in these areas are to stay in their homes. Travel to or from other states should be postponed. All businesses and offices within these locations should be fully closed during this period.
“The Governors of Lagos and Ogun States, as well as the Minister of the FCT, have been notified. Furthermore, heads of security and intelligence agencies have also been briefed.
“We will use this containment period to identify, trace and isolate all individuals that have come into contact with confirmed cases. We will ensure the treatment of confirmed cases while restricting further spread to other States”, the President added.
He, however, exempted medical officials and medical establishments as well as food processing, distribution and retail companies; petroleum distribution and retail entities, power generation, transmission and distribution companies; and private security companies.
He argued that though these establishments were exempted considering the services they render in the country, access will be restricted and monitored.
“Workers in telecommunication companies, broadcasters, print and electronic media staff who can prove they are unable to work from home are also exempted.
“All seaports in Lagos shall remain operational in accordance with the guidelines I issued earlier. Vehicles and drivers conveying essential cargoes from these Ports to other parts of the country will be screened thoroughly before departure by the Ports Health Authority.
“Furthermore, all vehicles conveying food and other essential humanitarian items into these locations from other parts of the country will also be screened thoroughly before they are allowed to enter these restricted areas”.
To ensure compliance, the President directed the Minister of Health to redeploy all Port Health Authority employees previously stationed in the Lagos and Abuja Airports to key roads that serve as entry and exit points to these restricted zones.
He added that movements of all passenger aircraft, both commercial and private jets to the affected states were hereby suspended, saying, special permits will be issued on a needs basis.
“We are fully aware that such measures will cause much hardship and inconvenience to many citizens. But this is a matter of life and death if we look at the dreadful daily toll of deaths in Italy, France, and Spain.
“However, we must all see this as our national and patriotic duty to control and contain the spread of this virus. I will, therefore, ask all of us affected by this order to put aside our personal comfort to safeguard ourselves and fellow human beings. This common enemy can only be controlled if we all come together and obey scientific and medical advice.
“As we remain ready to enforce these measures, we should see this as our individual contribution in the war against COVID-19. Many other countries have taken far stricter measures in a bid to control the spread of the virus with positive results.
“For residents of satellite and commuter towns and communities around Lagos and Abuja whose livelihoods will surely be affected by some of these restrictive measures, we shall deploy relief materials to ease their pains in the coming weeks.
“Furthermore, although schools are closed, I have instructed the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development to work with State Governments in developing a strategy on how to sustain the school feeding program during this period without compromising our social distancing policies. The Minister will be contacting the affected States and agree on detailed next steps.
“Furthermore, I have directed that a three-month repayment moratorium for all TraderMoni, MarketMoni and FarmerMoni loans be implemented with immediate effect.
“I have also directed that a similar moratorium be given to all Federal Government funded loans issued by the Bank of Industry, Bank of Agriculture and the Nigeria Export-Import Bank.
“For on-lending facilities using capital from international and multilateral development partners, I have directed our development financial institutions to engage these development partners and negotiate concessions to ease the pains of the borrowers.
“For the most vulnerable in our society, I have directed that the conditional cash transfers for the next two months be paid immediately. Our Internally displaced persons will also receive two months of food rations in the coming weeks.
“We also call on all Nigerians to take personal responsibility to support those who are vulnerable within their communities, helping them with whatever they may need.