As Nigeria prepares to end the second phase of the eased lockdown on Monday, the federal government is considering opening up more sectors of the polity.
Boss Mustapha, secretary to the government of the federation and chairman of the presidential task force (PTF) on COVID-19, said this on Sunday after the PTF submitted its report to President Muhammadu Buhari.
He said the PTF made recommendations on reopening places of worship, schools and businesses across the country.
“But you know that Mr President is the only one that can take decisions in respect of that. In the framework, the states are sub-nationals; they have their own responsibilities too. So, it is in the exercise of those responsibilities that they met with religious bodies and agreed on the protocols and guidelines on how to open up. But in the framework of the national response, we are taking that into consideration,” he said.
Mustapha also said states will take responsibility for the next phase of the lockdown relaxation.
According to him, many issues on easing the lockdown were considered in the report, and the task force awaits the president’s decision before further guidelines will be issued.
“The issue of easing up, you know we were in the first phase and we had an extension of two weeks for the first phase. The next phase should be the second phase and along with that, we came with a lot of recommendations which we expect Mr President to consider,” he said.
“I can assure you of one thing: the ownership of the next phase will be the responsibility of the states under national supervision and coordination, because we have gone into community transmission. Where are the communities? The communities are in the states.
“So, the ownership of the next phase will be that of the states, the local governments, the traditional institutions, the religious leaders at the different levels of our communities. That is where the problem is.
“Like we have kept saying, 20 local government (areas) out of 744 account for 60 per cent of confirmed cases in Nigeria today. So, where are these 20 local governments? They are in the communities. It means that we have reached the epitome of community transmission, so we must get the communities involved.”
While responding to questions on the rejection of results announced by the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) for Kogi state, he said the PTF will focus on ensuring a coordinated national response as no state is an island.
Kogi state had rejected the two index cases of the coronavirus reported by the NCDC last Wednesday.
“Kogi State till this very moment is COVID-19 free. We have developed full testing capacity and have conducted hundreds of tests so far which have returned negative,” Saka Audu, the state commissioner for health, said in a statement last Thursday.
However, the SGF said efforts would go into ensuring that decisions taken by states would be geared towards containing the spread of the virus.
“We discussed challenges generally and I believe that in the context of those discussions, certain steps will be taken. We are doing everything to ensure that the entire nation is on the same page with one response and it is very important that we realise that no state is an island unto itself, when you deal with public health matters,” the SGF said.
“Whatever happens in a particular locality has the consequences of spilling off to other constituencies. That is the message that we’ll continue to drive in our pursuit of getting everybody to be on board and I can assure you that there’s no island that exists as far as COVID-19 is concerned in this country.
“We must integrate all the responses from the different segments of the community and the state and have everybody to be on the same page. We will continue to pursue that and we must also ensure that it happens. I can assure about that.”
He said the president commended the PTF and assured them of the nation’s support.
“He’s also appreciative of the work of the frontline workers, particularly the medical personnel, the security personnel and the people who come in contact with the patients in the time of collection of samples, the testings, the care that they are giving,” Mustapha said.
“We also discussed the issue of compliance and he said we should continue to appeal to Nigerians and drive home the point that it’s a personal responsibility for each and every Nigerian to undertake to ensure that he keeps himself safe and by extension keeping his family, loved ones and community safe.
“We will continue to drive that message. It’s a message of persuasion, it’s a message that should make people take personal responsibility for their own protection and health and we will not relent on that.”
When asked if the economy would be opened soon, the PTF chairman said some sectors of the economy were already opened up when the lockdown was relaxed.
“After we receive the approval of Mr President tonight or tomorrow (Monday) morning, we will now know which (other) segment of the economy is allowed to open,” he added.
On Nigeria’s COVID-19 statistics, he added: “We are winning. As a matter of fact, you will juxtapose the rate of cases with our fatality rate, which is basically about 3 per cent. In other countries and climes, it is over 10 per cent.”