Members of the Presidential Task Force on Coronavirus (COVID-19) Pandemic headed by the Secretary to Government of the Federation (SGF), Boss Mustapha on Sunday met with President Muhammadu Buhari at Presidential Villa Abuja to bring him up to speed with the assignment given to them.
Expectedly, Mustapha who led the PTF team to brief President Buhari spoke to the State House Correspondents.
It was gathered that the PTF submitted a lengthy report to Mr. President who is expected to make a pronouncement on the phased reopening of businesses nationwide and other matters arising.
PTF Chairman’s chat with the State House Correspondents:
On what transpired between the PTF members and Mr. President, he said: “What we basically did was to submit the fourth interim report to him and to appraise him of the progress that has been achieved in the course of the last two weeks of the extension of the eased phase one of the lockdown and also discuss some of the challenges that we’ve had and suggested what we need to put in place, going forward.
“As far as the work of the PTF is concerned, he was upfront with his commendation and assured us that the nation is fully behind us in the work that he has charged us to do and that 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.
“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.
On further opening of the economy, PTF chairman says: “We have started, even in the first phase and the extension that came with it. Essential parts of the economy was opening up by way of allowing agricultural production, people that produce fertilizers.
“The oil and gas industry was never closed for one day and some aspects of the financial sector was opened. After we receive Mr President’s approval tonight or tomorrow morning, we will now know which segment of the economy he has allowed to open”.
Reacting to resolve of some state governments to reopen worship centres, Mustapha says: “That’s part of what we have considered in its totality. We’d await Mr President’s on that, once I receive his approval, going forward, to certain recommendations we have put in place, we will know how that happens.
“The issue of easing up, you know we are in the first phase, we had an extension of two weeks for the first phase, the next phase should be the second phase and along with that will come in with a lot of recommendations, which we expect Mr President to consider.
“But I can assure you about one thing, that the ownership of the next stage will be the responsibility of the states and the 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 stage will be the responsibility of the states, the local government, the traditional institutions, the religious leaders at the different levels of our communities because that is where the problem is.
“Like we’ve kept saying, 20 local governments, out of 774, account for 60% of confirmed cases in Nigeria today. So where are these 20 local governments? They are in communities. It means we have reached the apex of community transmission and we must get the communities involved.
“So the issues of places of worships, the issues of schools, the issues of some certain businesses that were not opened hitherto are part of the packages that we have looked at and we’ve made the appropriate recommendations, 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 had meetings with those religious bodies and agreed on the guidelines and protocols on how they open up, but in the framework of the national response we are taking that into consideration.”
Asked if Nigeria is winning the fight against COVID-19, the PTF boss replied: “We are winning. As a matter of fact, you juxtapose the rate of cases with our fatality rate, which is basically about 3%, in other countries and other climes, it’s over 10%, but the most important thing that you will realise, when we started this exercise, we had only five testing stations, now we’ve ramped it up to 28, without correspondent increase in the number of deaths. We’ve gone beyond 60,000 now, that reflects in the number of confirmed cases.
“We’ve not reached the peak yet and I won’t want to fool Nigerians by telling them that we are out of the woods. No, we are not out of the woods. As we even open up and accommodate more enterprises, because we are trying to have a balance between livelihoods and life, there’s a likelihood of increase in transmission in cases.”