President Muhammadu Buhari, and the Presidential Task Force, PTF, on Covid-19, on Sunday, met to consider the request by some sections of the country, to reopen Worship Centres.
This is as indications emerged that President Buhari may possibly authorise further easing of the lockdown imposed on the country, to contain the spread of the dreaded coronavirus pandemic.
The Chairman of the PTF and Secretary to the Government of the Federation, SGF, Boss Mustapha, led the Delegation of the PTF to meet with the President, as the first phase of the two weeks of easing of the lockdown ends today, Monday, June 1, 2020.
Speaking to State House Correspondents after meeting at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, Mustapha said that a lot of recommendations have been made to the President, and that he would direct on the next step to take.
He also said that the country is witnessing community transmission, which has now placed the burden on the shoulders of the States, alongside the Local Government Councils, Traditional Rulers, and Religious Leaders, to decide the next action.
He stated that the PTF presented the assessment report of the last ease of the lockdown, and made recommendations on the way forward.
He said that the economy will be open further, if President Buhari gives approval to the recommendations the Task Force has made.
Asked whether there is any hope of reopening the economy, he replied: “Well, we have started. Even in the first phase, and the extension that came with it, substantial part of the economy was opened up by way of allowing agricultural production, people that produce fertiliser, and the oil and gas industry was never closed for one day, haulage of oil, refining and prospecting never stopped 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 segments of the economy he has allowed for opening.”
He explained that the PTF met the President to submit its fourth Interim report, and apprise him of the progress made in the last two weeks, as well as the challenges.
Mustapha said that the PTF has suggested the measures to be put in place going forward.
He also hinted that Kogi and Cross River States, which have claimed that there is no Covid-19 in their territories, will be pressed to understand the imperative of tagging along with the national response.
His words: “It is important that they realise that no man is an island, when you deal with public health matters; that whatever happens in a particular locality has the consequences of skidding off to other constituencies.
“That is the message that we continue to drive, in our pursuit of getting everybody to be on board. And I can assure you that there is no island as far as Covid-19 is concerned in this country.
“We must integrate the different responses from all the communities in the States, and have everybody to be on the same page.
“We will continue to pursue that, and we will also ensure that it happens. I can assure you that.”
On the pressure to open Worship Centres, he said: “That is part of what we have considered in totality, we would wait for Mr. President’s response on that, once I receive his approval going forward, as to certain recommendations that we have put in place, we will see how that one happens.
“The issue of easing up, you know we are in the first phase ,we have an extension of two weeks for the first phase, the next phase should be the second phase, along with that we came 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 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 Government Areas, the Traditional Institutions, the Religious Leaders, at the different levels of our communities, because that is where the problem is.
“Like we have kept saying, 20 Local Governments out of 774, account for 60 percent 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 have 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.”