By Benjamin Omoike
Governors of the 36 states of the federation on Wednesday unanimously agreed to the implementation of an inter-state lockdown over the next two weeks as part of efforts to stem the tide of the pandemic COVID-19 virus in the country.
The state chief executives, operating under the aegis of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF), reached the agreement after receiving briefing from their colleagues in Lagos, Bauchi, Oyo and Ogun States who shared their experiences and lessons from the fight against COVID-19.
A communiqe issued by the NGF chairman and governor of Ekiti State, Kayode Fayemi, at the end of the sixth COVID-19 teleconference meeting said only essential services would be permitted.
State governors called for the decentralisation of the COVID-19 response as the best chance of nipping the spread of the virus in communities with over 25 States now affected by the spread of the virus and increasing evidence of community transmission.
Members of the NGF also voiced serious concern over the rising spread of the virus among health workers and resolved to work with the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) to ensure that health workers are “adequately” provided with personal protective equipment (PPE) and are “constantly” trained on the use of protective gears.
This followed an update from the NGF Secretariat on the number of COVID-19 cases in the country.
Governors also resolved to set up COVID-19 committees at the regional level, headed by their State Commissioners of Health in order to strengthen coordinated implementation of necessary public health recommendations across States. Regional committees, the communique added, will continue to interface with the State Task Force Committees on COVID-19 already established in each State.
The NGF Chairman briefed the forum on the rapidly evolving situation of the COVID-19 pandemic and coordination efforts with the federal government, multilateral and bilateral partners, and the private sector through the Coalition against COVID-19 (CACOVID).
The forum held a minute’s silence in honour of all Nigerians who had lost their lives from coronavirus, especially health workers who were in the front lines of the epidemic.
The NGF also congratulated the governor of Kaduna State, Nasir El-Rufai, who after nearly four weeks of testing positive and observing very strict medical regime, has now received two consecutive negative test results for the coronavirus.
Members also conveyed their condolences to President Muhammadu Buhari and the people of Borno State, on the passing of the Chief of Staff to the President, Malam Abba Kyari, who passed away on April 17, 2020, in the line of duty to the country.
It would be recalled that President Buhari currently imposed lockdown in only the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Lagos and Ogun States to halt the spread of the novel pandemic coronavirus. Some of the States have taken similar measures to fight the deadly virus but there is no nationwide lockdown from the federal government. Health experts say the country may be heading towards the need for nationwide lockdown to stop the virus.
However, the National Coordinator of the Presidential Task Force (PTF) on COVID-19, Dr. Sani Aliyu, had earlier in the day denied proposing a national lockdown to tackle COVID-19 in the country. Aliyu made the claim on Wednesday in Abuja, at the 17th joint national briefing of the PTF on COVID-19. That came after the Director-General, Nigeria Centre for Disease Control, Chikwe Ihekweazu, hinted on Monday that President Buhari will make some very difficult decisions next week about the lockdown occasioned by the coronavirus pandemic.
He said this in Katsina, when he visited Governor Aminu Masari to see the state’s preparedness for COVID 19. Ihekweazu disclosed that the president was scheduled to join the governors’ forum teleconference meeting to discuss some of the decisions.