•Private sector urged to follow suit, tasks market leaders on hygiene
•Oyo gets first positive case; 4 of 39 cases in FCT positive
•Confirmed cases in Nigeria now 30; I had vision of forced holiday — Adeboye
•Bankers’ Committee directs oil firms to sell forex only to CBN
•Kwara govt directs civil servants to work from home
•MTN orders staff to work from home
As part of efforts to stem the spread of coronavirus, also known as COVID-19, Lagos State Governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, yesterday, ordered the state’s civil servants from grade 01-12 to stay at home from today for 14 days, in the first instance. This came as confirmed cases of the disease in the country hit 30 at press time yesterday, with Oyo State recording one positive case. He also urged operators in the private sector to emulate the gesture of the state government by directing their staff not on essential services to stay at home in order to effectively combat and reduce the pandemic in the state. The governor made the remarks at a media briefing, while giving an update on the management of COVID-19 in the state, at Lagos House, Marina, Lagos Island. Governor Sanwo-Olu also urged all top government officials to engage in social isolation, while those who just returned from foreign trips should stay in self-isolation for 14 days. He said: “It has become necessary for me to address you again, as promised, with an update on the COVID-19 situation in Lagos State. “Since my last address to you on Friday, March 20, 2020, Lagos has confirmed an additional six cases of the Coronavirus disease, bringing the total in Lagos State to 18 confirmed cases. “First, let me say that these confirmations are evidence that the system is working, that we are actively and promptly tracking and testing suspected cases. Let me also reiterate that all confirmed cases have been isolated at the Mainland Infectious Diseases Hospital in Yaba, and are undergoing treatment. “We have also been working closely with the Federal Government, the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control, NCDC, the World Health Organization, WHO, and the private sector, to halt the spread of this disease. Index case treated, discharged “I am happy to note that it is not all gloomy news. On the bright side, the index case, the Italian gentleman who was diagnosed on February 27, 2020, and who has been on admission at the Infectious Diseases Hospital, Yaba, has been successfully treated and discharged after his blood sample tested negative to the virus. “This makes him the second case in Nigeria to be successfully treated and discharged. In terms of the proactive measures we are taking to protect Lagos from the disease, we have shut down schools and issued instructions to our people not to congregate or form any gathering of more than 50 people at a time. “I thank Lagosians who have obeyed this directive, which is in no way meant to deprive anybody of his or her freedom. Many mosques were closed on Friday and many churches shut down today (yesterday).” Directive to stay at home “In addition to all the previous directives issued so far, I am now hereby directing all public officers in the entire unified public service from Grade Levels 1 to 12 — which constitutes 70 per cent of the entire public service workforce — to stay at home from (today) March 23 2020, for 14 days in the first instance. “We will review this as time goes on. Members of the public are advised to refrain from visiting public offices, and to transact as much business as is possible through the telephone and online channels. This stay-at-home order does not affect medical personnel, Fire Service, LASEPA, LAWMA and other first respondents and essential services. “We are working to ramp-up our capacity to take on new cases as they’re confirmed; other health facilities will, in due time, be deployed to support the Mainland Infectious Diseases Hospital. We are setting up more facilities in Yaba to contain a likely upsurge in Coronavirus cases. “More health workers are being trained and retired health personnel are being put on notice that they may be recalled to serve in these trying times. Regarding our directives limiting gatherings to no more than 20 people, it is unfortunate that some of our people have refused to obey this directive, which was taken in the interest of all of us, after consultations with religious and community leaders. “As I noted on Friday, in South Korea and Singapore, the disease spread largely because religious gatherings went on unchecked. I insist that this is no religious matter; it is simply a matter of morality and responsibility. Times like this call for a heightened commitment to doing the right thing. We are only as strong as the weakest links among us. “I hereby order our law enforcement agencies to ensure strict compliance with this important public health order on the suspension of all gatherings of more than 20 people. I am using this opportunity to encourage the private sector to take similar steps, to ensure that as many people as possible are able to stay at home for the foreseeable future. “All traditional rulers should sensitize their subjects on the need to avoid all traditional ceremonies and gatherings at this time. I would like to reassure all our people that there is no reason to panic. We are fully prepared for this emergency. “Thankfully, the Federal Government has issued a directive that the Murtala Muhammed Airport be closed to flights as from tomorrow. All our over 70 health personnel who have been at the airport for about two months will return to join the frontline battle to contain and defeat this disease. These times call for strict adherence to all the directives that are being issued by the health authorities: Social distancing “Obedience of the simple rules of hygiene, such as covering the mouth while coughing or sneezing; no handshakes and touching of noses or faces; regular hand-washing with soap and water, and the regular use of hand sanitizers should be observed. “If you feel sick in any way, stay indoors and call a doctor. If you have just returned from overseas, practise mandatory self-isolation for at least 14 days. Let me use this opportunity to send a message to the elderly among us, and the vulnerable, by which I mean those with existing health conditions, to take extra-special precautions and avoid anything that might expose them unnecessarily. “We are aware of the economic effects of this virus. Our administration is working out how to cushion the impact of these disruptions on the people of Lagos, especially the poorest and most vulnerable in our midst. We will ensure that no one is left behind at this time. “As I mentioned on Friday, there is no doubt that these are changing times, demanding changing behaviours and attitudes from us all. We must boldly rise to the demands of the times, knowing that this is the only way to avert the worst and guarantee a healthy and safe tomorrow for all of us. I hope you will work with me and my colleagues to keep all of us safe and keep Lagos moving forward. “Again, this is not the time for fake and unverified news, especially on social media. Let me also appeal to the media community in its entirety to support the battle by helping amplify the guidelines, advisories and contact numbers that are being issued by the relevant authorities. “There will be no let-up in determination to battle the Coronavirus to a standstill.
We are sure that we will win the battle, with your cooperation, and by the grace of the Almighty God.” Oyo records first case In Oyo State, the government said in a statement yesterday that a suspected case at Bodija in Ibadan tested positive to the disease. The statement indicated that the result was released at about 5:35 pm on Saturday. The government stated that Oyo State Public Health Officials are collaborating with the University College Hospital, UCH, on the case. “A follow up on the Ekiti COVID-19 case, reveals that the deceased was picked up directly from Lagos Airport to a private apartment in Ona Ara Local Government Area of the state. “The health authorities have contacted the family concerned and the community has been alerted for intensified contact tracing and self-isolation of identified close contacts. “The information is given that he stayed in some hotels in Ibadan has been found to be false. Another returnee from Texas, USA, has also been identified at Oluyole Local Government Area of state. “She has been kept in self-isolation with close monitoring by the state epidemiological team. All recent returnees are again urged to identify themselves to ministry officials and self-isolate for 14 days,” it said. The state government further disclosed that funds had been released for the activation of emergency operation centre at the ministry of health, for the establishment of a diagnostic centre for a screening of coronavirus and other related infectious diseases to be stationed at the UCH, Ibadan. The government said the funds would also be for equipping the newly-designated Oyo State Infectious Disease Centre at Olodo in Ibadan, that has capacity for over 100 cases. FCT revs up, 4 of 39 cases confirmed Similarly, officials of the Health and Human Services Secretariat in the Federal Capital Territory Administration FCTA were yesterday galvanising efforts with federal authorities to immediately contain the spread of the coronavirus which has seen four of 39 suspected cases in the territory turned positive. Consequently, the FCT Minister, Malam Muhammad Musa Bello, yesterday evening inaugurated an Emergency Epidemic Response Committee, comprising representatives of the FCT Health and Human Services Secretariat, National Centre for Disease Control, NCDC, Federal Ministry of Health, World Health Organization, WHO, tertiary and private hospitals, among others. Performing the inauguration on behalf of the minister, Acting Secretary of the FCT Health and Human Services Secretariat, Dr Mohammed Kawu, said the committee has an Incident Manager, Lawal Ademola and is subdivided into eight functional units. The teams include Infection Prevention and Control; Epidemiology, Surveillance and Point of Entry as well as Laboratory. Others are Risk Communication and Social Mobilization; Case Management as well as Health Safety and Welfare. According to the minister, the primary responsibility of the team is to confront the disease in all ramifications and curtail its spread in the nation’s capital. He said: “Although FCTA has been up and doing ensuring that everything is done to contain the disease but with the confirmation of cases in the FCT, emergency management and treatment is open and FCT is inaugurating this team.” Also speaking, Josephine Okechukwu, Director of FCT Public Health Department, said, for now, there were four confirmed cases of the COVID-19, out of 39 suspected cases. Okechukwu who said she personally interacted with the four patients at the isolation and treatment centre situated at the University of Abuja Teaching Hospital in Gwagwalada and noted that the fourth case, which was uncovered at the weekend, was not very stable as he is suffering from Multiple Myeloma or Kahler’s Disease. The patient had only recently returned from treatment in one of the endemic countries. Multiple myeloma which is a cancer of plasma cells is a disease that could damage the bones, immune system, kidneys and red blood cell count. While stressing that FCTA was well prepared to contain the pandemic, she explained that while isolation was for confirmed cases, quarantine was for suspected cases, warning that primary and secondary healthcare centres were not allowed to manage COVID-19. On having a standard isolation centre in Abuja, Dr Okechukwu said: “We all know that it is not easy to just construct a normal building, so the isolation centre we have in Gwagwalada is under construction and will be in place in the next three weeks for use. “But the temporary site (facility) that we are using now is a new structure that is well equipped and functioning. It has about thirty-bed space, and only four are occupied currently, so we still have space for expansion. In case we have more cases, we are covered. “I want to assure FCT residents and Nigerians generally that there is no cause for panic. We all know that COVID-19 is just a respiratory tract infection, so it is not something that is a death sentence. So let us support people, especially family members who have COVID-19, we shouldn’t stigmatise them. “In FCT, as of now, we have had 39 suspected cases, who have been screened for COVID-19, out of which only four tested positive for the disease in the FCT. Three of them are very stable, but one is not too stable when I discussed with them this morning (yesterday) at the Gwagwalada Teaching Hospital,” the Public Health Director added. On the warning by the FCTA to religious leaders and worshippers to maintain a maximum of 50 persons in a congregation at a time, the Senior Special Assistant to the FCT Minister on Media and Strategic Communications, Malam Abubakakar Sani, said the Administration was satisfied with the level of compliance by churches. “I want to say that from what we observed today (yesterday), the report we got from the field, the FCT Administration is satisfied with the level of compliance by most of the churches. Some of the churches that did not have time to really sensitize their members we noticed large gathering,” he noted. Also yesterday, the FCTA directed road traffic enforcement officers across the city to immediately intensify the arrest of drivers who overload their vehicles with passengers. Chairman, FCT Ministerial Task Team on Traffic Management, Mr Ikharo Attah, disclosed this at a media interface. He said at a time the world was fighting the coronavirus pandemic by advocating social distancing, it would be inappropriate for drivers to have their vehicles fully packed or even overloaded, all in a bid to make quick money. He said: “Those carrying two passengers in front of their vehicles would have their vehicles impounded and drivers’ licence seized. Besides the health risks, it is also unsafe as the driver finds it difficult to adjust his gear and hand brakes.” READ ALSO: Coronavirus: We made efforts to prevent it — Buhari He added that high-capacity bus drivers would also be properly checked to ensure that they did not overload their buses. Attah also called on operators of all means of transportation, particularly those only permitted to operate at the suburbs, such as commercial motorcycles and tricycles, to also avoid overloading. He called on managers of motor parks and transport unions to obey the directives of the FCT minister which limits any gathering to a maximum of 50 persons. The chairman also advised transporters to be observant of their passengers and report those with signs of respiratory challenges to appropriate health authorities for a prompt examination. IGP cues in, directs enforcement Meanwhile, the Inspector-General of Police, IGP Mohammed Abubakar Adamu, has directed all Zonal Assistant Inspectors-General of Police and Commissioners of Police nationwide to ensure that all legitimate orders given in pursuant to the containment efforts were strictly enforced within their areas of jurisdiction. The IGP also urged officers to observe personal safety measures, even as he further directed the Zonal AIGs and Command CPs to ensure that cases of unnecessary arrests and detention of suspects were not condoned. IGP Adamu reiterated that detention of suspects must be reduced to the barest minimum and that only very serious cases, such as terrorism, armed robbery, homicide and other non-bailable offences should warrant detention. DCP Frank Mba, Force Public Relations Officer said in a statement yesterday: “The IGP further directs that adequate measures be emplaced to screen persons to be committed into police custody. “The IGP enjoins citizens to avoid social visits to police stations and other police offices and minimize official visits, except where absolutely necessary. “Meanwhile, the IGP has ordered Command CPs to immediately publicize phone numbers of their Command Control Rooms, Area Commanders and Divisional Police Officers (DPOs) and other Tactical Commanders using the conventional and non – conventional media in order to facilitate alternative interacting and reporting options between the public and the police. “Also, in compliance with the Federal Government’s directive that all tertiary institutions be shut, the IGP has ordered the immediate closure of the Nigeria Police Academy as well as all Police primary and secondary schools nationwide. “Meanwhile, the Force Medical Services has been empowered and directed to step up sensitization programmes across commands, formations and barracks in the country.” My vision of forced holiday, by Adeboye Reacting to the pandemic yesterday, Enoch Adeboye, the General Overseer of the Redeemed Christian Church of God, RCCG, said he had a vision about a compulsory global holiday at the beginning of the year. Addressing members of his church in a broadcast yesterday, Adeboye said he didn’t include it in his new year prophecy because he thought it would be a terror attack. Adeboye said: “He told me loud and clear that the whole world will be on compulsory holiday. I knew the time the world got close to a compulsory holiday was when there was an attack on the World Trade Centre in America. “So when he said the whole world is going to be on compulsory holiday, I thought something like that was going to happen as it happened during 9/11 and if somebody had prophesied it. When it happens, the Interpol will come and pick up the person and say you heard about the plot. “You knew when they were planning this thing and you didn’t speak so I kept my mouth shut. Now, a compulsory holiday is here.” Speaking further, he described the outbreak as God’s way of showing the world that he is still in control. “The good news is that as soon as he has achieved his purpose, as soon as he has proved to the whole world that he can shut down the whole earth if he wants, then he will remove the plague. “How long before that happens? I’m sorry I can’t tell you. Enjoy your rest, enjoy your public holiday declared from heaven. “I have heard one prophet say the coronavirus will soon die. And I said ‘amen’. You know prophets are greater than pastors. I heard that one prophet say coronavirus will end by March 27 and I said ‘Amen’. “I heard another prophet say the world will experience rain for seven days and (it) will wash the plague away. I said ‘amen’. “But I am speaking with you, my children. The coronavirus will certainly subside after God has removed the plague but to say it will die, let me speak in local parlance, ‘na lie’ (it is a lie). “What makes coronavirus interesting is that it is noisy. It is called a noisy pestilence. It is making so much noise, and it is making this noise for a purpose: God must get the attention of the whole world. God has declared a compulsory holiday.” The live broadcast followed the government’s directive prohibiting large social and religious gatherings to contain the coronavirus spread. 27 cases now confirmed Nigeria presently has 27 confirmed cases of the pandemic according to the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control, NCDC. Countries across the world have put various travel restrictions in place to avoid importation of the virus. SERAP writes Buhari, wants EFCC to monitor spending In a similar development, the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project, SERAP, yesterday urged President Muhammadu Buhari to urgently instruct the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, and Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission, ICPC, to jointly track and monitor spending by federal agencies and state governors to combat coronavirus pandemic in Nigeria. SERAP said this “would remove the risks of corruption and mismanagement in our healthcare systems that are already weakened by systemic corruption.” In a letter dated March 20, 2020, and signed by Deputy Director, Kolawole Oluwadare, SERAP stated: “Coronavirus crisis requires quick responses but it also requires corruption safeguards to ensure public funds are well spent, and promote access to basic public health and other services to those most in need. “By prioritising transparency and accountability in the spending of funds to combat coronavirus, your government will be taking preventive measures to ensure that the efforts to reduce the spread of the pandemic and promote the health and safety of Nigerians are not compromised by corruption.” ‘’SERAP expresses concern that systemic corruption in the health sector across the country would hurt the federal and state authorities’ responses to the coronavirus crisis. The challenges posed by the coronavirus pandemic also show the urgent need for your government to improve Nigeria’s health systems and encourage state governors to commit some parts of their security votes to provide additional resources towards strengthening the health systems within their states. “Your government ought to move swiftly to increase spending on efforts to combat coronavirus in the country and provide funding support to Nigerians that are most affected by the crisis, by presenting COVID-19 budget/spending plan to the National Assembly and setting up a COVID-19 trust fund to which wealthy individuals and others should be encouraged to contribute. “The proposed increase in spending of funds on COVID-19 means accountability for those funds should be top of your government’s list of priorities if it is to remove opportunities for corruption that can undermine initiatives to stop the spread of COVID-19. “The EFCC and ICPC should ensure that anyone found to have mismanaged or stolen public funds meant for addressing the coronavirus pandemic are effectively prosecuted and punished. “We also urge you to take urgent measures to ensure that health sector services in federal institutions and agencies are strengthened and that the appropriate corruption risk assessments are implemented and monitored. “The lessons from the Ebola crisis is that even in times of public emergencies, there are those who aim to profit from others most affected by the crisis. Monitoring the spending on coronavirus would help to apply the lessons of the Ebola crisis and prevent corruption, which characterised the efforts to combat it in some countries including in Sierra Leone and Liberia, where patients reportedly paid bribes to access health services. “Corruption in the spending of funds to combat coronavirus will undermine public trust in any efforts by your government to bring the spread of the pandemic under control, and deny access to basic public health services to Nigerians who need the services most. “Monitoring the spending of public funds budgeted to combat coronavirus would also ensure respect for human rights and contribute to ensuring that Nigerians who cannot afford to pay bribes are not denied access to testing and treatment and that high-ranking officials and wealthy individuals subject to quarantines are not abusing the systems. “We will continue to closely monitor the situation and where appropriate, invoke the Freedom of Information Act and take legal action to ensure transparency and accountability, and full respect for Nigerians’ human rights.”