FG declares closure of states’ borders illegal

Posted by News Express | 31 March 2020 | 1,707 times

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• President Muhammadu Buhari

The federal government has said that the lockdown of some states and theclosure of their borders by their respective governors is illegal.

In reaction to reports of Nigerians being trapped in the border communities of some states because of the closure of the borders by the governor, the secretary to the government of the federation (SGF), Boss Mustapha, said that the lockdown announced by President Muhammadu Buhari on Sunday to stop the escalation of the coronavirus pandemic only affected the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Lagos and Ogun States.

His pronouncement came in Abuja on Monday as the Ogun State governor, Prince Dapo Abiodun, disclosed that the state government had obtained permission from the presidency to begin the lockdown of the state on Friday instead of 11 pm of Tuesday as ordered by President Buhari.

At a press conference in Abuja, on Monday, Mustapha, who is the chairman of the Presidential Task Force for the Control of the Coronavirus-19 Disease (COVID-19), said that the lockdown by Anambra, Bayelsa, Benue, Delta, Ekiti, and Osun States that has left travellers in agony was illegal.

Mustapha explained that President Buhari’s broadcast was very definitive and categorical, stressing that only Lagos, Ogun and the FCT are to be locked down.

He said: “As a nation, our response must be guided, systematic and professional. There is a need for consistency across the nation. All inconsistencies in policy guidelines between federal and state agencies will be eliminated.

“I referred you to paragraph 29 of the president’s broadcast. We are mindful of the fact that there are those inconsistencies in policies. Such states began to implement their lockdown before the president’s broadcast.

The president’s broadcast was very definitive and categorical, we are only locking down Lagos, Ogun and the federal capital. Those are the only three designated areas for the lockdown now.

“I will make some calls to some security agencies in those borders. I expected that after Mr. President’s broadcast what should ordinarily happen is that, if you had stopped people from getting to their destinations that broadcast should have enabled you release those people to get to their destinations.

“You can put proactive measures like a toll gate to ensure that you test them and allow them get to their destinations. That was what we did at the airports before we finally locked down the airports.

“This lockdown like the president said in paragraph 29 of the national broadcast will be systematic, consistent and will be based on best practices,” he said.

The SGF said that all the donations from international organisations, corporate Nigeria and individuals were still promissory notes.

He assured the citizens that the donations would be used to purchase more testing materials and that the committee would give more details on how people can make more donations.

Mustapha said: “Well, there have been announcements from different quarters. I will start from our donor partners, nothing has come in yet. But we have received commitment from the the European Union (EU), United Nations Group, Nigeria Economic Summit Group, and the Corporate Nigeria, we have received pledges from different organisations and individuals.

“The coalition of the private sector, ably led by the governor of Central Bank of Nigeria and Alhaji Aliko Dangote, about two days go, announced a commitment to deploy resources to the tune of about N120 billion in aid, to ensure that collectively as a people with the cooperation and support of government that we deal with this pandemic.

“I believe they are going to own up to their words; we have been talking with them, even this afternoon I spoke with Alhaji Aliko Dangote and I have been speaking with the governor of the central bank. They have asked for a list of things that we need to build capacity and ensure that we have sufficient consumables, testing materials, ventilators and the rest. And this list has been sent to them.

“They have constituted four committees; one is the steering committee which they have graciously asked me to chair, funding committee, technical committee and operational committee. So they are very organised; they intend to raise their resources, they intend to commit them to the fight of coronavirus.

“I believe the generosity of Nigerians will come into play here; we are totally a generous people and I believe not only this group, so many other Nigerians will join this fight.

“By tomorrow we will give details as to the platforms in which these donations will be paid into. We have received authorisation and we have directed the accountant-general of the federation to open an account in the central bank.”

“The terms of reference as well as members of the committee will be announced soon,” he said, adding that “we do not desire to slow down the economy in anyway.”

…Approves skeletal services for banks

Meanwhile, President Buhari has granted leave to Deposit Money Banks (DMBs) to operate undisrupted during the period of controlled curfew in Abuja, Lagos and Ogun States.

The information is contained in a joint statement issued by the minister of Finance, Budget and Planning, Zainab Ahmed and the governor of the Central Bank, Godwin Emefiele.   

The duo said that they obtained presidential approval to permit critical financial services to function during the 14-day lockdown.

Buhari had issued a directive, restricting the movement of people – excluding those on essential service – with effect from 11pm on Monday, March 30, 2020, in the FCT, Lagos and Ogun States, as a response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

Consequently, the statement disclosed that relevant security agencies had been requested to grant passage to critical staff of these institutions to enable essential and strategic financial transactions to go undisrupted during the period of the lockdown.

These institutions include the CBN, Deposit Money Banks (DMBs), the Nigeria Interbank Settlement System (NIBSS) Plc and switching companies.

Others are mobile money operators and payment solution service providers.

The CBN urged Nigerians to limit their use of cash and avail themselves of the use of alternative payment channels such as mobile banking, Internet banking, mobile money, Point of Sale (POS), and USSD.

“The public is therefore assured that financial institutions will remain operational during this period and therefore should guard against panic withdrawals from their banks.

“We also urge all Nigerians to adhere strictly to the movement restrictions and follow stipulated guidelines by the Federal Ministry of Health, Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) and other relevant health agencies of government to curb possible spread of the virus in Nigeria,” Emefiele said.

New cases now 131, second death recorded as Lagos discharges five more [patients

In another development, the NCDC has said that 20 new cases of COVID19 have occurred, bringing the total confirmed cases in the country to 131.

NCDC said that 13 of the cases were reported in Lagos, four in the FCT, two in Kaduna and one in Oyo State.

Earlier at the joint press conference, the minister of Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire, disclosed a fatality case which, he said took place at the weekend. He said that the patient had severe underlined illnesses.

Ehanire said:  “As of today, the 30th of March, 2020, we have recorded 111 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Nigeria of which 68 are in Lagos, 21 in FCT, seven in Oyo, three in Ogun, two in Bauchi, two in Edo, two in Osun, two in Enugu and one each in Benue, Ekiti, Kaduna and Rivers States.

“Majority of those infected with the virus are persons who came from overseas and others have been traced as close contacts of such returnees.

“The high number of cases in Lagos and Abuja is due to their function as the country’s gateways for air travel.

“Till date, three persons have been discharged after successful treatment but sadly another fatality was recorded over the weekend of a patient who had severe underline illnesses.

“We have intensified contact tracing and our strategy remains to promptly detect cases, isolate them and follow up with their contacts and also isolate and treat in other to reduce the spread of the infection,” he said.

The minister said that more testing centres were underway, adding that “with new additions to the case definition, persons with fever and either cough, difficulty in breathing or shortness of breath in an area of medium or high prevalence of COVID-19, can test for the disease.

“To meet the demand that will arise as a result of this expansion of the case definition, the NCDC has added a new laboratory to its network of molecular laboratories for COVID-19. This is the Virology Laboratory of University College Hospital, Oyo State. We project that in three weeks, seven more labs in Abakiliki, Kaduna, Kano, Maiduguri, Port Harcourt and Sokoto will be added to this network to further expand testing capacity nationwide,” Ehanire said.

It was cheering news yesterday when the Lagos State government announced the discharge another five coronavirus patients from the Infectious Disease Centre, Yaba Mainland Hospital, bringing the number of patients so far discharged from the centre to eight.

The patients who had been receiving treatment at the healthcare facility looked stable and unruffled.

The discharged patients, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of stigmatization, expressed joy over the medical treatment they received in the hospital.

They also lauded Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu for his support and pro-activeness, and appealed to the federal and state governments to ensure that the workers at the centre were given life insurance to further motivate them.

Fielding question from journalists, one of the patients said: ‘’I came in here on the 15th of March and after the test showed positive, I was asked to come back the next day. So I was admitted here.

„Initially, there were hitches but it later turned out fine. The health workers did well; all our challenges were attended to. I‘m a living witness together with my other colleagues,“ he said.

He said that the fact that he survived the pandemic showed that it can be defeated and urged Nigerians not panic when infected by the virus.

He said: „We can beat it, i want to assure others that this is not their resting place. Encourage yourselves, take your medications and in no distant time, you will get out of here.

„I want to appeal to the federal government and the Lagos State government that, they should remunerate all those workers who have volunteered to work accordingly so as to serve as encouragement to others,” adding that, „if they are not here as first responders, many would have died.“

Another patient said: „I was admitted because I tested positive to coronavirus. Initially there were challenges, the following day they brought beds, masks and some equipment.”

He pointed out that the workers could not attend to him because he tested positive, saying that „they could not bring my food or anything to me. I started going back and forth before I knew it I slept off and I woke up around 3 am.“

PMB commends Adenuga, Alakija, Offor, churches over donation

In another development, President Buhari has expressed deep appreciation to captains of industries, banks, missionaries, musical artistes and individuals for supporting the federal government’s efforts to contain the COVID-19 pandemic.

The president, in a statement issued in Abuja, yesterday by his media aide, Garba Shehu, specially thanked a group of oil companies, which partnered with the Nigerian National Petroleum Cooperation (NNPC) to donate $30 million to the government’s relief funds.

He also appreciated the contributions of All Progressives Congress (APC) national leader, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, Dr Mike Adenuga, Modupeola and Folorunsho Alakija of Famfa Oil, and Dr Emeka Offor, who joined a list of other public-spirited Nigerians in contributing money, health and educational materials to the government.

The president welcomed generous donations as announced by Zenith Bank PLC, which was committed to the public health care system, Keystone bank, First Bank Plc and Senior Pastor of Dunamis International Gospel Centre, Dr Paul Enenche, and his wife, Dr Becky Enenche, who also took to the streets to sensitize citizens on the dreaded virus.

Buhari appreciated the efforts of Stallion Empowerment Initiative of the Stallion Group, and the entertainment industry, particularly renowned musician, Innocent Idibia, Tuface, for contributions.

Senators donate 50% salaries

As their contribution to the fight against the COVID-19 scourge, Senators have donated 50 per cent of their salaries to the federal government.

The Senate acting spokesman, Senator Godiya Akwashiki, announced the decision of the lawmakers in a statement he released yesterday.

Akwashiki said: „After due consultations following a keen review of the national efforts to contain the coronavirus pandemic in Nigeria, the Senate wishes to announce that from March 2020, distinguished senators will be donating 50 per cent of their salaries to these efforts to stop the spread of the disease, otherwise known as COVID-19, in our country.

“This monthly contribution from the Upper Legislative Chamber will be sustained until Nigeria is declared safe from the ravages of this deadly disease.

„The Senate commends the efforts of President Muhammadu Buhari and the administration towards the goal of securing our nation against this plague. The Senate is willing and ready to do whatever is required of the legislature for the effectiveness of all the measures in place now or that may be required in the future to win the fight against this menace,” he said.

PDP senators endorse PMB’s address

Also, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) minority caucus in the Senate has commended President Buhari over the measures he announced in his national broadcast to combat COVID-19.

In a statement released in Abuja by the Senate minority leader, Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe, the caucus said though they had expected the presidency to engage the National Assembly more in some of the policy areas that are statutory, but yet have to recognise the fact that these are unusual times that may require quick policy responses.

He said: „These are perilous times in the world and indeed an unusual situation for our dear country, so the PDP caucus described as a step in the right direction the President‘s broadcast and policy measures, which we believe while being short on prioritizing the poor and vulnerable in our society, nevertheless if properly implemented will keep our people safe from this deadly virus.“

Malami, Soyinka differ on lockdown of Lagos, Ogun

Meanwhile, the attorney-general of the federation and justice minister, Abubakar Malami (SAN) and Nobel laureate, Prof. Wole Soyinka, have differed on President Buhari’s lockdown of Lahos and Ogun States.

In his reaction to the president’s action yesterday, Soyinka described it as illegal and unconstitutional.

Soyinka, in a statement tagged: “Between COVID and Constitutional Encroachment”, said argued that the president does not have the power to unilaterally lockdown a state, as there was no war or an emergency.

He said: ‘’Constitutional lawyers and our elected representatives should kindly step into this and educate us, mere lay minds. The worst development I can conceive is to have a situation where rational measures for the containment of the coronavirus pandemic are rejected on account of their questionable genesis.

‘’This is a time for unity of purpose, not nitpicking dissensions. So, before this becomes a habit, a question: does President Buhari have the powers to close down state borders? We want clear answers. We are not in a war emergency,” he said.

But, Malami who berated human rights activist, Ebun-Olu Adegboruwa (SAN), for describing as illegal the order of the president, said that Buhari did not commit any illegality.

He said: “It is important to inform the discerning members of the public that the president did not make a declaration of a state of emergency under Section 305(1) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) which would have required the concurrence of both Houses of the National Assembly.

“Even at that Section 305(6)(b) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) permits a proclamation of a state of emergency to run for a period of 10 days without the approval of the National Assembly when the parliament is not in session as in the present situation wherein the National Assembly has shut down.

“The learned silk also goofed when he questioned the president’s powers to restrict movement and claiming that such powers can only be exercised by the state governors and the respective state assemblies,” Malami said.  (Leadership)




Source: News Express

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