The Presidential Task Force (PTF) on the Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) Pandemic has enumerated federal government’s plan for the welfare of Nigerians as the fight against the pandemic commenced in earnest.
Secretary to the Government of the Federation, who is also the Chairman of the task force, Mr Boss Mustapha, during the body’s daily media briefing on Tuesday in Abuja, faulted claims that President Muhammadu Buhari did not take the welfare of the citizenry into consideration when ordering restriction of movements and activities in Lagos and Ogun States, as well as the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja last Sunday.
Boss, who observed that the COVID-19 pandemic was not just an attack on the health of Nigerians, but also an attack on the national economy, pointed out that President Buhari had taken the economic angle to the crisis into consideration, hence his elaborate plan to give various financial and material relief soft pad to various categories of Nigerians, as spelt out in his nationwide broadcast.
According to him, the President, in order not leave Nigerians in the dark or leave them to the dire fate being threatened by global health and economic emergency, devoted eight paragraphs of his message to Nigerians, reeling out his plans for palliatives and succour.
“I will urge you to go back to Mr President’s speech, eight of the paragraphs of that 64 paragraphed speech spoke about palliatives; from paragraphs 49 to 56. He spoke about the interventions of government in trying to soften the effects of the restrictions that he was putting in place.
“Before Mr President spoke, the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria had rolled out a lot of economic stimuli that will help to keep the economy going and ensure that those that are engaged in trade and manufacturing, in spite of the fact that the Coronavirus attack is not only on our health, but it is also attacking our wealth as a people.
“Those economic stimuli that we’re rolled out were all in an attempt to ensure that businesses, in spite of the adverse effects that will come, have some soft cushions and that was further elaborated in Mr President’s speech, when he took paragraph by paragraph, asking for moratorium for loans that had been taken by small holder persons, dealing with issues palliatives.
“The first paragraph of the speech, as a matter of fact, spoke about the fact that he realizes the adverse effects of these restrictions to the satellite communities around these three locations and directed that relief materials be given to these communities to soften the effects of these restrictions.
“So I think as much as possible, palliatives have been rolled out and they’ll continue to be rolled out. Yesterday, in addition to that, he directed the constitution of an Economic Sustainability Committee, to be chaired by the Vice President and the responsibility of that committee is to look at the entire package and advice on the effect of this particular pandemic on our economy and how our economy will survive post the pandemic.
“I believe that the committee will look at some of the issues that will help tremendously in ensuring that our people are not left in distress, but a bit of comfort from the side of government, which is the primary responsibility of government, to cater for the welfare and the security of the people is provided even in this time of dire distress,” Boss explained.
Also speaking at the briefing, the Minister of Health, Dr Osagie Ehanire, announced that the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) had engaged hundreds of ad-hoc staff to support call centers, contact tracing and laboratory works.
The Minister said many retired staff of the NCDC and those of the Ministry of Health had reported back for duty, adding that training had begun for medical personnel to support all preparedness and treatment.
He said resources to procure items had been provided and that more testing sites had been opened in Ibadan and Abakiliki, while exiting laboratories were being optimized in their performance.
Minister of Aviation, Senator Hadi Sirika, who also spoke at the briefing, said though all airports, including local, had been closed to operations certain flights that are considered to be essential will continue to get clearance.
He listed those aircrafts qualified to fly to include those in distress in order to save lives, those on technical stop, like those needing to refuel, those on Medical evacuation, essential cargo flights, certain diplomatic flights, humanitarian flights – those bringing in food items and humanitarian supplies, those carrying medical equipment and medicine as well as security flights amongst others.
He said protocols had been set out, one of which is that if a flight is on ground all the crew must remain on board, adding that planes will not be serviced except to refuel.
Sirika said all diplomatic flight requests must go through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, while all security flights must rout requests for their permit through the office of the National Security Adviser (NSA), copying Aviation Ministry.
He, however, informed of flights that had been allowed to land within Nigeria’s space, include one carrying communications equipment meant for one of the communications companies in Nigeria, but added that the pilots and engineers remained on board.