There are strong indications that President Muhammadu Buhari may extend the lockdown order in Lagos, Ogun and the Federal Capital Territory.
This came after the Chairman of the Presidential Task Force and Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Boss Mustapha, spoke at Friday’s edition of the committee’s daily media briefing.
The PTF had earlier in the day met with the President at the Aso Rock Villa.
Buhari had, on March 29, ordered the lockdown for an initial period of 14 days to tackle the spread of the coronavirus pandemic.
As of that day, Nigeria had 111 COVID-19 cases with one death, according to the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control. The cases were recorded in 11 states and the FCT.
But as of Friday night, coronavirus cases had increased to 305 in the country after fresh 17 cases were recorded in the country. The states where the fresh cases were recorded were Lagos (8), Katsina (3), FCT (2), Niger (1), Kaduna (1), Anambra (1) and Ondo (1).
While 58 patients had been discharged, seven had died as of Friday night.
The new cases also brought the number of states affected to 18, excluding the FCT.
Lagos, FCT and Osun had the highest number of cases at 163, 56 and 20 respectively. Edo had 12, Oyo (11), Bauchi (6), Akwa Ibom (5), Ogun (7), Kaduna (6) and Katsina (4).
Enugu, Ekiti, Rivers, Kwara, Delta and Ondo had two cases each.
Benue, Niger and Anambra had one case each.
Speaking at the media briefing, Mustapha said, “The PTF, a small committee of us, this afternoon, had the privilege of further briefing Mr President on the assessment of our response to COVID-19 and, at the appropriate moment, we will continue to adequately inform Nigerians of government decisions.
“The decision on whether to extend the lockdown or not is exclusively the decision or responsibility of the President. Ours (the PTF) is to provide him with first-hand information that would inform that decision. So, I cannot speculate on that now. But looking at what is happening in other climes, you would be able to deduce what might likely happen, but I’m not in a position to speculate on that.
“I believe strongly that the information required to make that decision would be made available to Mr President, who would look at the holistic picture. It is not only the information that comes from the Presidential Task Force that would inform his decision; there are other sources of information that come to him as the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and he would consider all of them in arriving at a decision.”
Earlier when the PTF met with the President on Friday to discuss its progress on the national response to the coronavirus pandemic, Mustapha had told journalists at the State House that Buhari appealed to Nigerians to exercise more patience and understanding as the government continued to contain the spread of COVID-19.
Although the meeting was held behind closed doors, it was gathered that Buhari expressed optimism that Nigeria would beat COVID-19, flatten the curve and aggressively respond to the crisis.
The SGF said, “He (Buhari) was very satisfied; as a matter of fact, he wished us well and spoke openly as a father would about his compassion for the work that we are doing and the fact that he keeps seeing us going up and down, engaging with the public, engaging with the media and critical stakeholders.
“He (Buhari) appealed to the Nigerian public for patience and understanding, that we are dealing with an uncommon enemy, one that we can’t see or predict, all over the world. It’s called the novel coronavirus, which means it’s new and its characteristics are unknown; people are just trying to define it and find ways around it.
“His strong appeal was that, as much as possible, we should encourage people to observe the basic instructions that had been issued, in terms of keeping social distancing, washing of hands, maintaining cleanliness and staying at home, which is very critical and scientifically, it’s been proven that staying at home can prevent the spread by about 45 percent.”
Mustapha expressed gratitude to Nigerian health workers, especially those who have been on the front line since the COVID-19 pandemic started. He assured them that the government was working out incentives to further motivate them.
He said, “Let me use this opportunity to commend and thank our front-line health care workers for their commitment and sacrifices. The government is working on the issue of your incentives, medical and life insurance as you battle to save lives.”