President Muhammadu Buhari will take a decision over the seeming “intransigence’’of Kogi and Cross River States in the COVID-19 fight, the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 has said.
The two states have “refused’’ to cooperate with the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC).
Specifically, Kogi has rejected the two index cases of coronavirus reported by the NCDC last Wednesday as declared by Dr Saka Audu, the Commissioner for Health.
“Kogi State till this very moment is COVID-19 free. We have developed full testing capacity and have conducted hundreds of tests so far which have returned negative,” Audu said in a statement.
The Chairman of PTF and the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Mr Boss Mustapha, who led the team to submit a report to the President on Sunday, disclosed on Sunday.
He was responding to a question on if the refusal of the two states to cooperate with the NCDC came up in the discussion with President Buhari.
“We discussed challenges generally and I believe that in the context of those discussions, certain steps will be taken. We are doing everything to ensure that the entire nation is on the same page with one response and it is very important that we realize that no state is an island unto itself, when you deal with public health matters.
“Whatever happens in a particular locality has the consequences of spilling off to other constituencies. That is the message that we will continue to drive in our pursuit of getting everybody to be on board and I can assure you that there is no island that exists as far as COVID-19 is concerned in this country.
“We must integrate all the responses from the different segments of the community and the state and have everybody to be on the same page. We will continue to pursue that and we must also ensure that it happens. I can assure about that,’’ Mustapha told reporters.
He announced that the task force had submitted the fourth interim report to the President and to appraise him of the progress that had been made so fat in the last two weeks of the extension of the eased phase one of the lockdown and also discuss some of the challenges that they had and the way forward.
The SGF said the Presidential commendation the PTF received was an assurance that the nation was fully behind them.
“He is also appreciative of the work of the frontline workers, particularly the medical personnel, the security personnel and the people who come in contact with the patients in the time of collection of samples, the testing, the care that they are giving.
“We also discussed the issue of compliance and he said we should continue to appeal to Nigerians and drive home the point that it’s a personal responsibility for each and every Nigerian to undertake to ensure that he keeps himself safe and by extension keeping his family, loved ones and community safe.
“We will continue to drive that message. It’s a message of persuasion, it’s a message that should make people take personal responsibility for their own protection and health and we will not relent on that,” he said.
On the reopening of worship centres by some states, Mustapha said the issue was discussed at the meeting with the President.
“That is part of what we have considered in its totality. We await Mr President’s decision on that. Once I receive his approval, going forward, as to certain recommendations that we have put in place, we will see how that happens.
“The issue of easing up, you know we were in the first phase and we had an extension of two weeks for the first phase. The next phase should be the second phase and along with that, we came with a lot of recommendations which we expect Mr President to consider.
“I can assure you of one thing: the ownership of the next phase will be the responsibility of the states under national supervision and coordination because we have gone into community transmission. Where are the communities? The communities are in the states.
“So, the ownership of the next phase will be that of the states, the local governments, the traditional institutions, the religious leaders at the different levels of our communities. That is where the problem is.
“Like we have kept saying, 20 local governments (areas) out of 744 account for 60 per cent of confirmed cases in Nigeria today. So, where are these 20 local governments? They are in the communities. It means that we have reached the epitome of community transmission, so we must get the communities involved,’’ the PTF chair also said.
He said the PTF had reviewed the issues of places of worship, schools and businesses and had made the appropriate recommendations to the President.
Asked if the economy will be opened soon, the PTF chairman said: “We have started, even in the first phase and the extension that came with it. The essential part of the economy was opened up by way of allowing agricultural production and people who produce fertiliser. The oil and gas industry was never closed for one day. Haulage, refining and prospecting continued. Some parts of the financial sector were opened.
“After we receive the approval of Mr President tonight or tomorrow (Monday) morning, we will now know which (other) segment of the economy is allowed to open.”
On COVID-19, he said: “We are winning. As a matter of fact, you will juxtapose the rate of cases with our fatality rate, which is basically about 3 per cent. In other countries and climes, it is over 10 per cent.’’
Mustapha, was accompanied to the Presidential Villa by Minister of Interior, Mr Rauf Aregbesola, Minister of Health Dr Osagie Ehinare, Director General of NCDC, Dr Chikwe Ihekweazu and National Coordinator of the Presidential Task Force (PTF) on COVID-19, Dr Aliyu Sani.