President Muhammadu Buhari Sunday received briefing from members of the Presidential Task Force on the Control of COVID-19 headed by the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF) Mr Boss Mustapha.
The president would address Nigerians following the expiration of the first phase of the gradual easing of the lockdown imposed on the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Kano, Lagos and Ogun states and other parts of the country.
And shortly after the meeting, SGF Mustapha told journalists that getting vaccines for the pandemic can’t be in the immediate, declaring the virus will be around for the next two years.
He warned against flouting the guidelines of the relaxed lockdown, stressing that virus is going nowhere at least for the next two months.
Mustapha said COVID-19 is a marathon race and not a 100-meter dash, adding that no vaccine was in the horizon yet and would take about 18 months before vaccines would be confirmed for human use.
He said the PTF was worried about the response of Nigerians to the pandemic.
“That is one of the setbacks that I can say. There was a poll that was conducted over the last two weeks covering all facets of segments and demography of people, 99 percent of Nigerians said they are aware of COVID-19; they have listened to publicity materials, jingles and the information that has been put out there by the ministry of information and the Nigerian Centre for Disease Control.
“But different percentages that have different perspective, some 26 percent said that they are immune, with that kind of a mindset, when someone said he is immune, it means that he will not use the face mask, he will not observe social distancing, he will not stay at home when he is supposed to stay at home. And different percentages have ascribed different levels of understanding of what COVID-19 is.
“But the most important thing is for us to drive home community ownership, let the community understand that there is a COVID-19 that is deadly, that can ravage their health and their wealth and the most important thing for them to do is for them to take personal responsibility in dealing with it. And how do they take responsibility?
“All of them should be overseers of their communities, watch out for people who have symptoms and urged them to report at the nearest health facility and get tested, and if they are confirmed positive, their contacts can be traced and they will be taken into care, that is the most important thing to do.”
On possible availability of vaccines, he said: “COVID-19 is not going to go away in the next one or two months, whoever tells you that is not being realistic. No vaccine is in the horizon, we are talking of about 18 months to two years before vaccines would be confirmed for human use as far as COVID-19 is concerned. And unless we get there, it means that it will remain.
“It might have cycles, after the first cycle of pandemic, they might be a relief, there can be resurgence and that is evidenced all over the world. It has happened before as it is the nature of infections. So, I believe that what we are going to do now as a taskforce is to come down to the level of having the communities taking ownership of the response.
He said the Presidential Task Force had been emphasising the need for a paradigm shift to community responsibility to control the spread of the pandemic in the country.
“In terms of being conscious and aware of the fact that this thing is in our community and we have the collective resolve to ensure that we protect our people, particularly the aged, the sick, the ones that have underlying health conditions that are easily susceptible to the fatalities of COVID-19. And that is why as a task force, we have stood very strong against congregations,” he said.
On the president‘s response, the SGF said the president was satisfied that Nigeria, in spite of its poor health care system, was being proactive in tackling the pandemic.
“We are still standing and doing our best under the circumstances to ensure that we provide the necessary direction. So, he expressed his satisfaction with the PTF, the Minister of Health and Nigeria Centre for Disease Control, which are integral part of the taskforce and all the multi-sectoral ministries and are involved in this work – the armed forces, the police, the kind of cooperation we have received from them, without them we wouldn’t have recorded the modest successes that we have achieved. So, he expressed his appreciation that we have contributed to where we are today. Our numbers are going up but you have to consider that our mortality too is not as drastic as it’s being expected,” he said.
Mustapha further said: “Because, we are in for the long hurl, this is not a short distance race, is a marathon and we have to keep everything in perspective. But remember on the 27th of April, he addressed the nation and placed the easing down of the lockdown effective from the 4th of May. From the 4th of May to date is about 13 days, tomorrow (Monday) we should expect new processes to be put in place.
“But we have to give him all the material details that will help us in preparing for the future. So that is why we are here.”
Virus as scam
A Professor of Genetics and Animal breeding, Cyril Otoohhiaus, has described COVID-19 pandemic as a ‘scam’ orchestrated by the western world to generate trillion of dollars at the detriment of Africans and other parts of the world.
Professor Otoohhiaus, who is a lecturer at Novena University Ogume, Delta state, said the hype around the pandemic was unnecessary, describing it as fake.
He spoke at the Kogi Government House Lokoja while delivering lectures on coronavirus on at the instance of Governor Yahaya Bello’s invitation.
He said the pandemic is not a living thing as erroneously claimed by the World Health Organisation (WHO), arguing that virus were created in the laboratory to achieve a specific purpose.
He therefore said the western world created COVID-19 for their economic gains.
“Virus is not living things as wrongly claimed by WHO. Virus are made by man to achieve specific purpose, that is why virtually all questions concerning coronavirus pose to the health organisation, they cannot provide answers.
“COVID-19 is not a natural virus that is why even the World Health Organisation is not specific on the symptoms the virus pandemic exhibit in human body,” the varsity don argued.
He advised African leaders, especially the Nigerian government, to look inward and ask questions concerning the virus instead of locking down people at home depriving them of going about their legitimate businesses.
“COVID-19 is a yahoo(a word used for internet fraudsters in Nigeria’) format brought by the western world to deceive people while they are making money in trillions of dollars to the detriment of African countries that are locked down at home, depriving them of their legitimate earnings,” he said.
While commending Governor Bello for his stance on the COVID-19 pandemic, the university lecturer averred that very soon the true nature of the alleged coronavirus would come out in large scale for people to see.
Also speaking at the occasion, another expert in neuroanatomy and cell biology from the same university, Professor Josiah Adjene, cautioned Nigerians against persistent use of nose mask.
He said the continuous use of the mask reduced the quantity of oxygen required by the body, saying such act poses future health challenges to the people.
“The use of nose mask is a betrayal of trust because the cells that build up the human body needs oxygen and there is a difference between oxygen and carbon dioxide. Therefore, if you are supposed to inhale oxygen and you are taking carbon dioxide because of nose mask, in the nearest future, the health hazard will ultimately be worse than the purported and classified COVID-19,” he said.
Adjene also said the symptoms of the ‘so-called’ COVID-19 had been living with Africans for ages, saying there was no new thing in the pandemic that can distract the people of Africa.
He advised the Kogi state government to invest vigorously in agriculture to enable the state feed the nation in the next two years in view of likely food scarcity that would arise due to the lockdown.
“I am appealing to the governor to invest in agriculture because as other states of the federation are lockdown now, there will be shortage of food in the next two years so that Kogi state can feed Nigerians and remove them from impending famine,” he appealed.
In his welcome remark, Governor Bello lamented that the state and the entire country were under COVID-19 siege, stressing that the situation was really affecting the state even though it had no single case of the virus.
“It is no longer news that we are under siege in Nigeria over COVID-19. Kogi state is under siege even though we don’t have a reported case, but we are locked down not by our design or by our wish,” he stated.
The governor noted that his decision to invite the experts who specialised in the field of virus and diseases was borne out of his desire to enlighten the people of the state on COVID-19 and how best they can handle the issue of the pandemic to avoid spread.
“I am the Executive Governor of Kogi State and it is incumbent on me to create avenue for my people to be enlightened to really know what COVID-19 is all about,” Bello said.
Meanwhile, Lagos state government has announced plans to gradually and cautiously reopen public space to allow for economic transactions.
Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu who revealed this Sunday, said in the coming days the state government would be rolling out Register-to-Open initiative as part of the plans that would enable it assess the level of readiness of the players in the identified sectors for supervised operations.
He spoke at a briefing after the State’s Security Council meeting held at the State House in Marina.
The governor said officials from the Lagos State Safety Commission as well as that from Lagos State Environmental Protection Agency would be visiting restaurants, companies, religious houses to assess their level of readiness.
With the size of the State’s economy and numbers of businesses that operate in its domain, he said the government could not afford to keep people and businesses on lockdown permanently.
He said: “We are at a level where we are reviewing the other arms of the economy.
“In the coming days, we will be starting what we call Register-to-Open, which means all players in the restaurant business, event centres, entertainment, malls and cinemas will go through a form of re-registration and space management.
“There is a regulation that will be introduced to supervise this move.
“We will be coming to their facilities to assess their level of readiness for a future opening.
“I don’t know when that opening will happen in the weeks ahead, but we want these businesses to begin to tune themselves to the reality of COVID-19 with respect to how their work spaces need to look like.
“For us, it is not to say they should re-open fully tomorrow or any time; there has be a process guiding the re-opening.
“We will be mandating LASEPA and Safety Commission to begin the enumeration process and the agencies will be communicating with all relevant businesses and houses in the days ahead.
“I must, however, caution that this should not be misinterpreted as a licence for full opening; it is certainly not. The State’s economy is not ready for that now.”
Meanwhile, the federal government Sunday impounded a Beirut; Lebanon bound aircraft from the international wing of the Murtala Muhammad Airport in Lagos for contravening the flight stated humanitarian protocols.
The seized aircraft belongs to a United Kingdom based company, Flair Aviation, the Minister for aviation, Senator Hadi Sirika disclosed via a tweet on his Twitter handle.
The beleaguered aircraft, according to the minister, had received permission to only operate humanitarian flights into the country but was caught operating a commercial flight.
Sirika, while confirming the development via his verified official twitter handle explained that the crew of the flight are also being interrogated as there shall be maximum penalty for the offence.
According to Hadi Sirika @hadisirika, ‘COVID-19. Flair Aviation, a UK company, was given approval for humanitarian operations but regrettably we caught them conducting commercial flights. This is callous! The craft is impounded, crew being interrogated. There shall be maximum penalty. Wrong time to try our resolve!”
The ministry refused to give additional details as it maintained that the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) is carrying out an investigation on the incident.
A source at the airport told our correspondent that the “Aircraft, a bombardier pushed back at 1717 hours from E51 and was airborne at 1729 with 16 passengers plus 3 crew on board”
The aircraft is currently parked at the Executive Jet terminal at the international wing of the Murtala Muhammad Airport in Lagos.