United States President, Donald Trump, has called President Muhammadu Buhari, to pledge America’s support in the fight against Coronavirus in Nigeria.
While coronavirus has so far affected 210 countries and territories around the world with over 3 million confirmed cases across the globe, America is one of the countries that are worst hit by the pandemic.
According to a statement by presidential spokesman, Femi Adesina, Buhari received a telephone call from his American counterpart yesterday afternoon, during which the two leaders commiserated with each other on fatalities in their countries caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The telephone conversation between Buhari and Trump was said to be at the request of the American president.
The two leaders, Adesina noted, also shared ideas on how to successfully combat the health emergency, adding that the associated negative impacts of the pandemic on the world’s economy also came up for discussion.
He said, “President Buhari expressed condolences to the government and people of the United States over the fatalities recorded, and equally expressed worry at the high rate of deaths recorded across the world.
“The Nigerian President lauded his American counterpart for the various initiatives adopted by his government to contain the further spread of the virus across the United States. He indicated Nigeria’s readiness to cooperate with the United States to fight this common unseen enemy.
“President Buhari informed that Nigeria had taken a number of proactive measures to contain the spread of the COVID-19 across the country. The President welcomed the valuable friendship and expressed appreciation to President Trump for reaching out at this time”.
Also confirming the development, minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, said President Trump also promised to send ventilators to Nigeria as part of America’s support to Nigeria in its fight against the global pandemic.
Speaking during the daily national briefing by the presidential task force (PTF) on COVID-19 in Abuja yesterday, Mohammed said the conversation between Buhari and Trump centred on Nigeria‘s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The minister noted that the phone conversation with President Trump was at the request of the American President.
He said President Buhari briefed the American president on the steps being taken by Nigeria to contain the spread of the disease.
Mohammed said, „President Buhari used the opportunity to brief the American President on the steps that Nigeria is taking to contain the spread of the disease.
„For his part, President Trump assured that the United States stands in solidarity with Nigeria in this difficult time and promised to send ventilators to support the country in its fight against the pandemic.“
He added that President Trump also extended his best regards to the people of Nigeria.
NCDC To Test 2m Nigerians In 3 Months
Meanwhile, the director-general of the Nigeria Center for Disease Control (NCDC), Dr Chikwe Ihekweazu, has said that about two million Nigerians will be tested for COVID-19 in the next three months.
Ihekweazu, who stated this yesterday at the daily briefing on COVID19 in Abuja, said that this was in line with President Buhari‘s directive on aggressive contact tracing, testing and treatment.
According to him, in picking the two million Nigerians, the NCDC projected at least 15,000 people in each state to be tested, stressing that the goal was to reduce transmission of the virus.
Also, the minister of Health, Dr Osagie Ehanire, hinted that a high-powered 9-man delegation has been sent to Kano by the Federal Ministry of Health (FMoH) on a fact-finding mission and to offer support to the COVID-19 response.
He said that the multidisciplinary technical experts would assess the needs and the design for on-site capacity building for state teams and advise on the state response and preparedness plan.
Ehinare stated: „There is national concern about the sharp increase of COVID-19 positive cases in Kano concentrated in 7 municipal Council areas and also about certain so-called „unexplained“ deaths. The authorities have explained that the latter were not out of the ordinary.
„The Governor of Kano State is well known for his interest in the good health of the people and will receive a high-powered 9-man delegation sent to Kano by the FMoH on a fact-finding mission and to offer support to the COVID-19 response in Kano”.
He said ambulances were also to be deployed urgently to Kano to support the state in emergency patient transport services as it goes on lockdown.
The minister further hinted that the ministry of Health had set up a ministerial expert advisory committee made up of eminent Nigerian virologists, public health experts, infectious disease and diagnostic experts and others to study the evolution and development of the COVID-19 outbreak and the responses in the country.
According to him, the committee is to advise on the national strategy and action plan, using lessons learnt as well as those learnt from strategies in place across the globe.
This, Ehanire, said will help the nation to identify and adopt the promising strategies and align government’s plans with best practices and advisories.
He also said that the announcement of new measures for non-pharmacological intervention by the president would allow the Health ministry additional time for contact tracing and testing, while imploring citizens to wear face masks or face coverings at all times when leaving their homes.
He further urged Nigerians to „practice physical distancing by strictly maintaining a distance of at least 2 metres (6 feet) between people, use non-contact greetings, such as waving, nodding, or placing a hand over your heart.
„The elderly and anyone with pre-existing medical conditions like hypertension, TB, cancer, chronic respiratory disease, diabetes cardiovascular disease should not attend gatherings and should avoid receiving non-essential guests at this time and use masks or face coverings over your nose and mouth, if you must leave your home“, he added.
Danger Not Over Yet, SGF Warns
The secretary to the government of the federation (SGF), Boss Mustapha has warned that the relaxation of the lockdown in Lagos, Ogun and the FCT did not in any way imply that the danger has passed.
Reacting to questions on President Buhari’s approval of a phased and gradual easing of lockdown measures in FCT, Lagos and Ogun States effective from Monday, May 4, 2020, the SGF said the virus was still potent, virulent and dangerous.
Speaking during the daily briefing of the Presidential Task Force (PTF), Mustapha who is chairman of the PTF said, “This relaxation does not in any way imply that the danger has passed.
“The virus is still potent, virulent and dangerous. We must remain very vigilant and careful. We must take responsibility for our actions. We must commit to a collective victory over COVID-19”.
The SGF reminded Nigerians that the lockdown in FCT, Lagos and Ogun States would remain in force till midnight of Sunday May 3, 2020 after which the new regime of measures shall take effect.
Nigeria May Request Herbs From Madagascar
Relatedly, Mustapha also disclosed that Nigeria may ask Madagascar to send a plane load of “herbal solutions” for treatment of COVID-19.
Speaking during the daily briefing of the PTF on COVID-19, Mustapha noted that the government was not oblivious of what is happening in some countries.
The chairman of the task force said government would request that President Buhari allow them import a plane load for a trial.
He said, “I want to assure you that whatever is happening in the world, we are mindful of it and we are keeping tab. I was reading of the experiences in Madagascar– of why everybody is drinking some solutions that have been prepared.
“This morning I was sharing with my wife, and I told her that probably I would request that Mr President to allow us import a plane load for a trial because we are all navigating an unchartered cause. Nobody has ever been on this road. So, every attempt to find solution that would bring succour to our people, be rest assured that this task force is very responsible and we would do everything to ensure that we get what will benefit our people and what will help them in the processes that we find ourselves today.”
LEADERSHIP recalls that the president of Madagascar, Andry Rajolina had a week ago launched a herbal medicine believed to cure the novel coronavirus.
Branded COVID-organics, the medicine which contains artemisa, a plant used in treating malaria, was developed by the Malagasy Institute of Applied Research.
Presidency Empowers States, Security Agents To Ensure Hitch-free Movement Of Goods
Meanwhile, following President Buhari’s directive his nationwide broadcast on Monday night, the presidency has said it is essential that attention be drawn to the reported large number of food trucks that are being delayed at various checkpoints around the country or prevented from crossing state borders, as a result of the various curfews and lockdowns in different states.
According to a statement by presidential spokesman, Mallam Garba Shehu, the restrictions of movement as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic do not apply to vehicles transporting essential commodities such as food.
He stressed that the country cannot afford a situation where agricultural products are being left to rot in trucks held at various checkpoints when millions of Nigerians across the country are in dire need of food.
“COVID-19 or no COVID-19, Nigerians need to eat”, he stated, even as he outlined other essential items that could be transported despite the ban on movement as prescribed by the Presidential Task Force (PTF).
He listed the items to include pharmaceutical and sanitary supplies, personal care items, agro chemicals and agricultural machinery, electrical products and electronics, oil and gas, courier services, health supplies and protective garments.
He continued: “Vehicles transporting essential items must not convey any commercial passengers. In addition, the occupants must not exceed three, i.e. the driver, spare driver, and conductor.
“The drivers must have basic protective and sanitary items, including: face masks, hand sanitisers, and tissue paper to and from their destinations. Once these conditions are satisfied, they must be allowed to travel freely to and from any part of Nigeria.
Reps Summon Health Minister Over Kano As Ganduje Hails PMB
Meanwhile, the House of Representatives yesterday summoned the director-general of the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control, Chikwe Ihekweazu, and the Minister of Health, Dr Osagie Ehanire, to appear before it and brief it on government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic and its template for intervention in all the states of the federation.
The decision came sequel to the adoption of a motion of urgent national importance on the recent unexplained deaths in Kano state sponsored by Hon Alhassan Ado Dogowa.
Also to appear Before the House is the SGF and chairman of the Presidential Taskforce on COVID-19, Boss Mustapha.
Kano has reportedly recorded over 70 deaths which termed mysterious within two weeks.
The unexplained deaths as well as rapid increase in the number of COVID-19 cases in the state have generated controversies as to the level of interventions put in place to curb the deaths and spread of the virus.
Contributing to the motion, Hon Kabiru Idris called for one testing centre each in all the 744 local governments in Nigeria.
Also, Aisha Dukku urged the government to include all stakeholders, including traditional and religious leaders, in the sensitisation of the people on COVID-19.
Similarly, Hon Haruna Msheila, while bemoaning the fact that many people in the localities do not believe in the existence of the virus, stressed the need for federal government to engage communities and community leaders to explain to the people the situation of things.
In the same vein, Hon. Toby Okechukwu noted the need for collaboration between federal government and states to weed out the pandemic in quick time.
In adopting the motion, the House also urged the federal government to as a matter of urgency and priority scale up the nation’s COVID-19 testing capacity, even as it called on the NCDC to adopt creatively proactive modern approaches and technologies in the management of the COVID-19 pandemic.
It further resolved to investigate the immediate and remote causes of the unexplained number of deaths in the state.
A day after President Buhari ordered a two-week lockdown in Kano the Federal government delegation led by Dr Nasiru Sani Gwarzo had visited the governor in the state capital.
Dr Nasiru Gwarzo said they were in Kano after receiving a presidential order to immediately assess the needs of the state in respect of the fight against the novel COVID-19.
He said they were in the state on the orders of the president to find out and mobilize support in fighting the disease, noting that they will work with the state agencies to achieve the desired result.
Professor Nasidi Abdussalam who is the adviser to the minister of health on Kano said they were in Kano not to compete or replace existing structures but to reinforce what has been done.
He expressed satisfaction with the way the government was willing to help in the fight against the pandemic.
On his part, the state governor, Abdullahi Ganduje emphasized the need for Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), calling for more test centres in the state.
Kano Loses 2 More Scholars
Meanwhile, the Vice Chancellor of University of Technology Wudil, Professor Shehu Musa, has described the death of Dr Ghali Kabir Umar of the Department of Architecture who died yesterday as a great loss to the university community, Kano State and the nation at large.
Umar is the fifth prominent Scholar to die in Kano in the last 72 hours.
Until his death, Umar was the head of department and a senior lecturer in the department of Architecture, Kano University of Science and Technology Wudil.
Professor Musa, in a statement, said, “We regret to announce the death of Arch Ghali Kabir Umar, of the Department of Architecture.”
Musa prayed for Allah to forgive the shortcomings of Umar and reward him with Al Jannatul Firdaus.”
Similarly, Kano State yesterday received with shock the death of one of its most prominent Islamic Scholars, Sheikh Tijjani Tukur Yola, who died yesterday after a brief illness.
Sheikh Yola will be remembered for his beautiful songs he used to sing during his life time in honour of Prophet Muhammad (SAW).
He was said to be a reliable tutor who taught so many sons and daughters of the state in various fields of Islamic religious knowledge.
Leave Workers’ Salaries Alone, NLC Warns Govs
The Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) has said it will resist any attempt by state governors to deduct workers’ salaries under the guise of COVID-19.
NLC also said that as Nigeria prepares to restart its economy, government should intensify COVID-19 testing by building at least a test centre in each state and step up efforts towards contact tracing, public fumigation, and robust public health education.
It maintained that employers must ensure that health and safety facilities and guidelines such as running water, soaps, hand sanitizers, use of protective masks to protect workers were provided.
NLC president, Ayuba Wabba, who stated this while speaking in Abuja in commemoration of this year‘s International Memorial Workers’ Day, said the Congress has mandated state councils to resist any salary deduction on the account of Covid-19.
He said, „This is not the time to stop or deduct from workers’ salaries. Such an action would be both illogical and illegal as workers’ salaries are core elements of employment contracts and collective bargaining agreements.“
According to Wabba, in reciprocation of the enormous sacrifice made by workers, employers of labour should show solidarity with the sacrifice of the workers and people by ensuring wage protection, income support and social inclusion at these trying times.
The NLC president noted that workers have paid the supreme sacrifice in the fight against COVID-19 as well as in defence of Nigeria‘s democracy
He explained that the Memorial Day is being celebrated in the memory of workers who had paid the supreme sacrifice in the course of their duties as workers or as activists fighting for the rights and interests of the working class.
Kogi Tackles NCDC, Says We Can‘t Declare COVID-19 Where There‘s None
Meanwhile, Kogi State government yesterday faulted the claim by the director-general of National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), Dr Chikwe Ihekweazu, that states that are yet to record cases of COVID-19 were either negligent in testing and tracing or actively hiding the disease within their territories.
The state government said it became necessary to respond to the Centre‘s claim since Kogi was one of the only three states in the country yet to record any case of COVID-19, coupled with fillers that the Centre may have mentioned the state by name.
It said it found comments by the NCDC DG which are aimed at defaming and shaming Kogi state „incredibly distressing.
“What we expect from the National Centre for Disease Control is commendation of our efforts to contain the outbreak of the pandemic“, a statement by the state commissioner for Information, Hon Kingsley Fanwo, noted.
Fanwo said Kogi State had religiously followed all the NCDC and World Health Organization (WHO) COVID-19 advisories, both for identifying cases and preventing spread, adding that the state has had an excellent history of managing epidemics in the past.
The commissioner recalled that the excellent network the state already had in place for managing Lassa Fever and other disease outbreaks long before COVID-19 appeared on the scene provided a framework upon which the state government founded its current structures for containing the virus.
Noting that the state government has developed and deployed measures which have proved effective, he said people of the state were adequately sensitised in all languages and locations throughout the state about coronavirus.
Fanwo stated: „Kogi State confesses that she is not aware the Covid-19 pandemic in Nigeria is a one-legged race to see which state can put as many cases as possible into the national incident basket, and even if such were to be the case, the current administration in Kogi State does not play such games with the lives and psychology of her people.
„The Governor of Kogi State does not believe that increasing the burden on the overwhelmed NCDC and the other agencies cum resources labouring in the frontlines of our response to this deadly pandemic, when neither case nor cause for such has genuinely risen in the state, is helping the country in any way.
“We have also adhered strictly to the various guidelines from, and directives of, the Federal Government, customised to improve both efficiency and efficacy within the peculiarities of our own circumstances.
„While we are not surprised that they have worked for us so far in keeping our state CoviD-19 free, we do find it disconcerting that the lead agency in the fight is possibly expressing doubt in their efficacy while simultaneously denouncing us for following her own guidelines.
“In fact, we built our self-assessment app hosted at kogicovid19.gov.ng around the NCDC‘s checklist for ‚suspected and high risk‘ cases and as at last week it has been visited nearly 200,000 times with over 14,000 completed self-assessments out of which only about 60 presented cause for further investigation which then failed to meet the Covid-19 spectrum.
“As of today being Tuesday the 28th Day of April, 2020 we insist that Kogi State has no confirmed case of Covid-19, or any case to the knowledge of our vigilant medical structures across the state which matches the suspected or high risk factors for it. If the situation changes at this very moment we shall not hesitate for a second before alerting the NCDC.
“Convinced that we have not erred in any way to deserve censure from a body we have obeyed without complaint, even when the result has been serious disruptions to our society and way of life, we however reiterate that we shall not capitulate to intimidation of any kind.
“Accordingly, if the latest position is to forward all cases of cough, catarrh, fever and allied febrile and respiratory ailments occurring in Kogi State to the NCDC unvetted as possible CoviD-19 cases, we demand a firm and public advisory to that effect from the agency, and not the indirect (and documented) pressure which we have come under this week from high up the hierarchy of the agency.
“We are thus left with no choice than to issue this rejoinder, both for the records, and to avoid being unfairly victimised or stigmatised howsoever the highly fluid coronavirus curve/situation develops in future”.
The state government further noted that the comments credited to the NCDC boss in the said reports, if indeed the he was not misquoted mischievously, could only be described as unfair, unfortunate and dubious.
He stated: “They are also inherently subversive of the Federal Government‘s herculean efforts to keep as much of Nigeria as possible free of CoviD-19, not to mention how they undermine the good faith and trust displayed by Kogi and other states in complying with the NCDC‘s directives.
“We sincerely hope the NCDC and Dr. Chikwe Ihekweazu will quickly come out to repudiate or retract those dangerous comments (whichever is applicable) in order to minimise damage to the mutuality of trust and cooperation which we need to continue working together through this pandemic”.