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Nigeria Nears Lockdown As COVID-19 Spreads

Nigeria on Monday inched closer to total shutdown as more states adopted stricter measures to combat the COVID-19 (Coronavirus) pandemic.

Many states on Monday joined Lagos and Kwara states in sending Civil Servants on compulsory holidays to reduce social contacts and prevent the escalation of cases.

The number of cases rose to 40 on Monday night. The first death from the virus was also announced of a 67-year-old in Abuja, who recently returned home after undergoing treatment in the United Kingdom.

The Federal Government closed the land borders for four weeks.

It suspended the weekly Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting, the highest decision making organ of the Executive, “until further notice”.

A meeting of the Council of State slated for Thursday was put off. Chairman of the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19, Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF) Boss Mustapha who announced the measures, added that

“All Abuja and Lagos residents are strongly advised to stay at home,  avoid mass congregation of any kind as well as non-essential outings,  until  further advice is given”.

He also reiterated some advisories that had earlier been passed on to the public, urging particularly that the public should be responsible by obeying the advisories and disclose cases discovered to appropriate quarters.

“The strategy of government is to focus on testing, detection and containment through contact tracking in order to minimize hugely, the possibility of community spread.

“We urge anyone experiencing the symptoms of the virus or has been in contact with anyone who has been suspected or tested positive to please report at the nearest medical facility or the designated center.

“The Presidential Task Force (PTF) continues to monitor the global and domestic developments and has isolated Lagos and Abuja for particular attention in view of their population, mobility and number of cases already reported.

Mustapha said the new measures were approved by President Muhammadu Buhari, on the recommendation of the task force.

Federal civil servants on grade level 12 and below were on Monday told to stay at home as the Federal Government introduced new measures to curtail Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) spread.

In a statement by the Head of the Civil Service of the Federation (HoCSF) Dr. Folashad Esan, the Federal Government urged Nigerians to strictly follow the directive.

The statement reads: “Government is concerned about the welfare and safety of all public servants just as it is about other Nigerians.

“All public servants are, therefore, strongly advised to follow the measures being put in place by government to curtail the spread of the pandemic.

As a further step to check the spread of COVID-19, all non-essential pubiic servants on grade level  12 and below are to stay and work from home with effect from Tuesday, 24th March, 2020 until further notice.

The Nigerian Stock Exchange (NSE) will tomorrow shut down all its trading floors under a 30-day emergency response plan to the continuing spread of Covid-19. Stockbrokers will however continue to trade using their remote platforms. During the 30-day remote working plan, NSE staff will work through various digital platforms.

The Exchange also yesterday granted a 60-day grace period for all companies to submit their audited report and accounts for the year ended December 31, 2019. Under the extant rules, these companies are required to submit their results not later than March 30. The 60-day grace period extends the deadline to May 29.

The State Government of Osun has sent its junior and middle-level civil servants to proceed on a two-week leave, starting from today, as part of measures to contain the spread of the virus.

Secretary to the State Government (SSG), Prince Wole Oyebamiji, in a statement, said Governor Adegboyega Oyetola granted the leave for the workers as part of precautionary measures to forestall any possible outbreak of coronavirus in the State.

Oyetola said workers on essential services such as health, environmental sanitation, fire service, among others are not affected by the directive.

“All Officers on essential services in Health and Medical facilities, Environmental Sanitation, Fire Services, Water Corporation, and all other essential services, are to be reporting for duty as usual”, the statement noted. Osun has no case of the virus yet.

  • CJN directs closure of courts for two weeks

Chief Justice Muhammad on Monday directed the suspension of  judicial activities in courts nationwide, beginning from  today.

Muhammad, in a statement by the  spokesman for  the Supreme Court, Dr. Festus Akande, said the need to urgently halt court sittings   was informed by the glaring threat of the COVID- 19 pandemic.

He noted that the reality of the COVID-19 was already being felt in the country and hence the  need  to take further preventive steps.

Chief Registrar of the Supreme Court, Mrs. Hadizatu Uwani Mustapha, in compliance with the CJN’s directive has ordered the  suspension of regular sittings at the apex court.

A  statement  by Mustapha, reads: “My Lord, the honourable  Chief Justice of Nigeria has directed that, in view of the way people get Infected with Coronavirus   and the way counsel and parties come to the Supreme Court everyday from various cities and states, it has become imperative that further regular sittings of the court should be suspended.

“In the circumstances, further sittings of the Supreme Court are hereby suspended from Tuesday(today),the 24th Day of March. 2020, until further notice.

“However, judgments and rulings of  the court shall be delivered as already adjourned. This circular is for general information and strict compliance.”

*Niger State Governor  Bello  has restricted  movement between 8am and 8pm

Bello said during a statewide broadcast on Monday that the action was necessary since  Abuja which  shares   a common  border with Niger had recorded positive COVID-19 cases.

The governor said: “The scourge of Coronavirus (COVID-19) is real and with the confirmed cases in Abuja, just a stone throw away from us, calls for more proactive measures and preparedness for any eventualities .

“As proactive government, the state has resolved to create massive awareness and respond promptly to any case  outbreak.

“The state shall observe a daily curfew from 8am is to 8pm till further notice.

“All public and private schools and institutions in Niger State are  to remain closed down from today(yesterday).

“All public gatherings of more than 20 persons are prohibited from today(yesterday).  All public offices, including Ministries, Departments, and Agencies(MDAs) must provide hand washing items at the entrance of their facilities.

“Meanwhile, all civil servants on grade levels 1-12 are to stay at home, except those on essential services.

“Traditional leaders should ensure that all Almajiri schools in their communities are closed down. All forms of street hawking and begging are by this directive banned.”

  • Zamfara governor operates from home

In  Zamfara where the government shutdown all its offices, including the MDAs, the state capital, Gusau looked dry as civil servants remained in their homes.

Governor Bello Matawalle has been mostly indoors since he came back to the state last  Thursday from his foreign trip after staying for a while in Abuja.

Wife of the governor, Hajiya A’isha Matawalle, cancelled a news conference.

The state government banned  all public gatherings exceeding 20 persons  but said  prayers should   continue to be observed  in congregation.

It also directed that all public and private schools in the state be  closed down  for 30 days from Monday.

  • Osun Assembly suspends activities for 16 days

In Osun State, the  House of Assembly said it had resolved to suspend all its activities as a preventive measure to curb Coronavirus.

Chairman of the House Committee on Information, Kunle Akande, told  reporters in Osogbo, that  the suspension would last 16 days.

Akande said: “The leadership and members of the seventh assembly agreed that it will be difficult to maintain the World Health Organisation (WHO) social distancing standard in a populated work environment as the Assembly.

The Ondo State Government has directed civil servants from Grade Level One to 12 who are not on essential services to stay at home as a precautionary measure against the Covid-19 pandemic.

Mr Donald Ojogo, the Commissioner for Information and Orientation, in a statement on Monday in Akure explained that there was also a total ban on all political, social and religious gatherings in the state for 14 days.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that a suspected case of the virus was reported in the state on March 18 while Gov. Oluwarotimi Akeredolu in a broadcast on March 19 closed down all schools in the state.

  • Rivers shuts public parks, clubs, cinemas

Governor Nyesom Wike on Monday announced indefinite closure of all public parks, night clubs and cinemas.

Wike, in a statewide broadcast  also  directed religious groups to temporarily stop all forms of open worship.

He said: “With effect from the same date (Tuesday, March 24, 2020), all public parks, night clubs and cinemas in the state are to remain closed till further notice.

“Similarly, after due consultations with religious leaders, it was agreed that all religious organisations are to temporarily stop all forms of open worship . Public burial and wedding ceremonies are also banned within this period.

“In view of the fact that the disease spreads fast through body contact, social distance has become imperative if we are to contain the spread.

“May I also emphasise that Local Government Chairmen are to be held responsible if public burials and weddings take place in their areas.

The governor called   on all religious leaders, traditional rulers and opinion leaders   to assist the government in  implementing “these decisions  by ensuring that persons under their care do not flout  these  directives. “

The governor added that  with effect from today, surveillance posts would  be set up across the state.  “to further strengthen prevention measures across the state  and keep our citizens safe.

  • Anambra declares emergency  

Anambra State Governor, Willie Obiano has declared a state of emergency on the Coronavirus pandemic in the state.

He constituted a 22-man action committee headed to combat the scourge

Besides, the governor announced the suspension of all  public gatherings with more than 30 persons in attendance.

Obiano listed  traditional marriage ceremonies, community festivals, ofala festivals, masquerade festivals,  Igbankwu nwanyi, funeral ceremonies, baby christening, new yam festivals, title-taking ceremonies and any meeting  as such social gatherings.

He added: “No Keke or tricycle rider should carry more than two passengers at a time. Drivers of shuttle buses must not carry more than three passengers at a time. Drivers of township and mini buses must not carry more than five  passengers at a time.”

  • APC, PDP shut secretariat

The APC National Chairman  Adams Oshiomhole on Monday ordered the closure of the party’s  Secretariat in Abuja for 14 days.

He said the move was in line with the Federal Government’s directive that people should stay away from large congregations and in compliance with social gatherings restriction order by WHO.

Oshiomhole said the  temporary closure was also to enable members of staff of the office and APC  members have opportunity to look after their immediate families.

Also, the  National Working Committee (NWC) of the PDP directed a partial shutdown  of the party’s  Wadata Plaza  secretariat in Abuja from tomorrow.

The NWC  also directed all offices of the party across the country  to comply with the directive.

PDP spokesman Kola Ologbondiyan, said the NWC  was already adopting pre-emptive health safety measures that would safeguard lives in party’s  offices nationwide.

  • INEC halts activities

INEC on Monday suspended activities as part of efforts to prevent the spread of Coronavirus.

The commission said the measure was  taken in line with the advisory on social distancing from  WHO and the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC).

However, INEC clarified that the preparations for Ondo and Edo states governorship polls will not be affected by the suspension.

INEC Commissioner for Information and Voter Education Festus Okoye  said the suspension which takes effect from today will initially last for 14 days.

He said the regular quarterly meetings with stakeholders, including political parties, civil society organisations, media, and security a will not hold until when normalcy returns.

Okoye said the commission will no longer monitor the conventions, congresses, conferences or meetings of political parties until further notice.

He added: “The Commission reiterates its commitment to openness, consultation and continued communication with its stakeholders and expects all to understand the emergency situation that informed the suspension of contact engagements. The health and wellbeing of all our staff, officials and the general public are of paramount importance to us.

“Notwithstanding the measures outlined above, the Commission will continue to meet via non-physical contact channels while communication between the Commission and its stakeholders will remain open.

“For emphasis, the new measures taken do not affect the activities for Edo and Ondo governorship elections scheduled for 19th September and 10th October 2020 respectively.

“We will continue to keep the public abreast of developments as they concern our electoral process.”

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