PRESIDENT Muhammadu Buhari will be passing the baton on the further easing of coronavirus restrictions to Nigeria’s 36 state governors later today on the recommendation of the presidential task force on Covid-19.
Since March, Nigeria has imposed restrictions on movement across the country, although it has varied according to region, depending on the severity of the virus in each localities. Over the last few weeks, however, the government has been easing the lockdown and there are now plans to open up Nigeria’s airspace and to lift the ban on religious congregations.
According to Boss Mustapha, the chairman of the presidential task force on Covid-19, President Buhari will allow states to decide on the re-opening of schools, businesses and worship centres. After a meeting yesterday at the State House, the task force forwarded its recommendations to the president.
Already, there is anxiety over the president’s actions and its economic implications as the representatives of the organised private sector have called on the federal and state governments to direct a total relaxation of the lockdown to avert looming retrenchment of workers. However, the Nigeria Medical Association and the Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria called for an extension of the nationwide lockdown and stricter implementation of measures in place to curb community spread of Covid-19.
Mr Mustapha, said the task force, which met with the president to submit its fourth interim report, said they would await the decisions of the presidency on its recommendations. He added that the issues bordering on the re-opening of businesses, worship centres and schools, would be pushed to state and local governments, if the president approves their recommendations.
“The communities are in the states, so, the ownership of the next stage will be the responsibility of the states, the local government, the traditional institutions and the religious leaders at the different levels of our communities because that is where the problem is. So, the issues of places of worships, the issues of schools, the issues of some certain businesses that were not opened hitherto are part of the packages that we have looked at and we’ve made the appropriate recommendations.
“In the framework, the states are sub-nationals, they have their own responsibilities too, so, it is in the exercise of those responsibilities that they had meetings with those religious bodies and agreed on the guidelines and protocols on how they open up. But in the framework of the national response, we are taking that into consideration,” he added.
Mr Mustapha said the president expressed appreciation to health workers who are at the forefront of the battle to defeat the virus. He stated that the meeting harped on the necessity to continuously persuade Nigerians to observe the prescribed protocols on how to stay safe.