As some governors in the northern part of the country are relaxing restrictions, occasioned by the onset of COVID-19, to enable their citizens to celebrate the Eid-ul-Fitr festival this weekend, the Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Muhammad Sa’ad Abubakar III, has admonished Muslim faithful to adhere to the federal government’s protocols on social distancing, wearing masks and handwashing in order to stay safe.
The Sultan’s advice came on the day the pandemic’s confirmed cases increased by 284 to bring the total figure to 6,677.
According to the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) that released the figures last night, 1, 840 patients have been discharged while 200 have died.
In a tweet on its verified Twitter handle, it said out of the new cases, Lagos State recorded 1,999 followed by Rivers State with 26 while Oyo had 19, Borno and FCT eight, Plateau seven, Jigawa six, Kano five, Abia two while Ekiti, Delta, Kwara, and Taraba have one each.
Governors Abdullahi Ganduje (Kano), Mai Mala Buni (Yobe), Mohammad Abubakar (Jigawa), Babagana Zulum (Borno), Bala Mohammed (Bauchi) and Muhammad Yahaya (Gombe) had relaxed the restrictions imposed on their states to check the spread of the virus much against the strident advice of the federal government against the lifting of the ban on large congregations, including religious ones.
Muslims are marking the end of the Ramadan fasting tomorrow and would congregate at their Eid praying grounds on Saturday to commemorate religious rite.
But in a statement by the Deputy Secretary-General, Nigeria Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs (NSCIA), Professor Salisu Shehu, yesterday, the Sultan, who is also the spiritual leader of Muslims and the President-General of the council advised the faithful to adhere to the rules of whichever state they find themselves, saying even where lockdown is relaxed, they should tread with caution.
“As the month of Ramadan is gradually coming to an end and the Eid-ul-Fitr is approaching, it is crucial to reiterate that we are living in unusual times when almost everything normal has become abnormal, including social gatherings and large congregational prayers,” he said, adding: “Therefore, Muslims are enjoined to note that Eid-ul-Fitr is not a compulsory religious activity (fard) and at no point should it be observed if doing so will undermine the fundamental purpose of Shari’ah: security, a multifaceted concept which includes personal, community, national, environmental and health components, among others.”
He added: “Muslims should, therefore, act according to the established protocol in their various communities and locations in Nigeria during the forthcoming Eid-ul-Fitr. In places where restrictions have been lifted from congregational prayers, Muslims should observe their Eid prayers while still taking necessary safety measures regarding personal hygiene, facial masks, and social distancing.
“It is even advisable that in such places, massive gatherings at one Eid ground in a big city should be avoided. Rather the Eid could be performed in area-Mosques to avoid unmanageable crowds.
“However, in places where the ban on large congregational prayers and socio-religious gatherings is still in force, Muslims are directed to be law-abiding while appreciating that intentions supersede actions and actions are judged on the basis of intentions, as Prophet Muhammad said.
“Muslims are advised to be law-abiding in all circumstances, while praying to Allah fervently in their various homes, if that is what the situation requires, to forgive our sins and heal the world from destructive and disruptive diseases like Coronavirus.
“Certainly, people all over the world at large and Nigeria, in particular, are under intense pressure and the sooner the pandemic is over, the better for us all.”
Apprehension over Status of Frontline Security Personnel
Meanwhile, there has been apprehension over the COVID-19 status of security operatives who have been on the frontline of enforcing the lockdown directives issued by the federal government to flatten the curve of the pandemic.
It was gathered that some of the security operatives have tested positive for the virus, and have been isolated and quarantined, just as several others have opted for self-medication.
While one naval officer has died after the Nigerian Navy tested 1,300 officers and men, the army and the police authorities have isolated their personnel, who tested positive for the virus.
This is coming as the Inspector-General of Police, Mr. Mohammed Adamu, yesterday directed the Assistant Inspectors-General of Police (AIGs) and Commissioners of Police (CPs) to give maximum effect to the presidential directive on the exemption of journalists, medical personnel and other workers on essential service from the ban on interstate movement and curfew imposed across the country.
The Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Mr. Boss Mustapha, and Mohammed resolved the issue of the essential workers after the Lagos State Commissioner for Police, Mr. Hakeem Odumosu, had detained journalists and medical workers for several hours on Tuesday.
Also, fresh fact has emerged that 80 per cent of COVID-19 patients in Nigeria do not require hospital care before they would be cured of the disease.
THISDAY had reported that a lieutenant commander with the Nigerian Navy (NN), Chike Okoro, deployed in the Naval Pay Office in Lagos had died from underlying complications of the virus.
Further investigations have revealed that the navy is not the only service with personnel on the frontline who have been affected.
In Lagos, the army, civil defence, and the police have had their personnel tested positive for the virus and have been in the isolation centres receiving treatment.
However, the Flag Officer Commanding (FOC), Western Naval Command, Rear Admiral Oladele Daji, who debunked claims that several of his men were positive, said nonetheless, the navy had put workable measures on the ground.
He said the navy mandated its personnel on joint operations to comply with all regulations on COVID-19 prevention, adding that a taskforce pays unscheduled visits to ensure compliance.
He said: “Nose mask is compulsory. The command also produced pocket sanitisers that they gave those of us in the field with a strict warning to ensure we use it especially those who cannot avoid touching their faces.
“From the numbers we have tested so far, only eight confirmed cases have been recorded and so, you can see that eight out of 1,300 doesn’t translate to many.
“We have been taking precautions. We have been calling Lagos COVID-19 response to make sure that we do the test because of the nature of our work.
“We have been sending samples for test and I can tell you that so far, we have tested 1,300 personnel, not counting their family members and only eight are positive.”
He explained that most of the confirmed cases were serving in the medical centres, suggesting that might be the source of the infection.
Daji said: “Because of this, the Chief of the Naval Staff (CNS), Vice Admiral Ibok-Ete Ibas procured 1,800 PPEs and we distributed them to all our medical personnel in Lagos.
“You know they have to touch and see patients and most of these patients are civilian patients that come to our hospitals because of the modern equipment we have in our hospital.
“The CNS directed that every medical personnel before they see any patient, must have their personal protective equipment.”
Daji said the command was being proactive and was not under pressure, adding that it had built isolation and treatment facilities at the Naval Dockyard, Victoria Island, following predictions that cases in Lagos might rise to 120,000 by July.
“We already had isolation centres that accommodate two in a room and there are 78 rooms, which we have been using to quarantine our personnel that returned from abroad before the airports were closed.”
Also, General Officer Commanding (GOC), 81 Division of the Nigerian Army, Major General Olu Irefin, said the division had only recorded a case of a female soldier who was receiving treatment.
He said precautions were immediately taken to prevent the spread because the personnel of the division were part of the larger society.
He said: “It is not true that many of my personnel have COVID-19. We have our COVID-19 response team formed by the Armed Forces of Nigeria and our isolation centre in Yaba. We have all the testing equipment and kits. We have been carrying out testing of our personnel once there is suspicion.”
Also, Commissioner of Police, Lagos State Police Command, Odumosu said only two of his men were confirmed to have COVID-19 and that they had been treated and discharged.
He said: “You should know that there are many police formations in Lagos. When they say police in Lagos, it does not necessarily mean Lagos State Command.
“We have CP Railway Command, Maritime, CP Airport, CP SFU, CP Anti-Fraud, among others and they have personnel too.
“But if you are referring to my command, I can tell you that only two persons had the virus and they have been treated and discharged.”
Again, IG Directs AIGs, CPs to Exempt Journalists, Others on Essential Service from Curfew
Following the backlash that greeted his directive that journalists and other essential workers were no longer exempted from the ban on interstate movement and nationwide curfew, the IG yesterday ordered Assistant Inspectors-General of Police (AIGs) and Commissioners of Police (CPs) to give maximum effect to the presidential directive on the exemption of workers on essential service.
He said medical personnel, journalists, firefighters among others on essential services remain exempted from the lockdown rules.
A statement issued by the Police Force Headquarters, Abuja said the IG ordered the police managers to ensure compliance with the presidential directive on restriction of inter-state movement with a specific charge to allow essential service workers to proceed without restriction.
“Following unending inquiries on the status of essential workers in respect of the due enforcement of the national curfew and inter-state movement restriction orders emplaced by the federal government, it has become necessary to clear all ambiguity on the position of the Nigeria Police Force especially as it relates to persons on essential duties.
“The Force wishes to state that it is not oblivious of the sensitive, indispensable, patriotic and frontline role of the nation’s workforce that falls within the category of Essential Service Providers particularly as it relates to efforts to curtail and contain the COVID-19 pandemic,” it said.
The statement signed by the Force PRO and Deputy Commissioner of Police (DCP), Mr. Frank Mba, clarified: “All essential workers including medical personnel, ambulance service providers, journalists, firefighters, etc remain exempted from the movement restriction orders as well as the national curfew.”
“Consequently, the Inspector General of Police, IGP M.A Adamu has directed Zonal Assistant Inspectors-General of Police and State Command Commissioners of Police to give maximum effect to these orders and extend due courtesies to essential service providers so affected and also ensure that personnel deployed for the enforcement duties respect the fundamental rights of the citizens.”
It said the IG urged all workers who fall within these categories not to take undue advantage of their positions and privileges to advance other purposes not connected with the performance of their duties within the stated period.
Mustapha and Mohammed had on Tuesday determined the issue of essential workers.
Director of Communications at the Office of the Secretary to the Government of Federation (OSGF), Mr. Willie Bassey, told the media yesterday that Mustapha, who incidentally is the Chairman of the PTF, stayed awake from Tuesday till early yesterday morning to read all the complaints filed by the journalists.
Bassey said that the SGF had noted all the grouses listed by the journalists and had referred all the complaints to the police authority for them to recognise that as essential workers, journalists, with valid means of identification are to be exempted from the presidential order imposing a curfew.
80% of Patients in Nigeria Don’t Need Hospital Care, Says Epidemiologist
The COVID-19 Epidemiologist of Africa Centre for Disease Control (AfCDC) and a consultant to the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), Dr. Olayinka Ilesanmi, has stated that 80 per cent of COVID-19 patients in Nigeria do not require to be hospitalised before they would be cured of the disease.
Ilesanmi made the statement yesterday when he presented a paper for Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS), Lagos State Command, with the theme “Safety Consciousness with Efficient Service Delivery: The Way Forward in the Midst of COVID-19.”
The Comptroller, Lagos State Command of Nigeria Immigration Service, Comptroller Doris Braimah, said the purpose of the event was to educate immigration officers and personnel who are also frontline workers as far as COVID-19 is concerned, on how to manage safety in their work environment and maintain efficiency and productivity.
The epidemiologist clarify his statement that most Nigerian cases of COVID-19 do not require to be taken to hospital, he said: “But this is not to de-emphasise the use of hospitals. However, the majority, like 80 per cent of those with COVID-19 so far do not need hospitalisation. Those really in need of hospital care are those with a severe situation. They need the hospital just for them to be monitored in case there is a complication or their situation progress to severity.”
He said that those who do not manifest severe conditions could be isolated at their homes and be monitored once in a while. “Once it is severe that person must need hospitalisation. Severe infection cannot be fought without the use of medication and other hospital care,” he said.
He also said that he has witnessed COVID-19 patients recover without taking any drugs, explaining that “in the treatment of patients for COVID-19, the drugs that are being used are not specific drugs that are meant to treat the illness itself. Most of them manage the symptoms of the disease and also take care of other complications that could arise. So, a few patients, even without the use of medication, have recovered from COVID-19.”
Ilesanmi attributed such recovery to factors like “the level of the immunity of body to fight the infection accounts,” adding that the disease “is also a novel virus and the strain also could help because most of the people having COVID-19 will definitely have the mild conditions. Only very few, which is less than five percent, are in severe condition.”
North Accounts for 70% of New Infections, Govs Lament
In another development, the Northern State Governors Forum has lamented that the region now accounts for about 54 per cent of the national cases and 70 per cent of new infections of the virus in Nigeria.
This was the resolution of the forum at its fourth teleconference meeting held yesterday to review the region’s COVID-19 response, and deliberate on other matters relating to its progress and development.
The resolution was made available to journalists in Jos by the Director of Press to the Chairman of the Forum, Governor Simon Lalong, Mr. Simon Macham.
Lalong appreciated President Muhammadu Buhari’s military intervention to tackle banditry in the region.
On the profiling and evacuation of Almajiris, the forum observed that so far, there had been appreciable progress as many states had transferred Almajiris to other states and also received their citizens without any problem.
They resolved to continue with the exercise by strictly following laid down protocols for their profiling, quarantining, testing, transportation, handling, and taking over as well as reintegration.
On enforcing closure of interstate boundary roads, the governors again expressed disappointment that despite several measures that had been taken, including presidential orders, there were still violations in this regard, where people move from one state to another through compromise and use of illegal routes.
Catholic Archbishop Asks FG to Consider Herbal Remedies
The Catholic Archbishop of Lagos Diocese, Alfred Adewale Martins, has called on the federal government to consider herbal remedies in the quest of a cure for COVID-19.
The cleric made the appeal yesterday during a press conference held at the Holy Cross Cathedral Hall in Lagos.
He said herbal medicine was known for its potency against several diseases.
Martins said Madagascar’s herbal solution was an indication that Nigeria could develop its own remedy through traditional means.
“Herbal medicine has its healing effect and I think it is important that the government gives local practitioners and researchers the opportunities to research into the use of our local herbal roots and come up with remedies from them for this Coronavirus pandemic,” he said.
According to him, “We have heard these local remedies curing different types of diseases before, and it is only appropriate that they are given a chance to prove their efficacy at this point in time.
“We understand that there is a need for test and validation of local herbs. Madagascar has developed its own and was embraced by the federal government.
“That has created the urgency for our government to pay attention to the development and promotion of our own indigenous herbal products and remedies offered by others that will lead to an end to COVID-19 pandemic in our country.”
MURIC Wants Palliatives for Imams, Pastors
In another development, the Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC) has asked state governments to consider giving palliatives to imams and pastors to cushion the effect of COVID-19 measures on them.
In a statement issued yesterday, MURIC’s Director, Prof. Ishaq Akintola, said the palliatives would address the agitation to reopen churches and mosques.
“The open demand by certain religious leaders for their places of worship to be reopened lends credence to the pressure clerics are going through,” he said.
“Even the recent decision by some state governments to reopen religious centres is not unconnected with subterranean agitations from clerics in the states- deserted for weeks, the house of God longs for warmth.
“The impact of the economic nosedive on imams and pastors cannot be overemphasized, particularly for a country whose proletariat is overworked, underpaid and overtaxed.”
Akintola said the realities of the Nigerian economy call for government’s attention particularly as they affect keepers of the house of God.
Lagos NMA Commences Sit-at-Home Protest
Despite the intervention of the Lagos State Government and the Nigerian Police Force, the state chapter of the Nigeria Medical Association (NMA) commenced sit-at-home with effect from 6 pm yesterday to protest the incessant harassment of its members by security agencies enforcing COVID-19 curfew in the state.
Chairman of the Lagos State branch, Dr. Saliu Oseni,said last night that the state government was in talks with the association, but that it was yet to arrive at a decision.
“So, in the meantime, we have commenced our sit-at-home. The decision to suspend it cannot be taken only by me. We are still discussing it with our members. When we arrive at something you will know,” he added.
Meanwhile, the state Commissioner for Information, Lagos State, Mr. Gbenga Omotoso said that the differences the police had with the state chapter of NMA had been resolved, and that he believed the proposed sit-at-home action would not hold.
He said: “The state has been able to placate the association. We are sure they will not go on with the proposed strike. The police have also engaged with them and have promised they would no longer be harassed. I think we have all come to an understanding. So, everyone is good now.”
292 Stranded Nigerians Arrive from Saudi Arabia
Less than two weeks after 256 Nigerian voluntary returnees arrived in Nigeria from the United Arab Emirates, through the Murtala Muhammed Airport, Lagos, the federal government has announced that it has received a batch of 292 stranded Nigerians from Saudi Arabia.
The Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Geoffrey Onyeama, who tweeted from his verified twitter handle yesterday said that the returnees were doing well and had all settled down in hotels for the mandatory 14-day quarantine.
He noted that the evacuees with a large number of nursing mother and children were flown to Abuja on Tuesday.
Onyeama tweeted: “We received 292 evacuees stranded in Saudi Arabia yesterday. The Saudi government transported them to Abuja. A large number are nursing mothers and children and they are all comfortably settled in hotels under the mandatory 14 days quarantine,” he tweeted.
The country had successfully evacuated Nigerians from United Arab Emirate (265); United Kingdom (253) and the United States (160).
The latest returnees bring to 970 the total number of stranded Nigerians who have been evacuated.