The Federal Government has said the next phase of the national response on the coronavirys pandemic would be driven by States.
The Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF) and Chairman of the Presidential Task Force (PTF), Mr Boss Mustapha, disclosed this to State House Correspondents after a meeting with President Muhammadu Buhari on Sunday.
Mustapha also revealed the next line of action by the PTF would depend on the orders from Buhari after he must have considered the recommendations put before him by the PTF.
According to him, Nigeria had reached the critical stage of community transmission, adding that communities were under the supervision of the council areas, under which structure the communities fall.
He also added the next stage of the fight against COVID-19 would require the full involvement of traditional and religious institutions, adding that managing the health crisis at this point had melted down into the more complex community level.
When asked how the PTF would react to calls for the reopening of religious institutions, he said a lot would depend on the directive expected from President Buhari to be given between Sunday night and Monday.
“That’s part of what we have considered in its totality. We’d await Mr President’s decision on that, once I receive his approval, going forward, as to certain recommendations we have put in place, we will see how that happens.
“The issue of easing up, you know we are in the first phase, we had an extension of two weeks for the first phase, the next phase should be the second phase and along with that will come in with a lot of recommendations, which we expect Mr President to consider.
“But I can assure you about one thing, that the ownership of the next stage will be the responsibility of the states and the national supervision and coordination because we have gone into community transmission.
“Where are the communities? 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, the religious leaders at the different levels of our communities because that is where the problem is.
“Like we’ve kept saying, 20 local governments, out of 774, account for 60% of confirmed cases in Nigeria today. So where are these 20 local governments? They are in communities. It means we have reached the apex of community transmission and we must get the communities involved.
“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, but you know that Mr President is the only one that can take decisions in respect of that.
“In the framework, the states are subnationals, 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 said.
Responding to questions about how the PTF perceived the actions of Kogi and Cross River States to the national response, the SGF pointed out that a step would be taken to correct the disagreements, noting however that the PTF was doing everything necessary to ensure that a single response was replicated across the nation.
“We discussed challenges generally and I believe that in the context of those discussions, certain steps will be taken. We are doing everything to ensure that the entire nation is on the same page with one response and it is very important that we realise that no state is an island unto itself, when you deal with public health matters.
“Whatever happens in a particular locality has the consequences of spilling off to other constituencies. That is the message that we’ll continue to drive in our pursuit of getting everybody to be on board and I can assure you that there’s no island that exists as far as COVID-19 is concerned in this country.
“We must integrate all the responses from the different segments of the community and the state and have everybody to be on the same page. We will continue to pursue that and we must also ensure that it happens. I can assure about that”, he said.
On the question of possible opening of the economy soon, he said it was a process that had since been ongoing, noting however that some businesses, like the agricultural, as well as oil and gas sectors had enjoyed very liberal treatment all along
“We have started, even in the first phase and the extension that came with it. Essential parts of the economy was opening up by way of allowing agricultural production, people that produce fertilizers.
“The oil and gas industry was never closed for one day and some aspects of the financial sector was opened. After we receive Mr President’s approval tonight or tomorrow morning, we will now know which segment of the economy he has allowed to open”, he said.
Asked if Nigeria was winning the war against COVID-19, Mustapha pointed to the fatality rate from the virus, which he said was far lower than what had been seen in other countries, adding that though the numbers of infected persons had increased steadily as a result of increased testing capacity.