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Lockdown: Five governors denied approval to fly — FG



The Federal Government has said five governors who sought approval to fly out of their states during this lockdown period declared as the result of the Coronavirus pandemic, have been denied.

The Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika, while  responding to questions at Presidential Task Force briefing on COVID-19, debunked claims that the elite including governors, were being given special privileges to fly during the lockdown.

According to him, every single flight approved is for essential reason, which is either diplomatic requests, medical or food supplies or evacuation of patients not necessarily with COVID-19 symptoms among others.

Sirika said: “Every single flight that you will see, every single one that we will approve will be an essential flight. And those essential flights 98 per cent of them will be connected to COVID-19. A few of them might be a diplomatic request from the diplomatic community which must go through foreign affairs ministry, or it might be evacuation due to illness of other kind and those evacuations may also need staff of a teaching hospital like I said before.

“On not reopening airports due to extension of the lockdown, trust me, whoever is approved to fly privately – governor or not governor – is on an essential trip and 98 percent is related to COVID-19. There is no exception to governors. I have denied several of such flights, including two governors from South-South, two from South- East. Meanwhile, three of them are members of the All Progressives Congress (APC) and one is from North Central.

“Just to say that once you see a flight approved, it is diligently done; it must be essential, it must be COVID-19- related or some other flights like essential cargo that will bring in medicines or equipment or something related to our own well-being like food and so on and so forth. So please trust and bear with us it while this lasts; it will be short.

Meanwhile, the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF) and Chairman of the Presidential Task Force (PTF) on COVID-19, Boss Mustapha, has said that as part of the support to the states, the PTF has approved the distribution plans for medical equipment and consumables available in stock to the states.

He said the physical distribution shall commence immediately and that this will be in addition to the Jack Ma equipment and materials already shared to the states.

Mustapha added that the lockdown and the subsequent extension were to slow down the spread of the virus by minimizing contact and congregation of people and to enable government put in place necessary infrastructure, train personnel, take delivery and distribute essential equipment and materials in readiness for any eventuality.

The SGF added that the DG of the NCDC and the WHO representative on the PTF have been touring the states to assess and standardize their infrastructure and their readiness.

He said they have so far visited six states: Imo, Anambra, Rivers, Delta, Katsina and are currently in Kano, while three more states will be covered by Wednesday.

“I find it necessary to remind us all that this COVID-19 pandemic is not a joke and it is a global pandemic. I, therefore, renew the appeal of the PTF to all Nigerians to view it as such and comply with all advisories and directives in the interest of humanity.

“The reports coming out of our continuing collaboration with the states indicate that the governors have been at the head of the response which is encouraging; the state EOCs and their treatment centres are in place; there are improved levels of preparedness and response activities- focusing more on strengthening current capacity where they exist over building new structures,” he said.

He said particular attention is to be focused on some states with heavy burden, particularly, Kano; and priority is being placed on Intensive State Level Support.

He noted that this is the time for all hands to be on deck so that the PTF can improve on its delivery.

“Unity of purpose is critical. Everybody has a role to play for self, for family, for community, for the nation and for humanity,” Mustapha said.

The National Coordinator of the PTF, Dr Sani Aliyu, also reiterated the call for face masks.

He said: “I will re-echo what the Honourable Minister of State, Health, had said with regard to face masks, we’ll continue to urge you to wear face masks as an optional addition to routine measures of physical distancing, avoiding mass gatherings and respiratory hygiene.

“In line with the NCDC face masks policy, we advise Nigerians make DIY (do it yourself) face masks. Not only are they cheap, they are also more colourful.

“We do appreciate the Nigerian creative and enterprising spirit already at work, with so many people already making use of local fabrics. We’ll like you to continue to make use of both procedures for improvised masks usage and maintenance of the NCDC guidelines.

“In regard to the engagement, we continue to engage collaboratively with state governments on the pandemic response. The task force will continue to provide the necessary assistance to states to ensure adequate sensitisation. In this regard, we would like to acknowledge and thank both the public, as well as the private media  organisations for the support they have been providing in terms of information and education materials on TV, radio, jingles and so on.

“With regard to the vulnerable groups, we’ll like to confirm that the PTF response activities  include vulnerable groups, including people with disabilities, the elderly and so on. We will continue to work with the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs to ensure that palliatives reach them, after all we are one nation, and we have to ensure that vulnerable members of society are taken care of, especially in this difficult times.

“We note the concerns about increases in reported cases; we are closely monitoring Kano, Osun, Oyo and Edo. We noted with particular concern Kano, and we have engaged closely with the state government. Because we are increasing the number of tests as we ramp up; there is the possibility that we’ll continue to have more and more cases coming in.

“I’ll like to reemphasize the need for complying with the lockdown policy, particularly for the two states of Lagos and Ogun, as well as the FCT. We’ll like to urge Nigerians to stay at home.”