FG denies fresh COVID-19 lockdown

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Minister of Information, Lai Mohammed

 

The Federal Government on Tuesday denied media reports that it has “introduced or re-introduced’’ new restrictions on COVID-19.

The Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed made the rebuttal at a meeting with Online Publishers in Lagos.

Mohammed said there were no new restrictions, adding that the Presidential Steering Committee on COVID-19 only reiterated existing regulations to control spread of the disease.

The minister, a member of the steering committee, said the committee’s national incident manager Mukhtar Mohammed was quoted out of context during the briefing of the committee on Monday in Abuja.

He said the only thing that was newly introduced was that anyone, including Nigerians travelling from Brazil, Turkey or India, must go through compulsory quarantine.

“What we did was the need to remind people of the existing extant regulations on Covid-19.

“Government has not introduced anything new. You can still travel by air or road or any other means but ensure you wear your face mask.

“We have not opened night clubs, the regulations on social distancing, social and religious gatherings, use of face mask are still in place.

“The curfew between 12 a.m. and 4 a.m. is still on and we are saying people must obey the existing protocols,’’ he said.

The minister said the emphasis became imperative because Nigerians were taking things for granted and behaving as if COVID-19 had gone.

He said India made the same mistake and they were paying dearly for it at the moment

“This is the mistake that India made when they actually boasted they had conquered COVID-19.

“They were holding political campaigns and religious festivals when a new variant of COVID -19 surfaced.

“Today, they are recording more than 400,000 case per day and about 4,000 lives lost daily.

“This is why every citizen must know where we are going,’’ he said.

Mohammed said Nigeria had been fortunate not to record high rate of infection that it would not have the health infrastructure to handle. Below is text of the briefing:

 

TEXT OF THE PRESS CONFERENCE BY THE HON. MINISTER OF INFORMATION AND
CULTURE, ALHAJI LAI MOHAMMED, ON NATIONAL SECURITY….IN LAGOS ON
TUESDAY, 11 MAY 2021

Good morning gentlemen, and thank you for once again honouring our invitation.

2. It is no longer news that our dear nation is facing security
challenges. However, I have read comments saying the Federal
Government is overwhelmed and doesn’t have a clue as to how to tackle
the challenges. Some have even gone as far as suggesting a truncation
of the democratic order, a clearly treasonable stance.

3. Well, I am here today to assure all Nigerians that while the
government acknowledges the security challenges we
face at this time, from terrorism to kidnaping, banditry and
farmer-herder conflict, it is definitely not overwhelmed and indeed it
has the wherewithal, as you will see in the days ahead, to confront
the challenges headlong and restore law and order, peace and security.

4. One of the most difficult things to do, for a
democratically-elected government, is to use the instruments of
coercion against its own people. For example, while the nation’s
military have superior firepower over the rag tag band of Boko Haram
and ISWA, the terrorists most often than not operate among the
populace, either in our villages or towns, hence the military, in
tackling them, is usually careful to avoid collateral damage. The same
applies to the kidnappers who abduct our school children. Usually, the
location of the kidnappers is not unknown to the security forces, but
they still have to exercise caution in order not to hurt the same
children they are trying to rescue. Despite these inhibitions, the
security forces have the wherewithal to decisively tackle the
challenges.

5. Now, there is a growing dangerous trend which I will like to
comment on. It is the practice of launching deadly attacks against the
nation’s security personnel. Soldiers as well as police, customs and
other security agents have been killed and maimed in some parts of the
country in this growing trend of targeting security forces. I want to
say, unequivocally, that any attack on our security men and women is
an attack on the state and a declaration of war against the nation. It
follows, therefore, that this will be countered with overwhelming
force. When those whose responsibility it is to protect us are
themselves being subjected to mindless attacks, it can only be for one
reason only: To instill fear and evoke a sense of pervasive insecurity
among the people. Whether known or unknown gunmen, those engaged in
this dastardly act will pay dearly for their actions.

6. Gentlemen, the government realizes that the security challenges
we face today are systemic, hence has – in addition to kinetic efforts
– also embarked on various non-kinetic measures to most effectively
tackle the challenges. Recently, specifically on April 8th 2021, we
held a Town Hall Meeting on national security in Kaduna, after which
we came out with an implementable, 10-point agenda.

i. That the governance of human society should be based on Law
rather than the whims and caprices of human beings and must be obeyed
by all as all persons are equal before the law including the law
givers.

ii. That there is an urgent need for political restructuring and not
separation.

iii. That the Judiciary be decentralized and reformed through
Constitutional Amendment to remove the unitary control of the Superior
Courts.

iv. That governments at all levels should ensure free, qualitative
and compulsory Primary Education for all children of school age.

v. That the Military, Police and other Security Agencies should be
expanded in number, retrained, provided with modern equipment and
technology to cope with emerging security challenges.

vi. That both religious and traditional leaders should encourage and
promote inter-marriages for unity as contained in the 1999
Constitution as amended, Article 15, 3(c) which prescribes
inter-marriage among persons from different places of origin, or of
different religious, ethnic or linguistic association or ties.

vii. That the establishment of State Police should be supported by
the National and State Houses of Assembly to enable State Governments
have firm control in addressing security issues.

viii. That Traditional Rulers should be given their age-long role of
maintaining peace and security within their domain.

ix. That the Local Government Autonomy be actualized to enable them
have control of their areas including the ungoverned spaces in
tackling security challenges.

x. And finally that the Farmers/Herders clashes be addressed by
establishment of ranches, grazing reserves with modern amenities to
check the trans-humans of the herders.

7. As far as a national stakeholders’ engagement is concerned, the
town hall meeting fits that bill. In a complete departure from our
town hall meeting format, we invited panellists and discussants from
outside the government . The Lead Presenter was Prof. Jibrin Ibrahim,
and the four discussants were Mrs Ibukun Awosika, the erstwhile
Chairperson of the First Bank; Prof. Saka Nuru, a renowned veterinary
surgeon; Prof Chudi Uwazuruike, an academic and a former member of the
House of Representatives, and Prof Kokunre Eghafona, also from
academia. The stakeholders who attended included all the service
chiefs, members of the legislative and executive arms of government,
civil society organizations, traditional and religious leaders, women
and youth groups as well as labour. It is therefore baffling that some
commentators give the impression that the Administration is not
engaging with the various stakeholders to find a lasting solution to
the challenges facing the nation.

8. Now, we didn’t just engage in a talk shop. We have taken those
resolutions to the National Economic Council, Chaired by His
Excellency the Vice President, and which also includes all the state
governors. As a prelude to adopting the recommendations, the NEC has
directed all state governors to organize state-wide consultation on
them, and then revert to the Council in its next meeting.

9. Of course, you are all aware that the Honourable Attorney-General
of the Federation and Minister of Justice has announced that the
Federal Government is set to prosecute 400 suspects arrested for
allegedly funding terrorism. This is unprecedented and its a testament
to the government’s determination to decisively tackle terrorism and
other violent crimes.

10. While the government continues with these efforts to restore
peace and security continues, I want to appeal to all of us to play
our part in lowering the palpable tension in the polity as a result of
the security challenges. The first step is to tone down the rhetoric.
While the media must continue to carry out its primary responsibility
to inform, criticize and stimulate debate, it must also realize that
it can only carry out this responsibility in an atmosphere of peace
and security. I am therefore appealing to the media to play its part
in dousing the pervasive tension. Lending your platforms to
uncompromising separatists and die-hard pessimists about the survival
of our nation can only overheat the polity and aggravate the security
challenges. This is not a call for censorship. It is a call for
responsibility, in the national interest.

11. For the avoidance of doubt, the government retains total
confidence in the ability of our security forces to tackle the
security challenges we are facing now, whether it is terrorism,
banditry, kidnapping or even the farmer-herder conflict. We therefore
appeal to all Nigerians to continue to support our security agencies,
who today face the added task of having to watch their backs while
working to protect us. The least we can do is to give them our
unalloyed support.

12. I thank you for your kind attention.

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