The Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF) and Chairman, Presidential Task Force (PTF) on COVID-19, Boss Mustapha, has identified non enforcement of regulations by States as one of the key challenges facing the efforts being made to stop the spread of the novel coronavirus disease in the country.
Mustapha disclosed on Wednesday while fielding questions from State House reporters after submitting new recommendations for the second extension of the second phase of gradual and eased lockdown to President Muhammadu Buhari at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.
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He was accompanied to the State House by members of the PTF, including the Minister of Health; Dr Osagie Ehanire; the National Coordinator of the PTF, Dr Sani Aliyu; and the Director-General of the Nigerian Center for Disease Control (NCDC), Dr Chikwe Ihekweazu.
‘Enforcement, the headache’
The SGF, while reacting to the question that sought to know whether the government would consider imposing sanctions on violators of laws to stop the spread of the disease, said: “It’s enforcement that has largely been lacking and my appeal is that the sub-nationals should ensure enforcement.
“As a matter of fact, when we listed some of our challenges, that was top on the list; lack of enforcement of even the regulations that have been put in place.
“As a result of signing the Quarantine Regulation, it’s a regulation, it’s a law.
“But you see, the issue of enforcement has been lacking and it’s not only in this area.
“And like I keep saying most times that COVID-19 has exposed the weaknesses of our systems, all systems, not only the Nigerian system, even the American system, its inadequacies, despite its 300 years of democracy, have been exposed by COVID-19.
“If not, how can a President be arguing with the mayor of a city as to who has authority over what happens?
“It means there’s a big gap in that system.
“I believe if we can just work on the enforcement aspect of it, which is the responsibility of the sub-nationals, we will go a long way.”
The SGF, who refused to speak on the content of the report submitted to President Buhari, however, hinted that the recommendations focused on movement; labour and industries; communities’ activities.
He promised to speak on the matter on Thursday after receiving the President’s “approvals and non-approvals on the recommendations”.
Mustapha said the discharge of nearly 10,000 COVID-19 patients on Tuesday was not an indication that the country could relax as the reduction in the number of new cases was due to festivities.
“If you noticed, as we celebrated those discharges, there’s also been a decrease in the testings.
“In the last couple of days, we tested just barely 2,000 across the nation, but we have a testing capacity of much more thousands than 2,000.
“Another reason; everybody is still in the Sallah mood, even the essential workers, remember when I talked of fatigue, this is part of it.
“We’ve been doing this thing for the last three to four months, it gets to a point when you want to lay back and say we are already overcoming this, but I know that in the next couple of days, the testing will be rampart because people would have come out of the Sallah celebrations and come back to work.
“The sub-nationals and local governments will begin to go into the communities to search because this is the point at which you have to go into the local communities and begin to search.
“If you don’t do that, so much is happening as a result of the community transmission that has been cascaded into the local communities that if you wait for it to present itself, it will present itself in a very explosive manner and we can get into a panic mode.
“We don’t want to have that.
“That is why we are encouraging the state governments to go into the local communities to ensure that they search for those infected with this virus, test them, if they are positive, isolate them and provide care for them,” he added.
The SGF said the increasing numbers of new cases in spite of the trillion of dollars that had been thrown against COVID-19 showed that the ravaging effect of the disease in terms of infections and fatalities had not been tackled.
He expressed satisfaction that the country had established 60 laboratories in 31 states and the FCT, hoping that the entire states would be covered by the end of the month.