Wearing of face mask is now mandatory for all Nigerians, the federal government said on Thursday.
The Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF) and Chairman, Presidential Task Force (PTF) on COVID-19, Boss Mustapha, said this in Abuja at the 31st joint national briefing of the taskforce.
He said the use of face mask is not an option but a directive backed by law and called on security agencies to enforce compliance.
Mustapha added that the use of face mask as one of the precautionary measures to stop the spread of COVID-19 was included in the law signed by President Muhammadu Buhari which must be enforced.
He also called on the 36 governors of the federation to ensure compliance within their jurisdictions.
Face mask is a barrier device used in infection control to prevent patients’ sneezes and sputum from making contact with others.
The SGF said, “There is a question that has to do with usage of face masks, whether it is optional or not, no. The fact that we are persuasive does not mean that there is an option to it.
“It was part of the declaration that was signed by Mr. President. All the protocols that were predicted by the authority vested on Mr. President by the Quarantine Act. And once he attested his signature to that, it has the force of law.
“Our appeal is that this is a collective effort that each and every Nigerian should be responsible to himself and other Nigerians to wear a mask, not necessarily a medical mask.
“That is why we said mask or cloth covering so that our people would not be going to pick things from the dustbin and be hanging on their faces,” Mustapha said.
According to him, even a handkerchief could serve the purpose, saying “it is not in any way an optional but a must.”
He added, “And we are appealing to the security agencies and the state governments and sub-national entities that have the power of enforcement to do that.
“It is very important that we inculcate the culture of doing things to the overall benefits of all.”
Daily Trust recalled that on April 11, Mustapha said the PTF was developing a national policy on mandatory use of face masks by Nigerians.
“On the use of face masks, the PTF is developing a policy and as soon as it is finalised, Nigerians would be informed,” he had said.
Governors also make face masks mandatory
Our correspondents report that many of the 36 governors of the federation and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) have made the use of face masks compulsory.
For instance, Lagos had made wearing of masks compulsory effective April 25 to fight against the coronavirus.
“Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu proclaimed the wearing of masks compulsory in the state,” spokesman of the governor, Gboyega Akosile, said.
“We have made arrangements for the production of masks in large quantities for the people of Lagos State,” stressing that this an “opportunity for the private sector to contribute to the fight against COVID-19”, he said.
The FCT administration had also made use of face masks compulsory while most private companies including shopping malls and supermarkets have also deployed measures to ensure people use face masks before they have access to their buildings.
A report by Reuters on April 26 said it sighted a letter written by the governors asking President Muhammadu Buhari to approve the compulsory use of face masks in public to stem the spread of COVID-19.
“The 36 governors believe Buhari’s approval is needed to ensure a uniform and coordinated policy at federal and state levels to tackle the virus,” the letter from the Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF) said, as quoted by the news agency.
Meanwhile, the President had on April 27, 2020 said the federal government would “strictly” ensure the mandatory use of face masks or coverings in public in addition to maintaining physical distancing and personal hygiene.
He said this came into effect from Monday, May 4, 2020.
President, senators, ministers ‘disregard’ face masks
President Buhari has held two meetings without using mandatory face masks.
Despite the physical presence of Vice President Yemi Osinbajo and some ministers at the first virtual Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting on Wednesday, President Buhari didn’t wear a face mask as prescribed in his last national broadcast.
The situation was the same on Thursday when the President chaired a meeting of the National Security Council attended by serving security chiefs, the vice president, and the National Security Adviser (NSA), Maj. Gen. Babagana Monguno (rtd).
Daily Trust observed that apart from President Buhari, other attendees, including aides wore face masks, but it was also noticed that some senators and ministers have been flouting the use of face mask directive at different fora.
When asked to explain the reasons why President Buhari didn’t use a face mask at meetings of the federal cabinet and National Security Council contrary to his directive during the last broadcast, the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, replied thus in a text message: “If I get the answer, I will call you.”
He did not respond up to the time of filing this report.
Not using face mask puts others at risk of infection
A consultant Physician and Pulmonologist, Dr. Onuoha said President Buhari and other politically exposed persons not wearing a face mask in a public function is an obvious breach.
Pulmonology is a medical specialty that deals with diseases involving the respiratory tract.
Dr. Onuoha said it was better the president stayed at home instead of going to the meeting if he had a health challenge that would warrant him not using a face mask.
Daily Trust reports that the president had tested negative for the COVID-19.
“It is better he stays back at home and be safe rather than going to the public without the use of his face mask. It complicates the problem.
“The use of the face mask is to prevent one from being infected and from infecting others as well. What if he (president) is infected?” he asked.
He said the COVID-19 Task Force team would not be able to implement the punitive measures against COVID-19 because the president himself was not complying with the rule.
“If the president did not use a face mask and the authority concern wants to enforce it, where is the moral example that the president is giving?
“That means, he should just apologise for that error because there is no justification for arresting anyone outside or give a fine for not wearing it.
“People will point at the president and ask if he is above the law since the law is without exemption,” he said.
An epidemiologist, Dr. Olayinka Ilesanmi, said that the use of face mask by President Buhari is a way of setting examples for governors and the Nigerian populace at large.
He said if the president (or any other individual) is the only one in the room, there is actually no need of using face mask as he is not infecting or likely to be infected by anybody.