Coronavirus: Nigeria’s Buhari authorizes presidential jet evacuation, approves N10 billion for Lagos, N5 billion for NCDC

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Simon Ateba is Chief White House Correspondent for Today News Africa. Simon covers President Joe Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris, the U.S. government, the United Nations, the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and other financial and international institutions in Washington D.C. and New York City.

Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari on Thursday announced a raft of measures he had taken in the past 24 hours to combat COVID-19, the potentially deadly respiratory disease caused by the novel coronavirus, including a presidential jet evacuation.

The presidency indicated that the presidential jet evacuation was not for the president himself or his chief of staff Abba Kyari who tested positive for the coronavirus, but for “three critical members of the NCDC (Nigeria Center for Disease Control) team who are stuck in Brazzaville, Republic of Congo where they went for a training organized by the World Health Organization (WHO)”.

It was not clear whether they were sick, or why the President wanted them back into Nigeria as soon as possible, and had chosen not to send a military aircraft to airlift them. WHO head office in Sub-Saharan Africa is based in Brazzaville, Republic of Congo.

The statement said the President had given approval to NCDC’s request for an aircraft from the Presidential Air Fleet for emergency situations.

In addition, the President also approved N10 billion for the state of Lagos and N5 billion for Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC).

“With regard to the request by the government of Lagos State for financial support to combat and contain the spread of the COVID-19 virus in Lagos and Nigeria, the President has already approved the sum of N10 billion which release was effected within two days of the request,” presidential spokesman Garba Shehu said in statement received by TODAY NEWS AFRICA in Washington DC

“The President has also approved and ensured the prompt release of N5 billion special intervention requested by the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) to equip and expand their facilities and laboratories,” he added.

“I advise all Nigerians to follow to the letter the health guidelines issued by the Federal Ministry of Health and our State Governments,” Mr. Buhari was quoted as saying.

“Wash your hands thoroughly many times throughout the day. Observe ‘social distancing’ of a minimum of two metres. Do not make unnecessary journeys outside of your homes. Do not attend public meetings or public gatherings – including religious events – which is where, through social contact, the virus can easily be transmitted.

“The Federal Ministry of Health will continue to issue daily updates on all developments. Please refer to public announcements by the Ministry on radio, television, www.health.gov.ng and @Fmohnigeria.’’

The statement said “these measures are in addition to the ones approved and announced by the Presidential Task Force, PTF including the closure of land borders to human traffic for four weeks; the conversion of all Hajj transit camps to be utilized as COVID-19 isolation centers; the directive that all non-essential government employees to work from home and for a daily briefing of the nation through the PTF”.

Other approved measures already put into place include the ban of flights from and into the country, suspension of the Federal Executive Council and National Council of State meetings and a directive for engagements, at the highest levels between the Federal Government and the state governments.

President Buhari has also directed for the escalation of the nation’s capacity for testing and detection with the acquisition of testing kits and establishment of additional test centers; acquisition of Personnel Protection Equipment and the mobilization of experts and trained staff serving and recall of some of those retired.

The closure of schools and tertiary institutions and the suspension of religious and other gatherings above the fifty prescribed number are also parts of the measures approved and are in place.

“The President is keeping a close eye on international developments on the spread of COVID-19 and will intensify or introduce new measures if they become necessary to protect Nigerians,” Mr. Shehu added.

Simon Ateba

Simon Ateba is Chief White House Correspondent for Today News Africa. Simon covers President Joe Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris, the U.S. government, the United Nations, the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and other financial and international institutions in Washington D.C. and New York City.

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