My dear Compatriots, it is with gratitude to God that I address you once again over the Corona Virus Pandemic, which remains a global emergency to date.
You will recall that I addressed you on the 6th of April where I directed a total lockdown of the State effective 12 midnight of Thursday 9th April 2020 to 11pm of Wednesday 15th April 2020.
We are a few hours from the dateline of the total lockdown and it is necessary that I again address you for the next steps in continuation of Government efforts in curbing the pandemic.
Let me first commend the entire citizens of Plateau State for their patriotism and loyalty in adhering to the total restriction of movement order.
Apart from official field reports by members of the Task Force and the individual reports from members of the public, I personally went round to see things for myself where, I confirmed the high level of obedience and compliance to Government directive.
On behalf of the Government, I register my profound appreciation to all citizens for putting public interest and the well-being of our State above their personal comfort and enjoyment.
I also want to thank the law enforcement agencies such as the Police, Department of State Services, the Army, Civil Defence, Immigration, Customs, NDLEA, and the Correctional Services and their personnel for their commitment towards this emergency.
Members of the Vigilante Services, Neighbourhood Watch Groups, Community Associations, Traditional and Religious Leaders, Political Leaders as well as Leaders of thought played key roles towards the success of this exercise.
Very critical too are Leadership and Members of the State House of Assembly and the Judiciary as well as Local Government Chairmen who have played different roles in dealing with this menace.
We also appreciate members of the media for their continuous support and collaboration in dealing with this pandemic. Without your support, no one will know our efforts and the public will remain in the dark.
As impressive as the compliance is, there were few cases of violations across the State, which were promptly arrested and prosecuted by the mobile courts established across the three Senatorial districts.
Over 837 violators were tried and those convicted were made to pay fines while others were subjected to community service. I wish to register my displeasure on the reported cases of assault on some enforcement officials carrying out legitimate duties. Such acts will not be tolerated and those found guilty will be punished.
My dear citizens, during this one-week of total lockdown, we were able to successfully decontaminate the entire State beginning with the flag off in Jos-Bukuru Metropolis on the 10th of April.
The period also enabled us to quarantine the entire State and effectively monitor suspected cases, as well as curtail movement within and into our State thereby reducing high possibility of importing the disease from outside the State.
Despite all the challenges, I can confidently say that we largely succeeded. As at today, we have investigated 99 cases and currently isolated 23 persons who are being observed because they came in from other States with confirmed cases of the disease. Of the 23 persons isolated, none has so far shown any symptoms.
We are grateful to God that as at this moment, there is no confirmed case in the State. This is the more reason why we must not rest on our oars nor take anything for granted in blocking any loophole that can make us vulnerable.
I am happy to announce that the Testing Centre for Plateau State earlier envisaged has finally come to fruition, as the Bio-Safety Level 3 Grade 1 Laboratory at the National Veterinary Research Institute (NVRI) Vom, has been equipped and certified by the National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) to begin outright test for COVID-19.
I was at the NVRI earlier today to inspect the laboratory and I must say that I am impressed with the standard of facilities and staff available. This centre, which has capacity to test over one thousand samples per day, will assist us test more people and serve other neigbouring States.
In addition to the purchase of ventilators, our homegrown innovator Engr. Jerry Mallo, who was earlier mandated to fabricate ventilators, has come up with a product, which is being tested by health experts for possible deployment as the need arises.
My dear citizens, Government appreciates the sacrifices you have continued to make since the outbreak of this pandemic and the measures taken to address it. We are not blind to the hardship and inconveniences this emergency has caused.
Accordingly, Government having constituted a committee headed by His Excellency, the Deputy Governor, Prof. Sonni Gwanle Tyoden, has directed the immediate commencement of the distribution of palliatives to the most vulnerable and weak amongst us.
Let me clarify that these palliatives, which will in due course also be complemented by the Federal Government, are strictly for the needy. Already, about sixty one thousand, six hundred and sixteen (61,616) beneficiaries of the National Social Investment Programme under the N-Power, Poorest of the Poor and School Feeding Programme have been receiving their stipends based on President Buhari’s directive.
These are not people that should be looking forward to any other palliatives because they are already being taken care of. Similarly, workers who are receiving salaries as and when due should not expect to partake from the palliatives. Let us consider the truly vulnerable ones at this period.
From the one-week total, lockdown, we have learnt many lessons that will guide our next steps. One of the biggest lessons is the fact that we cannot quarantine hunger. Therefore, Government has taken the following decisions going forward.
The total lockdown has been extended to 12 midnight of Thursday 23rd April 2020 to meet the medically stipulated quarantine period of 14 days.
However, beginning from 11pm tonight, Wednesday 15th April 2020, to 12 midnight of Sunday 19th April 2020, the total lockdown will be relaxed to enable people go out to restock their homes.
By implication, the earlier restriction prior to the total lockdown remain. For the avoidance of doubt, all other markets remain closed except those selling food items, pharmaceuticals and cooking gas. In addition, all illegal street trading, street hawking, and begging are prohibited. The illegal Sunday markets on Ahmadu Bello Way, Bukuru and environs remain banned. Social joints, Nightclubs, drinking parlours are to remain closed, while restaurants are advised to prepare take away for their customers to avoid crowding.
Motor parks are to capture and keep data including contacts of all inbound and outbound passengers as well as adhere strictly to social distancing and mass gathering prohibition order as well as hygiene regulations.
Vehicles (Keke Napep, Cars and Buses) are to abide by restriction on the number of passenger to carry, which have been spelled out as 1, 4 and 6 respectively.
Places of worship are to strictly adhere to the 50 persons provision, while maintaining social distancing and hygiene regulations. The ban on all anniversaries and cultural festivals remains in force.
All entry and exit borders into the State will remain closed with greater reinforcement and CCTV surveillance to ensure total compliance.
Anybody who violates this border closure and comes into Plateau will be arrested, prosecuted and quarantined for 14 days until it is confirmed that he/she is free of the disease.
Farmers, particularly in the rural areas are exempted from the restrictions, as they are required to go to their farms now that the rains have started. However, they are to observe all guidelines for social distancing and hygiene.
In addition to the exemption of essential workers earlier announced, producers of food such as bread, water and beverages are also exempted.
The mobile courts are to remain in place to try violators of Government directives.
To address cases of sharp practices, human rights violations and compromise by some security personnel, Government has set up a high-powered Independent Intelligence Monitoring Team, which will report directly to me.
Fellow citizens, these are difficult times for all of us and we must endure with resilience to come out strong. Our future is in our hands and how we abide by the advice of health experts and Government directives will determine our success.
Therefore, citizens must not see the actions of Government as punitive, but precautionary. Government is losing so much because of these restrictions while it is having to channel meagre resources to fighting this monster. Our best chance is prevention and we must all join hands together.
Let me again thank all stakeholders for supporting Government throughout this trying period. The Health personnel who have put their lives on the line also deserve special commendation.
We are also grateful to Management and staff of NESCO, Jos Electricity Distribution Company, Plateau State Water Board and Telecoms operators for doing their best to make life easier for our people.
We are indebted to all Corporate Organisations, and well-spirited individuals, the Embassy of China and many others for their financial and material support.
Government shall continue to monitor development and evaluate its strategies, which will inform further directives. We therefore count on your support and cooperation.
Finally and on a sad note, our hearts go out to the Family of one of the staff of ASTC, Mr. Fwangan Charles Gugin who died in a road traffic accident in the cause of decontamination duty. May his soul rest in peace.
God bless Plateau State, God bless the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
Rt. Hon. (Dr). Simon Bako Lalong, KSGG
Executive Governor, Plateau State & Chairman,
Northern Governors Forum.
15th April 2020