Fellow compatriots, I address you again in continuation of our collective fight against the Corona Virus disease commonly referred to as COVID-19. In my last address of April 30th 2020, I indicated that we shall continue to observe the total lockdown from Midnight of Thursday to Midnight of Sundays throughout the State. In addition to other measures taken earlier, I also informed you that we shall continue to restrict inter-Local Government movements to further curtail the spread of the disease which was first recorded in the State on 23rd April 2020.
Since then, the State has recorded more cases of COVID-19 that rose to 33. This necessitated us redoubling our efforts to checkmate community spread by aggressively conducting contact tracing, isolating suspected contacts, and treating the infected.
As at today, we have successfully treated and discharged 10 infected persons including the index case who have all been reunited with their families. The other 22 infected persons are still undergoing treatment and in stable condition. Sadly, one suspect whose sample was taken died yesterday before his result was returned positive.
We have continued to quarantine suspected persons that come in from other States at our designated facilities to ascertain their status over the mandatory period of 14 days. As at today, we have 255 persons in our various quarantine centres.
At this point, I must appreciate the support and cooperation that most citizens have demonstrated during this trying moment. The level of compliance has been appreciative, despite the inconveniences that this pandemic has exposed us all to.
However, the major challenge we have continued to face is the breaches at our State boundaries where people continue to violate the closure order through compromise or resort to illegal routes. This has exposed the State to more dangers of COVID-19, as virtually all the cases we have recorded, originated from other States and were imported by people who defied our directives and entered the State at all costs. This is indeed sad.
During my visit to our State boundaries at Forest- Hawan Kibo; Ganawuri-Manchok; and Jingre-Saminaka, I again warned that those compromising our collective security will not be allowed to prevail as Government was more than ever determined to put an end to the flagrant disregard for directives.
Fellow citizens, as a Government that is people driven and desirous of carrying everyone along, we have noted the concerns raised in respect of the need to have more room for people to secure services such as banking which were limited because of the existing lockdown schedule.
In order to address these concerns and further strengthen our efforts at combating COVID-19, Government has reviewed some of the guidelines with the following decisions:
- With effect from 17th May 2020, the total lockdown will resume from midnight of every Sunday and be relaxed on Wednesdays 12 midnight.
- This will henceforth be the pattern until further review. In order words, the total lockdown is relaxed on Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays; while Mondays, Tuesdays, and Wednesdays remain totally locked down.
- Restriction on all inter-local Government movements shall continue to apply except for those on essential services as earlier enumerated.
- The use of facemasks in public places remains compulsory, and anyone found not using one outside his home would be arrested and charged to the mobile court.
- To ensure better enforcement and compliance, Government will henceforth enroll some of its civil servants for the exercise. Accordingly, the Head of Service has been directed to immediately deploy civil servants from grade levels 10-14 to various points across the State.
- Local Government Chairmen are to also replicate same in their domains to ensure effective coverage of the entire State.
- The ban on all illegal markets such as the Sunday markets on Ahmadu Bello Way, Bukuru and environs shall remain in place indefinitely, while Social joints, Nightclubs, drinking parlours are to remain closed.
- The Faringada Market continues to defy all guidelines for social distancing and sanitation, and poses potent threat to our efforts to defeat COVID-19. Therefore, the market will be shut down until the trader unions and the Management of Jos North Local Government come up with an acceptable model for regulation that poses no risk to public health and safety.
- Religious gatherings shall continue to have not more than 50 persons, while social distancing, hygiene and sanitation regulations shall continue to apply.
- All these decisions are without prejudice to the overnight curfew instituted by the Federal Government from 8pm to 6am.
Fellow compatriots, the Government remains fully aware of the collective hardship that this situation has brought upon us all particularly the most vulnerable. Already, the distribution of palliatives to this category of people has continued throughout the State.
In the coming weeks, more palliatives from the Federal Government and the private sector donor initiative, CACOVID, shall be received to boost the efforts of the State Government. Let me at this moment thank the various individuals and corporate organisations that have contributed to the Plateau COVID-19 Trust Fund both in kind and in cash. We have realised almost 100 million naira in donations and I re-assure you that we shall deploy it transparently.
In particular, I wish to appreciate the Speaker and Honourable Members of the Plateau State House of Assembly for donating 50 percent of their May salaries to the COVID-19 Trust Fund. The Chairman and Members of the Plateau State Council of Traditional Rulers and Emirs also donated food items to the fund. We are very grateful.
On the profiling and return of Almajiris children, which commenced on 26th April 2020, we have made a lot of progress. So far, we have returned a total of 601 Almajiris to their States of origin to be tested, reunited with their families and properly cared for. The States include Kaduna (38), Bauchi (419), Kano (92), Jigawa (47), Gombe (5),
We have also received (119) Almajiris from other States. We received (108) from Nasarawa State and (11) from Gombe State, who have been profiled, and tested. Out of this number, only one (1) tested positive to COVID-19 and is receiving treatment in one of the isolation facilities. The rest have been reunited with their families.
Within the State, we have profiled 36 Almajiris who are indigenes of Plateau State and have been tested and returned them to their families. 25 are from Quan-Pan, while 11 are from Wase Local Government Areas.
Let me again stress that the decision to carry out this evacuation was a collective one taken by Governors of the 19 Northern States during the meeting of the Northern Governors Forum in order to guarantee the safety of these children who were exposed to many dangers, including COVID-19.
It is disheartening that this noble and bold decision is being politicized by a few people who although claim to abhor the Almajiri system, choose for reasons best known to them to play to the gallery by pretending to be fighting for the human rights of these children.
For the avoidance of doubt, the Northern Governors are collectively committed to ensuring that all the Almajiri children returned to their States are profiled and tested for COVID-19 and other illnesses. Those who are positive are treated before being reunited with their families. At the end of the day, all Almajiris will be integrated into the society seamlessly.
Additionally, their education and well-being will be handled by their States, which will bring to an end to the infamous Almajiri system, which has become a social challenge. We again appeal for the understanding and support of all stakeholders. Happily, reports from all the States show that the children are excited to go back home to the warm embrace of their families.
On a sad note, I wish to register my deep personal condolences and that of the Government to the family of Rinji Peter Bala who was shot by security personnel attached to the Operation Safe Haven along Zaria Road on 12th May 2020. I have already ordered a probe and I urge for calm as the law takes its cause. Justice will be done.
Similarly, I also sympathize with victims of attacks in some communities of the State such as in Bassa Local Government, perpetrated by criminals who are taking advantage of the COVID-19 lockdown.
The gruesome murder of Dr. Nandi Drenkat, a Senior Lecturer at the University of Jos and the kidnap of his daughter is totally condemnable. We condole with his immediate family as well as the management, staff and students of the University.
I am glad to report that following the quick response of security agencies in conjunction with the Hunters Association, the kidnapped daughter of the lecturer was rescued alive. Sadly, one of the gallant members of the Hunters Association, Muhammadu Sani made the supreme sacrifice as he died of gunshot wounds from the criminals. We send sincere condolences to his family and pray for the repose of his soul.
Let me assure all citizens that we are working with security agencies to fish out these criminals and ensure they are punished. Already, security forces has arrested a suspected mastermind of kidnappings around the Eto-Baba, Bauchi Road general area who is currently undergoing interrogation. I also urge the citizens to continue to be vigilant and report every suspicious activity.
We also lost a member of the Committee on the evacuation of Almajiris in the State, Alhaji Sabo Umar Shuaibu who has worked tirelessly to ensure the success of the exercise. Again, we sympathize with his family and pray for the repose of his soul.
Finally, I call on all citizens to shun stigmatization and discrimination as well as the spread of fake news that represent major challenges to the fight against COVID-19.
With the measures taken so far, the pandemic has been largely tamed in the State. With a little more effort, we can ensure that we eliminate new infections and transmission.
Thank you and may 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.
17th May, 2020.