EXCELLENCY, RT. HON. (DR) SIMON BAKO LALONG, EXECUTIVE GOVERNOR OF PLATEAU STATE, TO THE CITIZENS OF PLATEAU STATE ON THE CORONA VIRUS (COVID-19) PANDEMIC DELIVERED ON 24TH MARCH 2020.
My dear citizens of Plateau State, it has become necessary to address you on the global health challenge that we are facing today which is the Corona Virus pandemic otherwise known as COVID-19.
It is no longer news that this disease is a threat not only to human existence, but also to the global economy. For these reasons, all hands must be on deck to fight it and ensure that people are protected from its deadly impact.
Our administration has remained proactive in responding to the pandemic and also liaising closely with the Federal Government and relevant stakeholders to tackle the disease.
You will recall that when we received information about some Chinese nationals who arrived Wase Local Government Area after the outbreak of the disease in their country, I immediately directed the Commissioner of Health to deploy experts to investigate.
Fortunately, the results came out negative after their period of quarantine and observation, leaving the State with no case of Corona Virus disease to this day. We have continued our surveillance to ensure that any suspected case is identified and addressed appropriately.
In addition, we also activated our Public Health Emergency Operation Centre to enhance our monitoring capacity and ability to receive up-to-date information from all the 17 Local Government Areas.
With more cases recorded in Nigeria and based on advice of experts, I directed the closure of all schools from pre-primary to tertiary level in the State from Saturday 21st March 2020.
Afterwards, we organised a critical enlightenment session with key stakeholders such as religious, traditional and community leaders, civil society, non-governmental organisations as well as health experts, which was chaired by His Excellency, Prof. Sonni Tyoden, Deputy Governor of Plateau State.
Thereafter, Government directed all worship centres to reduce congregation to not more than 50 persons with a 2-metre spacing interval as well as provide running water and soap for handwashing and sanitizers at their entrances.
We also directed that all funerals, weddings and other social events should have only family members and relations not exceeding 50 people in attendance, while cultural festivals and anniversaries were suspended until further notice.
All these precautionary measures were aimed at safeguarding the possible occurrence of the disease in the State. Government appreciates responsible citizens who complied with the directives and commend their sense of duty and patriotism.
However, we have noted with dismay the flagrant disregard and disrespect to this directive by some individuals and groups including religious institutions who did not only flout the order, but also dissuaded their followers from abiding by it.
Of particular note is the non-compliance to the outright suspension of anniversaries and cultural festivals as well as inability of some schools to close as directed. This is rather unfortunate.
Government views this as an attempt not only to test its resolve, but also endanger public safety and risk the lives of innocent citizens. Let me make it categorically clear that such actions will no longer be tolerated.
Arising from an Emergency Meeting of the State Executive Council, further measures have been taken. With effect from Wednesday 25th March 2020, all public servants in Plateau State from Grade levels 12 and below are to work from home for the next 30 days.
Only workers offering essential services such as security, health, media, street cleaners and water supply and energy are exempted from this directive.
In view of the crowds associated with markets, government is directing all markets to close effective 25th March 2020. Only traders selling food items, pharmaceuticals and cooking gas are to remain open. In addition, all street trading, street hawking, and begging are prohibited. The weekly Sunday markets at Ahmadu Bello Way, Bukuru and environs are hereby banned.
Social joints, Nightclubs, drinking parlours are to also close effective Wednesday 25th March 2020, 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. Henceforth, all entry points into Plateau State by land and air will be subjected to preliminary tests.
The weekly State Executive Council Meetings are hereby suspended indefinitely. However, Council will continue to consult and meet through digital means.
I have directed security agencies to begin enforcement and anyone found violating these orders should be arrested. Should the situation continue this way, we shall not hesitate to impose a complete lockdown in order to save the lives of our people.
To ensure total compliance, Government has set up a Task Force on Enforcement and Monitoring, which will be personally chaired by me to coordinate, evaluate and review developments on the disease in the State. The Task Force will also give updates to citizens from time to time.
My dear citizens, just yesterday, I undertook an inspection visit to the isolation facilities in the State located at the Jos University Teaching Hospital, Plateau Specialist Hospital, and Bingham University Teaching Hospital.
From what we have on ground, I am satisfied that we are reasonably prepared to respond to any eventuality. However, the few challenges observed are being addressed as I have directed the immediate purchase of additional ventilators and other consumables for the three Isolation Centres.
In addition to this, government is setting up additional isolation centres in the Old JUTH, Pankshin and Shendam General Hospitals.
While our prayer and determination is not to record any Corona Virus disease case in Plateau State, we are not oblivious of the national incidences. This calls for more vigilance, sensitization and preventive measures.
I have therefore directed that more sensitization jingles and information materials should be produced and disseminated across all communication channels including the social media to reach people at the grassroots.
Dear citizens of Plateau State, you may have been following the impact of the Corona Virus disease on the global economy. Nigeria is not isolated and has already been heavily impacted because of the crashing oil prices on the international market.
Already, the Federal Budget has been slashed by N1.5 Trillion naira in line with the reality of the times. This comes with consequences for other tiers of Government. Expectedly, revenue accruing to Plateau State from the Federation Account has fallen drastically by over 51 percent.
Accordingly, we must brace up for the harsh economic realities and be ready to make necessary sacrifices in the coming weeks and months. Therefore many development projects and programmes will have to be reviewed in accordance to the emerging realities.
For the avoidance of doubt, recurrent expenditure other than salaries and pensions will be cut by 40 percent; the processes of fresh employment; implementation of the new minimum wage; funding of on-going projects among others, will be affected in the interim. Similarly, all allowances of political office holders are hereby slashed by 50 percent.
These decisions were painstakingly arrived at by the State Executive Council on the strength of the advice of the State Economic Advisory Council. We shall therefore appreciate the understanding of all and sundry in this difficult period, pending when we put this situation behind us.
My dear people of Plateau State, this period is one that we must face with optimism, prayers, and above all caution and pre-caution. With what we see around the world especially in countries with higher standards of living, our best chance as a developing nation is prevention.
Therefore, I strongly advise all our citizens and visitors coming into Plateau State who recently returned from overseas or know that they have had contact with any of the confirmed cases in the country to self-isolate for 14 days.
In the event that they exhibit any symptoms such as cough, fever, and difficulty in breathing, they should immediately call the following emergency toll free numbers to report:
These emergency numbers will be repeatedly announced in different mass media platforms.
We should also avoid unnecessary movement. People should as much as possible stay at home and only move around when it is absolutely necessary. In the coming days, we shall unveil further movement restrictions as the situation demands.
Markets, Motor Parks, Hotels, Super Markets and restaurants are to strictly adhere to the guidelines for social distancing while providing running water, soap and sanitizers for customers at their entrances.
Finally, I urge you all to avoid panic and the spread of fake news and unverified information, which has the tendency to do more damage than the disease itself.
Working together and with God Almighty on our side, we can overcome this challenge and face the future with greater prospect. As a people of faith, Let us therefore intensify our prayers to God and not succumb to fear.
God bless Plateau State, God bless the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
Rt. Hon. (Dr) Simon Bako Lalong, KSG G
Executive Governor, Plateau State &
Chairman, Northern Governors Forum
24th March 2020.