Nigerians got a soothing message from their President on Thursday.
“Stay calm and not panic”, President Muhammadu Buhari told Nigerians, assuring that his administration was managing the outbreak of the Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
The President’s message was contained in a statement by his Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Mallam Garba Shehu.
In a veiled reference to calls from certain quarters that he should make a national broadcast on the pandemic, the President cautioned Nigerians against falling into the ploy to politicise the global crisis.
The statement highlighted the measures being taken to manage the situation in Nigeria. It also noted that the Nigeria’s strategy of campaign against the pandemic had become a template for other countries to adopt.
It reads: “Nigeria, like every other country around the world, is dealing with the unexpected and unprecedented impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Muhammadu Buhari administration has taken some steps to mitigate the effects on the Nigerian people.
“To prevent the spread of cases imported into Nigeria, the President has already ordered the restrictions of travel from 13 countries, each with more than 1,000 confirmed cases of Covid-19.
“The government has also suspended visa issuance to nationals of these countries. The restriction will take effect from March 21 and will remain until further notice. While Nigeria delights in welcoming the world, the safety and protection of our citizens and land must take priority.
“The various agencies of government, including media organisation owned by the government, have embarked on vigorous campaigns promoting hygiene measures. There are, currently, very stringent regimes of checks at the points of air and sea entry into the country. The effort Nigeria is making as is well known, has already received the commendation of the World Health Organisation (WHO).
“The Presidency wishes to assure Nigerians that government is on top of the situation. There is no cause for panic. So far, the measures put in place are working efficiently. What this country is doing has been recommended as a template.
“The President trusts the relevant Ministers in his cabinet and the officials of the National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), who are providing him with constant updates and professional counsel. These officials have a track record of competence.
“The President instructed the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) to reduce the pump price of fuel. The Covid-19 pandemic has led to a crash in the global price of crude oil, and the President decided that every Nigerian should benefit from this.
“Subsequently, the NNPC announced a N20 deduction, and the pump price of fuel has now been reduced from N145 per litre to N125.
“The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) on Monday announced a credit relief of N1.1 trillion to businesses affected by the pandemic. The bank has also established a facility for household, small and medium enterprises (SMEs) and announced a reduction of interest rates for loans from nine per cent to five per cent.
“We do not want to create panic. But we will continue to update the Nigerian public with relevant information. We plead with every Nigerian to cooperate with the government in the fight against Covid-19 and obey all instructions from the NCDC.
“We have a high level Presidential Coordination Committee chaired by the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF). This body should be allowed to carry out its duties.”
On the plot to politicise the pandemic, the President said: “We also plead with Nigerians not to see this most peculiar of times as one to be politicised or seen as an opportunity to regurgitate grudges against the government or the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC). North, South, East, and West – all Nigerians must unite to fight this plague, irrespective of religious or ideological affiliation.
“In this regard, populist advocacies such as the one accusing the President of ‘complacency’ simply because he has not made a television address by ranking members of our respected parliament are cheap and sensational. These are not the times for populism and cheap politics.
“President Buhari thanks all those at the forefront of the fight against the deadly disease.”