ADDRESS DELIVERED BY THE GOVERNOR OF OGUN STATE, HIS EXCELLENCY, PRINCE DAPO ABIODUN MFR, ON UPDATE AND EFFORTS TO COMBAT COVID-19 PANDEMIC ON WEDNESDAY, 29TH JULY, 2020
My dear people of Ogun State, It is 26 days that I last addressed you on our continued efforts towards fighting COVID-19. The scourge has not only redefined human relationship, but has drastically changed the face of social interactions, and, indeed, life and living, generally. For now, we are all adapting to a new normal that nobody can say if we will ever return fully to our old ways. Nevertheless, we cannot fold our arms and sit on the fence for things to further degenerate. We will always be ready to deploy resources, insight and our capabilities to live with this new normal and hope that by providence, we will get away with the scourge as soon as possible.
2. However, as of now, the best of projections and prognoses show that we are yet to reach the peak of transmission. The national figures are frightening. We have total confirmed cases of 41,804 as at Monday 28th July, 2020; 18,764 persons were treated and discharged. It is worrisome the number of fatalities continues to rise especially in the last 4 weeks. This has risen to 868. In our home State, it is also a fact that the number of cases of COVID-19 is on the upward swing, particularly in the last few weeks of the second phase of our ease of the restrictions and opening up of more sectors of our economy. As at the same 26th July, COVID-19 figures in Ogun State are: we have screened over 10,000; we have also tested 5,611 people; we have 1,318 confirmed cases; out of which 1, 054 have been successfully treated; but, I must also say that we have regrettable cases of 23 fatalities; while we still have 224 receiving medical attention. We will continue to intensify efforts and enlarge our screening capacity so that we can identify infected people for prompt treatment and resultantly flatten the curve.
3. We must admit that by available statistics, community transmission of the pandemic is increasing on daily basis. What makes it more worrisome is that many carriers are asymptomatic and this is putting our public health and safety at a higher risk, thus demanding that we must take personal responsibility. To this end, I urge our people to continue to take personal responsibility by adhering to the precautionary measures as enunciated by the World Health Organisation, Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 and the National Centre for Disease Control. We should ensure personal compliance and that of our loved ones.
4. You will recall that I mentioned in my last address that we were yet to commence full reopening of the economy. Our approach to full reopening is gradual. Our dear State’s economy cannot afford a reversal of the gains to stem the tide of community spread and we need to prepare more for the post-COVID-19 era. The fact is that while we continue to provide conducive environment for the individual prosperity of all our people, we will also continue to put measures in place to ensure and guarantee their wellbeing, welfare and wellness in this COVID-19 period and at all times. I must say that this is the kernel of the implementation of the “Building our Future Together” Agenda.
5. In the last few weeks, two important subjects have pervaded public discourse as it concerns Ogun State and COVID-19. They border on reopening of schools and the reopening of worship centres. These two subjects have peculiar importance to us as a Government. The education sector has not only been one of the biggest industries in our dear State, and there is no gainsaying that we are the education capital of Nigeria. We also are homes to the biggest worship centres of the two major religions in Nigeria: Islam and Christianity. Here is where people come from different parts of the nation and even from all over the world to worship God in truth and in spirit.
6. On education, we appreciate the fact that only properly prepared and equipped youth of today will take the advantages and benefits of the future we are building. Education is a major pillar upon which we hope to build a better future for our children and grand children. We appreciate its importance so much that even in the heat of the COVID and its effects, we were the first to organise e-classes through the Ogun digiclass to keep our students safe whilst engaging in their studies and ensuring that learning continues.
7. However, we also appreciate the fact that we need to make these students physically available, especially to sit for external examinations which are not peculiar to our country alone. In this direction, we have put in place a multi-dimensional approach towards ensuring that our students resume learning in a safe and healthy environment. Our fear is that children are mostly asymptomatic even as carriers. These asymptomatic carriers might go back home after contracting the virus innocently and the transmission continues to their parents, or grand-parents, cousins, aunties and thus increase the spread of the virus.
8. I want to inform the people of Ogun State that, with or without COVID, the children of Ogun State and their education will remain our biggest priority. We have continued to engage different stakeholders in the educational sector and we have received far-reaching recommendations.
9. Towards this direction, we have made available to all public and private schools a Risk Assessment Form on www.ogmoest.org to assess their readiness and close identified gaps before resumption of academic activities. We are happy that the Federal Government and the external examination bodies, especially the West Africa Examination Council (WAEC), have agreed on resumption dates and dates of examination especially for the exit classes. Therefore, in line with the Federal Government resolutions, exit classes, that is – strictly SS3 only (public or private schools) - will resume classes on Monday, 4th August, 2020. Then, there will be a 2-week revision classes to prepare the SS3 students for the commencement of the Senior Secondary Certificate Examination (SSCE) slated to start on Monday, 17th August, 2020. In readiness for this, we are putting in place facilities to meet COVID-19 preventive criteria. Amongst others:
* • A mandatory virtual training on prevention of Covid-19 for our school Administrative Heads and teachers;
* • Decontamination of the schools;
* • Teachers are being trained as first line responders
* • Establishment of sick bays / isolation rooms in each school
* • Provision of face masks
* • Provision of infrared thermometers
* • Provision of adequate supply of running water;
* • Provision of veronica buckets;
* • All School Administrators are to ensure that teachers are frequently trained on Information and Communication Technology (ICT) for virtual engagement of students;
* • Principals and Vice-Principals are to ensure staggering of closing time for students;
* • There will not be general school assembly but schools will observe class assembly.
* • There are additional requirement for boarding schools, which the ministry of Education, Science and Technology will communicate to schools with boarding facilities before operating the facilities.
These measures are also applicable to all private schools operating in Ogun State. As a matter, it should be noted that any School, whether private or public, that fails to comply with these guidelines will not be allowed to reopen. Let me also state that, with the exception of students in the exit classes, all students in our schools would enjoy Automatic Promotion to the next class. The Basic Certificate Examination (BECE), National Business and Technical Education Board (NABTEB) and Common Entrance Examination into the 33 Model Schools with boarding facilities in our dear State will be announced on a later date.
10. Let me use this opportunity to implore all our parents, teachers and all other stakeholders in the Education sector of our dear State to continue to ensure the safety of our children. You all need to pay special attention to all these pupils and students and ensure that they take to all the precautionary advice and measures as soon as the schools are reopened. We cannot afford the spread of this pandemic in schools and our homes. By doing this, you will not only join in the fight against the Corona Virus, but also share in the Government efforts towards the successful implementation of our “Building our Future Together” Agenda.
11. I will now address the worship centres. The arguments have been diverse and opinions divided. But, as a government, we are not unmindful of the need to balance the spiritual fulfilment of citizens and their peaceful, secure and prosperous earthily imperatives. We, therefore, resolved to continue to strategise in line with the Presidential Task Force address of Monday, 29th June, 2020 which lifted the ban on worship centres, but allows each State of the Federation to manage its own peculiarity.
12. At this point, let me state very clearly that our Administration will remain resolute in its commitment and will not be distracted towards improving on the wellbeing, welfare and wellness of the people of Ogun State. Some have argued that we should have opened the worship centres immediately we opened markets. But, I have to state that there is a huge world of difference between our market places and our worship centres, especially in this part of the world. Markets, in Yoruba land, are usually open places with shops; people move around and will hardly be at a place for more than a few minutes at any time.
13. On the other hand, religious centres are enclosures; people are at a place for longer period of time; and, a lot of chanting and ecstatic expressions happen. In addition, a deep look into the population of our worship centres reveals that most of our worshippers are the elderly. They are medically and physically more vulnerable. We will rather want our worship centres to be venues of solemnisation of matrimonies; christening of new-borns; venues of thanksgivings and praise-worship to the greatness of God rather than being centres that unwittingly promote community transmission of COVID-19 and or any other communicable diseases for that matter. This explains our cautious, consultative, inclusive, and collaborative approach to reopening of our worship centres. Be that as it may, we appreciate the fact that a wholesome development of a human being also entails a spiritual rejuvenation and a modicum of divinity.
14. We have continued to engage the leaderships of the two religious bodies, as represented by Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) and the League of Imams and Alfas on the modalities for the reopening of the religious houses. And, we thank them for their understanding, support and solidarity. In fact, the committee on the consideration of reopening of worship centres has been enlarged to include the Honourable Commissioners for Health; Environment; and, Physical Planning. This committee has continued to interface with the leadership of different religious centres at several times. I must say that this has yielded positive results.
15. We now have Guidelines for the reopening of our worship centres jointly developed and agreed with our religious leaders. This was finalised after collaborative and inclusive meeting with the religious institutional representatives and made available on Monday, 27th July, 2020. It is in our collective interest to fully comply with the Guidelines so that, together, we can further flatten the curve of this pandemic. For the avoidance of doubt, some of the elements of the guidelines are as follows:
* i. All congregants must wear their face masks appropriately (that is, No facemask, No entry);
* ii. Adequate provision of running water;
* iii. Worship centres should be adequately cleaned and disinfected before and after services;
* iv. Household bleach solution / equivalent should be adequately prepared for disinfectations;
* v. There should be adequate provision and supervision of multiple Veronica Buckets for handwashing (fully automated handwashing machines are preferable);
* vi. There should be provision of alcohol-based sanitiser which must be used before and after service;
* vii. Worship centres should provide adequate toilet facilities with water;
* viii. Muslims are advised to perform ablution at home and go to Mosque with their personal praying mats;
* ix. Qualified Medical Practitioners or trained personnels should check the temperature of worshippers with infrared thermometer before allowing them to enter worship centres;
* x. There should be adequate medical support for sick persons;
* xi. All services on Friday/Sunday and other week days must adhere strictly to COVID-19 Guidelines;
* xii. There should be pre-designated standing position/sitting points to ensure not less than 2 meter distancing;
* xiii. The duration of religious services should not be more than one and a half hours. In addition, same duration of one and a half hours must be observed as intervals, where there are multiple services;
* xiv. The use of Air-conditioners should be discouraged while worship centres should be well ventilated with the use of fans;
* xv. There should not be any handshake/hugs by worshippers;
* xvi. Proper awareness of the susceptibility of the aged and people with signs of ill-health should be adequately created among worshippers at all times;
* xvii. Constant sensitisation of COVID-19 and its dangers should be included in sermon and goodwill messages;
* xviii. Provision of isolation rooms is mandatory in all worship centres or facilities;
* xix. Religious services and events should be recorded with digital camera for record purposes;
* xx. Worship Centres and facilities with more than 200 worshippers in a given service must further seek concurrence with the State Government committee;
* xxi. At all times, there should be adequate ventilation and effective Entry & Exit Management Procedure in each of the Worship Centres;
* xxii. Administration of holy communion should be devoid of sharing of any item and must follow COVID-19 protocols.
16. In view of the above, Friday, 14th August, 2020, has been tentatively fixed for the reopening of worship centres. We urge our religious leaders to ensure that they abide by the measures mutually agreed upon and rolled out. As Government, we will not hesitate to impose severe sanctions, including, but not limited to lockdown, on any Worship Centre that fails to comply with the laid down guidelines. It is important to note that all religions make provision for obedience to God and the authorities of the land. The Holy Qur’an stipulates in chapter 4, verse 59 that “O you who have believed, obey Allah and obey the messenger and those in authority among you...” The same message is also preached in the Holy Bible. According to the English Standard Version (ESV), Roman 13, verses 1-7, “let everybody be subject to the governing authorities... Those that exist have been instituted by God... those who resist will incur judgement”. We pray that God in His infinite mercies will continue to answer our prayers and help us with a cure to this pandemic. Amin!
17. At this point, let me congratulate the entire Muslim Ummah on the sighting of the moon of the 12th month of the Islamic calendar which also heralds the celebration of Eid-il-Kabir, popularly called “Ileya”, which is the 10th day of the last month of Islam. I understand that “Ileya” celebration will be on Friday, 31st July, 2020. However, having considered the prevalent circumstances as dictated by COVID-19, this Eid-il-Kabir celebration in Ogun State will follow the same pattern as we had in Eid-il-Fitri at the conclusion of Ramadan Fast, two months ago. We are guided by the counsel of the Ulammah, and especially, in line with the resolution of the Nigerian Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs (NSCIA). Let me state, therefore, that there will not be any form of “Eid” prayer or any form of gathering in Ogun State.
18. Therefore, each family will have to observe the “Eid” prayer at home. We beseech our citizens to stay safe by staying at home. And, there will not be any festivities or any gathering that violate the COVID-19 protocols of not more than 20 people at a time. We want to thank the entire Muslim Ummah for their thoughtfulness and consent that this year’s prayers will be observed privately and solemnly. I pray that we will all celebrate many more Eid-il-Kabir in the land of the living and in good health. Amin!
19. Let me also remind all of us that the initial precautionary measures are still in place. For clarity, the existing guidelines to combat COVID-19 in the State still subsist. These include:
i. All 5 working days in the week (Monday to Friday) are still opened for businesses and other economic transactions with only Saturday and Sunday as lockdown days until 14th August, 2020;
ii. Observation of dusk-to-dawn curfew as directed by the Presidential Task Force (PTF) i.e. between 10.00pm and 4.00am daily;
iii. Wearing of face masks in the public is now compulsory. Therefore, I hereby invoke powers conferred on me by Regulation 7 of the Infectious Diseases (Emergency Prevention) Regulations No. 2 of 2020 (the Regulations), made pursuant to section 33 of the Public Health Law of Ogun State (the Law), to mandate the compulsory wearing of face masks by all persons in public as part of measures to prevent the rapid spread of the Coronavirus pandemic (COVID-19). Failure to do so is punishable by up to six months' imprisonment under Regulation 8 of the Regulations and section 68 of the Law;
iv. Only one passenger is still allowed for motorcycles and two passengers only for tricycles;
v. Taxi cabs and buses still have 60% limitation on their carrying capacity and the measure to arrest and impound any driver that contravenes this in our State is still in force;
vi. The COVID-19 Task Force in markets must continue to ensure physical distancing, availability of hand washing facilities, and use of gloves and facemasks for traders;
vii. Decontamination will continue in our markets and other public places;
viii. Limitation of all gatherings to a maximum number of 20, is still in effect till 14th August, 2020;
ix. We have commenced the process of certifying Gyms, arcades, swimming pools, barber-shops, spas, beauty Salons, and all public parks, and golf courses including those in private residential estates with a view to reopening them in the foreseeable future;
x. Event centres, bars, casinos, cinemas, and night clubs are still under lockdown;
xi. Restaurants are permitted to provide only take-away services and should also ensure that there are no more than 10-15 customers at a time with physical distancing measures in place. Guidelines for eat-in services are still being fine-tuned;
xii. All industries in Ogun State must continue to comply with the “Infection Prevention and Control Guidelines for Workplaces in Ogun State to Combat COVID-19” as issued by the Ministry of Health in conjunction with the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investments. Therefore, testing of staff for COVID-19 in all industries in the State must be sustained;
xiii. The Task Force set up to conduct random spot checks on the premises of the industries, restaurants and other business enterprises to confirm compliance is still in operation.
20. As I end this address, I thank all our frontline workers – doctors, nurses, pharmacists, medical lab scientists and indeed all health workers for their dedication towards this fight. I will continue to commend the team spirit and doggedness of our security personnel, journalists and other essential workers for their efforts to flatten the curve of COVID-19. Similarly, I appreciate all individuals and corporate organizations that have partnered with us by way of donation and other means. We are indeed grateful. However, our doors are still open for more collaboration with interested individual or organizations on the fight against this COVID-19.
21. I thank you all for listening and God bless.
Igbega Ipinle Ogun, ajose gbogbo wa ni o!
Prince Dapo Abiodun, MFR,
Governor of Ogun State, Nigeria.
Wednesday, 29th July, 2020