President Muhammadu Buhari last night agreed with the suggestion of the Nigeria Governors Forum (NGF), which recommended that people should be allowed to go about their normal businesses within their states during the day while observing the protocol of stopping the spread of COVID-19.
He, however, declared a nationwide curfew between 8pm and 6am, saying restrictions on social and religious gatherings would remain enforced.
The president also extended the lockdown in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Lagos and Ogun states for one week to end on Monday, May 4.
In a nationwide broadcast, President Buhari also directed ban on interstate travels with the exception of movement of essential goods and services.
He said the decisions were taken in line with the recommendations of the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19, the various federal government committees that have reviewed socio-economic matters and the Nigeria Governors Forum.
"However, this will be followed strictly with aggressive reinforcement of testing and contact tracing measures while allowing the restoration of some economic and business activities in certain sectors.
"Furthermore, new nationwide measures are to be introduced as follows: There will be an overnight curfew from 8pm to 6am. This means all movements will be prohibited during this period except for essential services.
"There will be a ban on non-essential inter-state passenger travel until further notice. Partial and controlled interstate movement of goods and services will be allowed for the movement of goods and services from producers to consumers," he said.
The president said government would make the use of facemasks mandatory in addition to maintaining physical distancing and personal hygiene while urging state governments, corporate organisations and philanthropists to support the production of cloth masks for citizens.
How the economy will bounce back
President Buhari said the Presidential Task Force would provide sector specific details to allow for preparations by governments, businesses and institutions on the way forward.
"In respect to the above guidelines, state governors may choose to adapt and expand based on their unique circumstances provided they maintain alignment with the guidelines issued above.
"To support our businesses and traders, the monetary and fiscal authorities shall deploy all the necessary provisions needed for production to continue and thus, jobs restored," he said.
Kano to remain closed
President Buhari also last night made a strong statement on Kano, which recorded spike in mysterious deaths in the past few days.
Daily Trust reports that Governor Abdullahi Ganduje had earlier declared total lockdown of the state with a window of some days for the people to restock.
"These revised guidelines (easing of movements) will not apply to Kano State," Buhari said in his speech.
"With regards to Kano, I have directed the enforcement of a total lockdown for a period of two weeks effective immediately. The federal government shall deploy all the necessary human, material and technical resources to support the state in controlling and containing the pandemic and preventing the risk of further spread to neighbouring states," he said.
Our approach is working
President Buhari also said the methods being deployed to halt the spread of the COVID-19 were working, and thanked the international community and religious bodies like the Christian Association of Nigeria and the Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs (SCIA) for their support.
He said: "The health systems and economies of many nations continue to struggle as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.
"Nigeria continues to adapt to these new global realities on a daily basis. Today, I will present the facts as they are and explain our plans for the coming months fully aware that some key variables and assumptions may change in the coming days or weeks. "Exactly two weeks ago, there were 323 confirmed cases in 20 states and the Federal Capital Territory. As at this morning (yesterday), Nigeria had recorded 1,273 cases across 32 States and the FCT. Unfortunately, this includes 40 deaths. "I am using this opportunity to express our deepest condolences to the families of all Nigerians that have lost their loved ones as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. This is our collective loss and we share your grief. "Initial models predicted that Nigeria will record an estimated 2,000 confirmed cases in the first month after the index case. This means that despite the increase in the number of confirmed cases recorded in the past two weeks, the measures we have put in place thus far have yielded positive outcomes against the projections," he said.
He said over 10,000 healthcare workers have been trained while additional personal protective equipment have been distributed to all the states.
Buhari said health workers would be paid hazard allowances and other incentives, adding that they had procured insurance cover for 5,000 frontline health workers.
Vows to check excesses of security agencies
While thanking them for their support in ensuring compliance with the lockdown directive, President Buhari said security operatives who went beyond their boundaries will be dealt with.
"Our security agencies continue to rise to the challenge posed by this unusual situation. While we feel deeply concerned about isolated security incidents, I want to assure all Nigerians that your safety and security remain our primary concern especially in these difficult and uncertain times.
"As we focus on protecting lives and properties, we will not tolerate any human rights abuse by our security agencies. The few reported incidences are regrettable, and I want to assure you that the culprits will be brought to justice," he said.
NLC, doctors. Afenifere speak
The Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) has commended President Buhari for the latest decisions he took.
NLC President, Comrade Ayuba Wabba in a phone interview with Daily Trust noted that "It is a balanced approach, he has taken on board the concern of many Nigerians especially businesses, the informal sector and the most vulnerable group that have been affected by the total lockdown.
"I think this will also assist the economy in gradual recovery," he said, noting that the organised labour and the employers' organisation have been canvassing for the lockdown to be relaxed.
Asked what he thinks about the extension of the lockdown in the FCT, Lagos, Ogun and extension to Kano, the President of the Nigerian Association of Resident Doctors (NARD), Dr. Aliyu Sokomba, said considering the reality on ground, the COVID-19 outbreak will not disappear anytime soon and that the lockdown was not sustainable in Nigeria.
He said President Buhari must ensure that there is balance in the need to minimise the spread of the disease and the sustenance of the people since the palliative measures have proven ineffective.
Dr. Audu Onyemocho, an associate Professor of Community Medicine and Head of Department of Epidemiology and Community Health at the Benue State University Teaching Hospital, Makurdi said there should be extension of the lockdown to break the chain of transmission and address the community transmission presently being witnessed.
Doctor Naheem Ekemode, a medical practitioner said the federal government should relax the lockdown and enforce compulsory use of face masks across the country.
Ekemode, a former Chairman of Lagos State Hospitals Management Board, in a chat with Daily Trust said the COVID-19 situation is not as bad in Nigeria as being experienced in America and Europe. According to him, the compulsory use of face masks would prevent those with any infection from transmitting it to other people.
"I expect the President to relax the lockdown and everybody should begin to wear face masks in the public. We need to open up the economy because as it is, our economy is going down the drain. The continued lockdown is leading to lawlessness, crimes and robbery in the country.
The incidents of coronavirus in Nigeria are not reactively increasing. They are fluctuating. Our situation is not as bad as we have it in America and other European countries. More so the virus doesn't like heat and we are in a tropical region."
He said boosting the immunity of people against the virus would also help in containing the spread. He said government should also look inward into the local herbs and leaves saying most of them are rich in Vitamin C, "which is essential in the management of the virus."
On its part, the Pan Yoruba sociocultural group, Afenifere, in reaction to the president's broadcast said the gradual easing of lockdown should be combined with "social safety measures" to slow down the rate of infection.
Spokesman of the group, Yinka Odumakin said, "We are in a difficult situation that tasks health workers and leaders across the world. They have no solutions to what we face and they are just making efforts.
"The gradual easing on lockdowns to keep productivity on should be combined with enforcement of social safety measures to keep the rate of affliction as low as possible.
The government has to commit to more palliatives by giving edibles that are good to the people and not spoilt ones as we have seen lately," he said.