Abuja and Ibadan — The federal government has approved what it called safe reopening of schools nationwide in phase two of the gradual easing of lockdown that was yesterday extended for another four weeks.
But only graduating students in primary six, Junior Secondary School three (JSS 3) and Senior Secondary School three (SSS 3) will resume.
It has also lifted the ban on interstate travels with effect from tomorrow, provided such journeys are made outside the curfew hours of 10pm- 4am.
The federal government has also approved domestic flights' resumption as soon as practicable.
However, it said given the rising wave of COVID-19 infections, churches, mosques, open bars, night clubs, spars and gyms would remain closed while the 10 pm to 4 am curfew was retained.
Speaking in Abuja yesterday during the briefing by the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19, the Chairman of the task force, Mr. Boss Mustapha, said the reopening of schools was meant to allow students in graduating classes to resume preparation for examinations.
Mustapha, who is also the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), stated that the developments were contained in the task force's fifth interim report, which was submitted to the President Muhammadu Buhari.
He said: "I am pleased to inform you that Mr. President has carefully considered the 5th Interim Report of the PTF and has accordingly approved that, with the exception of some modifications to be expatiated upon later, the phase II of the eased lockdown be extended by another four weeks with effect from Tuesday, June 30, 2020, through midnight of Monday, 27 July 2020.
"Specifically, however, the following measures shall either remain in place or come into effect:
"Maintaining the current phase of the national response, for another four weeks in line with modifications to be expatiated by the national coordinator;
"Permission of movement across state borders only outside curfew hours with effect from 1st July 2020;
"Enforcement of laws around non-pharmaceutical interventions by states, in particular, the use of face masks in public places;
"Safe re-opening of schools to allow students in graduating classes resume in person in preparation for examinations;
"Safe reopening of domestic aviation services as soon as practicable;
"Publication of revised guidelines around the three thematic areas of general movement, industry and labour; and community activities; provision of technical support for states to mobilise additional resources for the response."
Also speaking at the briefing, the National Coordinator of the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19, Dr. Sani Aliyu, said all primary schools and daycare centres nationwide would remain closed until further notice.
FG Considers Lockdown of 18 LGAs
Earlier, Mustapha told State House correspondents after leading some members of the task force to brief the president that the federal government might consider locking down 18 out of the nation's 774 local government areas (LGAs) considered to account for 60 per cent of the confirmed COVID-19 cases in Nigeria in the next phase of eased lockdown.
He said the affected state governments would implement what he called "precision lockdown."
While noting that the nation has not reached its peak as far as confirmed cases were concerned, he urged all stakeholders to ensure compliance with all non-pharmaceutical interventions.
He also gave an insight into the reason behind the low fatality rate in Nigeria, saying 80 per cent of the infections are in the age bracket of 31 to 40 years, which he described as a very active part of the population.
Mustapha said the highest rate of COVID-19 cases was recorded in 18 of the LGAs.
According to the SGF, 60 per cent of the total over 24,000 cases recorded as at June 28 came from the 18 local governments.
The PTF chairman said the COVID-19 cases would continue to rise as long as there is no vaccine or drug for its cure while the country's testing capacity has also increased.
He added that the only way the spread could be reduced is strict adherence to non-pharmaceutical prescriptions such as the use of face masks, social distancing, avoidance of overcrowded places, among other protocols already publicised.
The SGF explained that the mortality rate in Nigeria has been low when compared to the situation in most countries because most of those infected by the virus fall within the age bracket of 31-40 whom he said had strong immunity to fight the disease.
However, he said the PTF was only concerned about 20 per cent of the population whom he said might be victims of the virus, noting that five per cent of them are likely to succumb to it because of their ages.
According to him, it is against this backdrop that the PTF is doing its best to protect those who fall within the category, noting that it is the reason they said those from 55 years and above should not go to worship centres.
FG Retains Nationwide Curfew
The PTF National Coordinator, Aliyu, said the federal government had retained the nationwide curfew declared to contain the spread of COVID-19.
The curfew will remain in force between 10 pm and 4 am.
Aliyu added that the federal government had approved restriction of movements in high burden local government areas.
It's Suicidal to Reopen Schools Now, ASUU Insists
Meanwhile, the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) yesterday stated that it would be suicidal for schools to be reopened by the federal government amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
ASUU has also kicked against any appointment and promotions carried out under what it described as the illegal Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System (IPPIS).
The union said the government must make resources available in order for schools to meet proposed conditions by the Federal Ministry of Education.
ASUU National President, Prof. Biodun Ogunyemi, made this position known while speaking with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Ota, Ogun State.
He urged the government to provide the ideal environment and meet the conditions spelt out by the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) before reopening schools across the country.
Ogunyemi said: "The federal government must lead and show the ways by meeting the conditions for reopening of schools before any school can be allowed to open because COVID-19 pandemic is a health challenge.
"When it comes to public health, it is something that should not be left in the hands of individuals but the federal government must take the lead."
The ASUU president listed the conditions spelt out by NCDC to include the provision of materials for regular hand washing, provision of face masks, isolations spaces and hands sanitisers.
He said many government-owned schools did not have the financial capacity to meet the outlined conditions.
He said: "It is suicidal to reopen schools now if the federal government itself could not meet the conditions spelt out by the NCDC and the World Health Organisation. The nation will expose innocent children to avoidable risks."
Schools across the country were shut in March to curb the spread of the pandemic.
ASUU Kicks against Promotion under IPPIS
ASUU also kicked against any appointment and promotions carried out under IPPIS, saying it is illegal.
The union in a strike Bulletin 10 signed by Ogunyemi, and released to the press by the Chairman, University of Ibadan chapter, Prof. Ayo Akinwole, said the union would insist on the reversal of appointments and promotions during the strike for failing to meet established norms and procedures.
The union also lashed out at some vice-chancellors promising online delivery they cannot defend.
According to Ogunyemi, the union is happy when its members are promoted but not without following due process of academic elevation, stating that appointment through the IPPIS by some vice-chancellors will be reversed.
ASUU also asked members not to fill any form or document sent to them through their vice chancellors, alleging that some VCs are working with National Universities Commission (NUC) for 'fake' data collection.
Ogunyemi said the union was working to ensure that lecturers yet to receive their salaries for four months get paid while also working at getting new salaries and welfare packages commensurate with global standards for members.