The Nigerian Medical Association and the Nigeria Union of Teachers, on Tuesday, took a swipe at the Federal Government over its “safe reopening of schools.’
The apex organisations of medical doctors and teachers in the country told The PUNCH that the directive that graduating classes should resume was not only badly thought-out, but also could expose both teachers and pupils to the deadly coronavirus.
The NMA President, Prof Innocent Ujah, who spoke to one of our correspondents in Jos, said that given the current low level of compliance by Nigerians with COVID-19 safety protocols, it was risky to ask pupils to resume.
The NUT General Secretary, Mike Ene, said government was playing politics with the directive. He wondered how teachers, who had not been paid salaries in some states, would get money to buy personal protective equipment.
Ujah and Ene spoke just as the Ondo State Governor, Rotimi Akeredolu, on Tuesday became the latest prominent Nigerian to test positive for the virus.
Following the governor’s disclosure of his COVID-19 status, the state government ordered commissioners and other aides of Akeredolu to compulsorily go for the coronavirus test.
But as concerns mounted over the spread of COVID-19, the NMA faulted Monday’s pronouncement by the Federal Government on the reopening of schools.
The Presidential Task Force on COVID-19, at its briefing in Abuja, said the government in what it called “safe reopening of schools,” had approved resumption of pupils in graduating classes including primary six, the Junior Secondary School 3 and the Senior Secondary School 3.
The government also lifted the ban it placed on interstate travels and domestic flights.
In approving the resumption of graduating classes, it said water must be provided in schools for hand-washing and both pupils and teachers must wear face masks while observing social distancing.
Many schools don’t have water – NMA
Faulting the FG, the NMA president asked, “What is the compliance of the citizens in terms of regular hand-washing and other safety protocols? At the moment, many of the schools don’t even have water. Obviously, it becomes very difficult to say that schools should reopen because you have to wash your hands regularly.
“Again, I don’t know how the teachers would be teaching with face masks and all the pupils will wear face masks. If you are not used to face masks, you may not breath well, particularly if the one you have is not standard.”
He also said it would be difficult to observe social distancing in crowded in classrooms. Ujah stated, “I believe the government should think about it. If they can stay a little, people have to be alive to go to school and the way things are happening, the compliance level is still very low. I don’t think it is appropriate to open the schools now.”
We can’t resume, we don’t want to die, teachers tell FG
Also, the NUT general secretary said government was not serious with his directive. He said teachers could not resume because nobody wanted to die.
He stated, “I don’t know who is going to use his own child as a guinea pig. It is only those who are alive that can speak of keeping hope alive. How can we resume? Does anybody want to die?”
Ene said if government wanted teachers to resume, they should be provided with necessary materials and incentives.
Teachers are being taken for granted, govt yet to provide PPE, says NUT
The NUT general secretary stated, “The NUT is saying that the government has not assured us properly to go back to school. Has the NCDC (Nigeria Centre for Disease Control) moved around to make sure that the isolation centres are provided in schools? What measures have they told us have been provided for teachers to come back?
“We are being taken for granted. Teachers are parents and human beings too and their children don’t want to lose them out of carelessness. We are ready. We are not afraid to teach. But government has not shown commitment for us to go back to school. All what the government is doing is mere politics.
“When you talk of guidelines, we have passed the stage of talking without actions. I just read a text from a certain school asking my daughter who is going to take final exams to come back. They are demanding sanitisers, face marks and other consumables, thereby throwing back the burden to parents who have already been overstretched with feeding their children since they have been at home.
“But government has reneged on what it should do. In a class of 60, 40 or 70 pupils, you’re talking of physical and social distancing. Can a teacher take a class from 8am to 2pm, 2pm to 5pm and 5pm to 10pm? What is the PPE that government has given to teachers?
“If a teacher is going to face many pupils in a class, and has no PPE, how will the teacher function or they expect him to use his meagre salary? I don’t know if government is aware that as of today so many states and local governments are owing teachers.”
Akeredolu tests positive, orders aides to go for test
Meanwhile, the Ondo State governor, who disclosed his status via his Twitter handle, said it would not affect his victory in the state governorship election.
The governor, who said he tested positive for the virus, wrote, “Earlier today, I got confirmation of a positive result for COVID-19. I am asymptomatic and not displaying any symptoms. I am currently self-isolating and supervised home management will be administered by the wonderful team at our infectious disease hospital. I ask that we all stay safe and be well.”
Akeredolu, however boasted , in a video on the Twitter account, that his being tested positive for the virus did not mark the end of the road for his second term aspiration. He expressed optimism that he would secure the ticket of the party and win the October governorship election.
The governor stated, “I had malaria a few days ago and I was treated and I did get over it . And as of the time we had our party NEC meeting (National Executive Council), and my colleagues called and I spoke with one of them who felt that malaria should not be treated lightly that I should go ahead and have a test for COVID -19.
“The result came out today, June 30, 2020 and I tested positive but asymptomatic . I am not feeling sick nor feeling feverish anyway. But my doctors have advised that I should take the normal treatment and self-isolate. I believe that supervised home management will be ideal for me now. So, for now, I will be isolated.
“Let me assure our people that as you can see me, there are many of us that don’t have the symptoms that are there and you cannot see it. This time, we would conduct another test and we will know the result. Let me assure our people that the work is going on.”
The governor directed all his cabinet members and other aides to go for the COVID-19 test compulsorily.
The state Commissioner for Information, Mr Donald Ojogo, who stated this in a statement, also confirmed that Akeredolu had gone on self-isolation.
He said , “Governor Akeredolu has directed all members of the cabinet, close aides and others who have had reasons for constant contacts with him to undergo compulsory tests.
“Mr Governor has resolved to self-isolate in line with accepted global standards in respect of COVID-19 protocols. This becomes necessary in order to ensure a proper determination and direction of focus.”
Ondo monarchs go on self-isolation
It was also learnt that some of the traditional rulers in the state had gone into self-isolation in their respective palaces .
A few days ago, the monarchs across the state under the aegis of the Ondo State Council of Obas, had a meeting with the governor where they publicly endorsed him for a second term. After the meeting, the royal fathers took a group photograph with the governor.
It was gathered that on hearing the news that the governor had contracted the virus, some of the obas had gone on self-isolation, due to their likely contact with the governor during the meeting.
An aide to one of monarchs in the Ondo South Senatorial District, on condition of anonymity, confirmed to one of our correspondents that his boss was already on self-isolation in his palace .
He said, “Kabiyesi is already on self-isolation in the palace. Though, on that day many of the obas did not have direct contact with the governor, some were close to him. Secondly, social distancing was maintained while all of them used face masks throughout the meeting.”
A former Chairman of the All Progressives Congress and governorship aspirant of the party , Mr Isaac Kekemeke, commended the governor for not hiding his status .
In a statement by the Chairman of Strategic Mobilisation and Communication Committee of his campaign, Demola Ijabiyi, the aspirant said early announcement of the governor was godly.
Similarly, another aspirant of the party, Chief Olusola Oke, described the development as a rude shock .
Oke, in a statement he personally signed, expressed hope that the governor would recover quickly.
Lawmakers who went to Abuja with gov should go for test – PDP
But the state chapter of the Peoples Democratic Party said the governor might have spread the disease in the last few days.
The PDP , in a statement issued on Tuesday by its Director of Media and Publicity, Mr Zadok Akintoye, specifically urged members of the state House of Assembly, who went to Abuja with the governor, to go for test in order to know their status.
We are behaving as if COVID-19 is a joke, Wase tells Reps
Also, there was COVID-19 fear in the House of Representatives on Tuesday as the Deputy Speaker warned members against shunning protocols.
Wase issued the warning shortly before the House adjourned plenary till Thursday in honour of the lawmaker representing Lagos East Senatorial District, Adebayo Osinowo, aka Pepper, who died on June 15 of suspected COVID-19 complications.
He said, “COVID-19 is real. We should not joke about it. The way and manner we conduct ourselves is not good enough. We are the ones making the regulations and the laws for the country, and if there are protocols that have been established regarding the pandemic, I think we should be honourable enough to observe every protocol that has been put in place.
“I must say that we have lost quite a number of persons, some very close to us. We should not joke about this matter. I want to plead that we should sit in accordance with the spacing.”
The Majority Leader, Alhassan Ado-Doguwa, urged Wase to ask the sergeants-at-arms to mark seats as part of measures to force members to observe social distancing.
The deputy speaker, while upholding the prayer, asked the Chief Whip, Mohammed Monguno, to ensure that the lawmakers sit according to the marking.
Later, the lawmaker representing Agege Federal Constituency in Lagos State, Mr Babatunde Adejare, recalled how Osinowo was a cheerful giver. He recalled how the late lawmaker once shared N150,000 to security men on his way out of the National Assembly and he was shocked.
Adejare also recalled that Osinowo usually read Bible and Quaran every day while he usually observed the five Islamic prayers daily.
The Ogun State Government has said COVID-19 has spread to 19 out of the 20 local government areas of the state.
The government, in the latest weekly infograph released from the ministry of health, disclosed that only the Remo-North Local Government Area of the state had yet to record any case of COVID-19 .
Face mask violators arrested in Osun, shown videos of isolation centres
In Osun State, the COVID-19 Joint Task Force, on the order of the state government, arrested scores of inhabitants of Osogbo, who did not wear face masks.
The JTF men led by the Special Adviser to the state Governor on Security, Abiodun Ige, arrested many residents, especially those in public vehicles and motorcycles.
They were taken to Salvation Army Middle School, Alekuwodo, where they were shown videos of COVID-19 patients that were being treated in isolation centres.
The operation which resulted in traffic gridlock in Olaiya, Oke Fia and Old Garage areas, made many people that had left home without wearing face masks to quickly buy at the roadsides to avoid being arrested.
One of those arrested, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told The PUNCH that those arrested were given lectures on coronavirus by some medical personnel, who also showed them how patients inside isolation centres were treated.
When contacted, Special Adviser to Osun State Governor on Security, Abiodun Ige, said the exercise was meant to enforce compliance with COVID-19 guidelines.
On his part, the commissioner of Police, Akwa Ibom State, Imohimi Edgal, directed area commanders and divisional police officers to arrest and prosecute anyone found in public places without a face mask.
In a statement by the command’s Public Relations Officer, Nnudam Fredrick, on Tuesday, Edgal said, “The Akwa Ibom State Police Command in its renewed efforts and determination to enforce the provisions of the Quarantine and Restriction of Movement Regulations, 2020 as amended, reaffirms that wearing of face masks by all persons in public places will be vigorously enforced.”