Aso Rock on partial, not total lockdown - Presidency

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The presidency Wednesday in Abuja said the State House, like the entire country, is under a partial lockdown but not completely shut, as a result of the spread of COVID-19 in Nigeria. Speaking on the turn of events in the Presidential Villa, Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Femi Adesina, insisted that the seat of power was not shut down but its activities were low-keyed.

“Well, things are a bit on a low key. It doesn’t mean that the State House is shut down. It’s just that things are a bit on the low key just like the rest of the country. The rest of the country is also on a low key. There is partial lockdown in most parts of the country. So, what is happening at the State House can also be called a partial lockdown but not a complete lockdown,” Adesina said.

Asked to confirm reports that President Muhammadu Buhari tested negative for COVID-19, Adesina diplomatically deflected the question, neither confirming nor denying it. Instead, he asked quizzically: “What did you hear about the result?” he asked the reporter. “They say it’s negative,” the reporter responded. Then, Adesina retorted: “Good. So, that calls for rejoicing with him. Anybody that does the test and tests negative, we will rejoice with that person, and anybody that does it and tests positive, it’s not a death sentence.

“We also would pray along with the person. Give the person our goodwill and best wishes and they will surely come out of it. Even the index case in Nigeria recovered and has been discharged. So, God that has shown us mercy thus far; will continue to show that mercy. Anybody that tests positive is not a death sentence. They will be attended to. They will be tested, and they will be fine.”

Adesina also clarified the suspension of the weekly Federal Executive Council meetings, explaining that because over 50 people attend the forum every week and the number exceeds the specification for convergence this season. However, he said, suspension notwithstanding, consultations are ongoing with relevant government officials and executive decisions taken whenever necessary.

“The council was suspended because of the size. You have over 50 people seated in the council chambers whenever the meeting holds and that is not advisable at a time like this. But if there would be a very important decision to be taken, you can always summon the relevant people – three, four or five and hold a small meeting and arrive at a decision. It does not mean that one man is going to be taking all the decisions. Of course, yes, there are executive decisions but the ones that must pass through consultations, which must have a buy in of the Federal Executive Council can always be discussed at a smaller meeting,” he explained.

The presidential spokesman also spoke on the decision restraining majority of State House reporters from accessing the Presidential Villa, saying the number of correspondents is very large and contravenes the current rule prohibiting more than 50 people from congregating in one place. Adesina categorically denied reports alleging that journalists were banned; pointing out that restrictions on their entry to the State House are only a precautionary measure against further spread of the disease.

He said: “Ban is a wrong word. Anybody that uses that word, ban, is just operating from a mindset, and you know that Nigerians love conspiracy theories but this one is no conspiracy at all. There is no ban. What happens is that in the press gallery, you have about 108 journalists in that single hall and it goes contrary to the spirit of the times. The times dictate that you don’t have too many people congregating in one place. Imagine 108 journalists; if one of them happens to catch the virus, he spreads it among all the journalists.
“So, we said for now, let them stay away, not much is happening for now. But we picked a certain number, representatives of the media. They will come in, if there is anything, they will cover and those outside will also not miss because there would be a system in which they can share reports. So, ‘ban’ will be a wrong word. It will be operating from a mindset of conspiracy and there is no conspiracy here at all,” Adesina insisted.

On measures taken to forestall the entry of COVID-19 into the Villa, Adesina said: “Of course, you know when you come into the State House, you have about three, four, five spots in which your temperature is tested and you have to sanitize your hand, and if you come in and your temperature is way above a certain figure, then you will be advised to go for testing and take care of yourself.

“So, I think so far, so good. Before you will go into the general area, you will meet about three areas of test and before you get into the president’s area, you will meet like another two. So, I believe that a lot has been done to ensure that those who operate in the presidency are taken care of,” he said.