Highlights of remarks by Governor Okezie Ikpeazu at the Banquet Hall of Government House, Umuahia, on Friday, 1st May, 2020
Abia state Governor, Dr Okezie Ikpeazu, met with a cross section of Abia leaders including members of the clergy, commercial transport operators, market unions, medics and members of inter ministerial committee on COVID-19, to deliberate on a gradual easing of the ongoing lockdown in the state.
The following are some of the resolutions reached at the meeting as announced by the Governor, Dr Okezie Ikpeazu:
1. It has become obvious that we cannot lock down forever. There shall therefore be a phased and gradual easing of the lockdown in the state which was occasioned by the outbreak of COVID-19 in Nigeria.
2. Our meeting today looked at 7 major issues in that regard and most of them have been resolved
3. Our consensus is that we will gradually allow the operations of commercial tricyclists (Keke) but on the condition that every Keke operator and passenger must wear face mask with only 2 passengers allowed at a time.
4. We also agreed that the mini buses (Oke Bekee) will carry not more than 5 passengers at any given time and every one of them must wear a face mask. For the 14-seater buses and above, we agreed that only 2 passengers will be allowed per row and in all cases, all of them including the driver must wear their face masks.
5. We have also decided that for now we should keep our school children at home which means all our schools will remain closed but we must reinforce our radio classroom initiatives, which entail learning through radio, an initiative which we have started already. All radio stations in the state will be hooked unto that platform to ensure wider and deeper coverage. Parents are called upon also to exhibit high sense of responsibility in preparing their children to be ready before the radio program which starts at 8am every week day.
6. For our markets, we will meet the leadership of the various markets, and in meeting government, we expect them to raise a team of 17 persons per market that will serve as COVID-19 committee members for their respective markets. The selected 17 persons will meet the Deputy Chief of Staff, Office of the Governor, to try to teach them or sensitize them on some of the imperatives of COVID-19 which include that every shop going forward must have a bucket of running water, that is bucket with tap, and then soap and hand sanitizers. Social distancing must be observed in all our markets. The details and the schedule for the eventual reopening of our markets will be determined only after these 17-man team of each market has met with government through the Office of the Deputy Chief of Staff and agreed on same.
7. We have also agreed that for now, the leadership of our respective Churches will take responsibility for the conduct and behavior of the laity even as we have agreed that they can worship from this weekend. We are pleased with their conduct before now and we expect that they will continue to maintain the practice of sitting 2 persons per pew. For Churches that don’t have pews, alternate positioning of church members ensuring that we do not have overcrowded churches and places of worship. We have also agreed to run many streams of one hour service each to ensure that all Faithfuls are accommodated and then all churches must close activities on or before 2pm on worship days.
8. For burials, we have noticed that most of our morgues are overburdened as it were and we may have difficulties in our hands if we continue to keep the corpses without burial. In addition to this, preservation may become an issue and we may have avoidable challenges. Government has therefore decided to allow burials since we don’t have any COVID-19 related mortality yet. But the burial events which should hold in the nearest fields must observe social distancing and not have more than 30 persons in attendance.
If the burial is to hold in a compound, then those who attend must not be more than 10 persons. And for a burial to be allowed, the Church involved will obtain a permit directly from the Office of the Secretary to State Government, or through the Traditional Ruler of the community as the case maybe for those who believe in traditional religion. However, such a traditional ruler will need to obtain a permit from the Office of Secretary to the State Government with leadership of the Local Government Area monitoring such a burial. They have been authorized to disrupt burials that are conducted in flagrant disregard to these directives.
9. We are also preparing our civil servants to resume but starting with only schedule officers and their immediate support staff. And when they resume they will only work for alternate days and close office latest at 3pm. At no time are we expecting to have more than 20 persons per Ministry during this period.
10. The measures above do not in any way affect the subsisting dusk to dawn (6pm to 6am) curfew in the state, inter state boundary closure, tricycle and other commercial transporters will only resume operation after endorsing a memorandum of understanding with the government on the new guidelines.
11. Finally, I am very happy and proud to announce to us that just this afternoon, the Ministry of Environment and Abia State Government have signed agreement with the World Bank for the commencement of the N27.2 billion project in Aba and we expect ground breaking to take place any moment from now. This project includes the most ambitious water management project ever done in our state with Ngwa Road and other areas expected to be fixed.
NB: The Chairman of the inter ministerial committee on COVID-19, Barr Chris Ezem, will issue further details regarding Implementation of the decisions including commencement dates and others.