Gov. of Benue, Samuel Ortom Special State Broadcast

SPECIAL STATE BROADCAST BY HIS EXCELLENCY, GOVERNOR SAMUEL ORTOM, SUNDAY, 29TH MARCH, 2020 ON COVID-19

My Good people of Benue State, it has become necessary to once again address you on the global pandemic called Coronavirus, otherwise known as COVID-19. It is no longer news that this virus has become a threat to human existence globally. The virus has claimed over thirty thousand lives across the world with its impact overwhelming even the most advanced nations of the world like China, United States of America, Italy, United Kingdom, Spain, and Switzerland.

Here in Benue State, my administration took proactive measures in February by constituting the Action Committee on COVID-19 to monitor suspected cases, create mass awareness with the people, liaise with the Federal Government and relevant stakeholders to curb the spread of the virus in the state.

As you may recall, the Action Committee was at its inception headed by the Commissioner for Health and Human Services and swung into action with the establishment of Isolation and Treatment centres at the Benue State University Teaching Hospital and the Federal Medical Centre, Apir, both in Makurdi. Sensitization campaigns were also aggressively undertaken by the committee through mass advocacy and are still ongoing.

However, at the expanded emergency State Executive Council meeting on Tuesday, March 24, 2020, activities of the Action Committee were reviewed and the Deputy Governor, Engr. Benson Abounu, was appointed its Chairman while the erstwhile Chairman became its Secretary.

We took these measures in line with the seriousness our administration attaches to the fight against the pandemic. Additionally, the State Government announced the following measures: 
1. Civil Servants on Grade Level 12 and below should work from home except those on essential duties such as Medical, Fire Service, Security agents, Water and Sanitation workers.

2. Closure of all nursery, primary, secondary, vocational and tertiary institutions of learning.

3. The general public should maintain the habit of regular hand washing with soap and running water as well as the use of alcohol based hand sanitizers, in the absence of water.

4. All persons returning to Benue State from COVID-19 infested countries and states in Nigeria must go into self-isolation for 14days and report themselves to Emergency Response Team if they show symptoms of the virus.

5. All calls concerning COVID-19 cases should be made to the Emergency Operation Centre through the following telephone numbers: 07025031214, 09018602439, 07037449837, and 08033696511. 
6. Any person down with a fever, dry cough and difficulty in breathing should report to a medical facility for scrutiny and also inform the Emergency Response Team.

My dear people of Benue State, through the tireless efforts of the State Action Committee, a number of suspected cases were identified, samples taken to Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), Abuja for testing, following which, regrettably we recorded an index case in the person of our dear sister, Susan Okpe, a sixty-two-year-old woman, who came into the state from the United Kingdom. She voluntarily presented herself for testing when she felt unwell with a fever and cough.

May I inform you that the patient is clinically stable and responding to treatment. Efforts are being made to trace those who might have come into physical contact with her, and my appeal to such persons is that they present themselves to the Emergency Response Team, for testing.

Following the confirmation of a COVID-19 positive case in Benue State, our administration has reviewed the situation and come up with the following additional measures: 
1. All entry points into Benue State shall be closed with effect from Wednesday 1st of April, 2020.

2. I have directed that Action Committees be set up in the 23 Local Government Areas of the state. Similarly, we have designated Primary Health Care Centres and hospitals in all the local government areas as quarantine and treatment centres.

3. There will be restriction of movement from 7pm to 6am daily, except those on essential services. The curfew will take effect from Monday, 30th March, 2020 till further notice.

4. All public gatherings in the state have been suspended till further notice. These include marriage ceremonies, community festivals, funerals and religious meetings (Churches and Mosques) which should be limited to 30 participants. I urge our traditional, religious, youth and political leaders to ensure strict compliance.

5. All commercial vehicles travelling in and out of the state, as well as those travelling from one local government area to another within the state must submit manifest of their passengers to the appropriate authorities. The manifest must contain information about the passengers’ names, phone numbers, residential addresses and final destination.

6. Tricycles also known as ‘Keke NAPEP’ should not convey more than two passengers at a time.

7. Township and mini buses should not convey more than seven passengers at a time.

8. Commercial motorcycles also known as ‘Okada’ should convey one person at a time and wear face mask.

9. Importantly, all commercial vehicles, tricycles, motorcycles must have hand sanitizers for the use of passengers. 
10. All markets in Benue State are closed with immediate effect. Only shops and commodity stores shall remain open.

11. Night clubs are hereby closed until further notice

12. Bars and restaurants should render take away services only and must provide hand sanitizers and soap with water for customers’ use.

13. Every person is advised to be an information officer for COVID-19 and pass the message to others.

14. We have organized a one-day refresher seminar for Health Workers to prepare them for the task at hand.

15. We strongly advise against travel within and outside of the state.

16. We have provided six ambulances and Hilux vehicles for use by the Emergency Response Team to enhance its operations.

17. The State Government has so far released the sum of Seventy-Six Million naira to the effort towards containing the spread of coronavirus in Benue State.

18. Local Government COVID-19 Action Committees will be inaugurated tomorrow 30th March, 2020 to enforce the closure of borders.

My dear people of Benue State, I am fully aware that the measures we have put in place to prevent the spread of Coronavirus in our state are painful but also necessary sacrifices we must make for the preservation of lives. I assure you that Government will continue to review the measures as the situation demands.

I encourage Benue sons and daughters as well as other public spirited individuals and corporate bodies to make contributions towards containing the spread of the virus in the state.

I urge Benue people not to use the social media as a means of spreading misinformation that is capable of causing fear and panic among the populace.

Our People must refrain from stigmatizing others on account of Coronavirus, since testing positive to the virus is not a death sentence.

Finally, my dear people of Benue State, as it is said, “Prevention is better than cure”. I therefore advise you to be vigilant and adhere strictly to personal hygiene practices. Also, maintain Social Distancing and seek medical attention in the event of any symptoms.

The word of God in the book of 2 Chronicles 7:14 says; “If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.”

As a state dedicated to God, I admonish every Benue person (Christians and Moslems) who can fast and pray at least for half a day, to join me in praying for God’s intervention in Benue, Nigeria and the world at large, from 1st of April to the end of 2020. I believe that God will hear and heal our land.

God bless Benue State.

God bless the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

Thank you all.

In God We Trust.

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