COVID-19: NPA orders workers to stay at home; Senate suspends plenary; South Africa braces for lockdown as cases reach 554; NDDC bans visitors

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The management of the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) has directed workers in some of its departments and divisions to stay at home for 14 days as part of measures to prevent the spread of the Coronavirus.

The directive was contained in a circular issued on March 23, in Lagos by Ms Hadiza Bala-Usman, Managing Director, NPA.

Bala-Usman explained that essential departments such as Marine and Operations, Health, Safety and Environment, Security and Finance had been advised to maintain their respective duty posts.

“Following the current Coronavirus Pandemic (COVIDー19), the under-listed non-essential divisions/departments are hereby directed to stay away from duty for fourteen (14) days effective from March 23.

“Members of staff are advised to be conscious of their health and safety by adhering to the preventive measures put in place by the Medical Division of the Authority and other relevant government agencies.

“Staffers are enjoined to strictly comply with this directive,” she said.

She listed the departments to include Corporate and Strategic Communications: Staff from JSS3 — MSS4, Audit Division: Staff from JSS3 — SSS1, Legal Services/Board: Staff from JSS3 — MSS4, Corporate and Strategic Planning: Staff from JSS3 — MSS4.

Others are Managing Director’s Office: Staff from JSS3 — MSS4, Monitoring and Regulatory Services: Staff from JSS3 — MSS4, SERVICOM: Staff from JSS3 — MSS4, Public Private Partnership: Staff from JSS3 — MSS4, Abuja Liaison Office: Staff from JSS3 — SSS1, Human Resources: Staff from JSS3 — MSS4.

Also listed are Administration: Staff from JSS3 — MSS4, Engineering: Staff from JSS3 — MSS4, Land and Assets Administration: Staff from JSS3 — MSS4, Enterprise Risk Management: Staff from JSS3 — MSS4 and Superannuation and Investment: Staff from JSS3 — MSS4.

The NPA boss said: “These Essential DIVISIONS/DEPARTMENTS are to report to their normal duties: Managing Director’s Division, Executive Director Finance and Administration, Procurement, Information and Communication Technology.

“Others are Medical Services, Finance, Marine and Operations, Security, Health Safety and Environment, Facility Management, Drivers assigned to Managing Director, Executive Directors, Medicals and Operational drivers.”

Others listed in this category are Correspondences and Mail Room, and Departmental Heads and Assistants at the Port Level.

Meanwhile, the Senate, on Tuesday, suspended plenary and other legislative activities until April 7, due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

President of Senate, Ahmad Lawan, who made the announcement shortly after a closed door session that lasted for over one hour, also announced the demise of Senator Rose Oko, who represented Cross-River North.

According to Lawan, Senate in a closed door session deliberated on issues bordering on National Assembly in general.

“The Senate further resolved to adjourn sitting for two weeks from today (Tuesday) due to the pandemic of Coronavirus ravaging the entire world.

“Therefore, the Senate resumes on April 7. However, the Senate will be on hand in case of emergency on any national issue that requires its attention.’

The president of the Senate said that the only way out of the pandemic was for the population to observe recommended measures advised by the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC).

He urged the Federal Government to devote special funds to fight the virus threatening Nigeria.

“Also the Federal Government should give financial and other resource assistance to states in the fight against the virus.

“The Senate Committees on Health, Primary Health Care and Communicable Diseases will continue to engage with the Ministry of Health and the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19.”

Meanwhile the Senators also observed a minute silent for Senator Oko.

The motion was moved by the Senate Leader, Yahaya Abdullahi, who said Oko died on Monday after a protracted illness.

Until her death, Oko was the Chairperson, Senate Committee on Trades and Investment.
South Africa, on Tuesday, confirmed number of coronavirus cases rose to 554 from 402 a day earlier, as businesses raced to make plans for a nationwide lockdown from midnight on Thursday.

President Cyril Ramaphosa announced the 21-day lockdown in an address to the nation on Monday, saying Africa’s most advanced economy needed to escalate its response to curb the spread of the outbreak.

South Africa has the highest number of confirmed coronavirus cases in sub-Saharan Africa, and public health experts are worried that the virus could overwhelm the health system if infection rates rise steeply.

Health Minister Zweli Mkhize told a televised news conference that health officials are working to expand the country’s coronavirus testing capacity.

“They will also develop a plan to ensure there are enough intensive care beds with respirators.

“The numbers, we mustn’t be shocked when we see them increase.

“But these measures if we all work together must turn the curve around,” Mkhize said.

The minister said that South Africa could reach an inflection point in its infection curve two or three weeks after its lockdown restrictions enter into force.

“Two patients are in intensive care, but there have been no deaths from coronavirus in the country,’’ Mkhize said.

Agriculture Minister Thoko Didiza said the government had taken steps to ensure the lockdown would not affect food security.

“There is no need to embark on panic-buying, the country has enough food supplies,” Didiza said, adding the government would be monitoring food retailers to ensure sellers do not inflate prices.

Aviation company Comair, a franchise partner of British Airways (BA), said it was suspending all flights it operates for BA and services on the kulula.com low-cost airline from Thursday until April 19.

Tsogo Sun Gaming said its casinos and bingo sites would be closed by Wednesday.

A bargaining council for the clothing manufacturing industry said it had reached a collective agreement for guaranteed pay for 80,000 workers for six weeks.
Meanwhile, the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) has suspended visits to its offices in the nine Niger Delta states, an official said.

The states are Abia, Akwa Ibom, Bayelsa, Cross River, Delta, Edo, Imo, Ondo and Rivers.

Prof. Kemebradikumo Pondei, the Acting Managing Director, NDDC, announced this in a statement by the commission’s Director of Corporate Affairs, Mr Charles Odili, on Tuesday in Port Harcourt.

According to Pondei, the measure has been taken to prevent spread of the Coronavirus pandemic in the country.

“The measure is part of the World Health Organisation (WHO) recommendations on social distancing as a means of preventing transmission of Covid-19 pandemic among the workforce.

“To this end, NDDC has suspended visiting days in the commission’s workplaces as an interim measure until prevention measures to be enforced is advised,’’ he said.

Pondei said the ban on visitors was in line with the Nigerian Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) ‘level three’ recommendations.

“The level three is the highest level of prevention measure instituted in the country against any infectious disease of public health importance.

“All relevant Directorates in NDDC will come up with rosters and work out modalities for minimising the number of staff in our offices at every given time,” he added.

Meanwhile, Pondei said the commission had stepped up efforts to complete the commission’s multi-billion naira new 13-floor permanent headquarters undergoing construction.

He said that contractor handling the project had assured of the delivery of the project within the agreed deadline.

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