The Nigerian government has expressed concern about reports of non-compliance with the Executive Order that makes mask wearing and observation of social distancing in the public mandatory.
President Muhammadu Buhari had on Wednesday signed the coronavirus (COVID-19) Health Protection Regulations 2021 Act into law.
As provided in the Quarantine Act, section 34 of the new law states that any offence under the regulation is punishable by a fine or a term of six months imprisonment or both.
The law provides for the maintenance of social distancing in gatherings, while all persons in such public places must, among other things, wear face masks, wash their hands and have their temperature checked before entering such venues.
It also restricts gathering of more than 50 persons in an enclosed space “except for religious purposes, in which case the gathering shall not exceed 50% capacity of the space”.
However, the President failed to adhere to the protocols, thereby violating the law on Saturday during the validation of his membership of the All Progressives Congress (APC) at Sarkin Yara Ward in Daura, Katsina State.
In some of the pictures that surfaced online, Buhari was seen discussing with some APC leaders without putting on a face mask or maintaining social distancing as stipulated by the new law.
The Presidency in a statement on Sunday by Garba Shehu, Buhari’s Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, however warned Nigerians to obey the law to avert a fresh lockdown in Nigeria.
The statement read, “The Presidency is worried by reports of non-compliance with the signed Executive Order that makes mask wearing and observation of social distancing in the public mandatory, appealing to Nigerians to give their maximum cooperation for success of the policy.
“President Muhammadu Buhari introduced the order with the best of intentions and not with any motive to punish citizens. The Presidency appeals to state governments, traditional rulers and religious leaders to play active roles in the sensitisation and enforcement of the Executive Order.
“To achieve this, COVID-19 task forces and committees should persuade members of the public to cooperate with the government in achieving compliance and avoid crude methods that may create resistance and resentment, thereby defeating the primary goal of the Executive Order.
“The Buhari administration is most reluctant to lock down the country and continues to emphasise the non-pharmaceutical measures and the only way to avert lockdowns is to observe these measures as put in place by the Presidential Task Force.
“Nigerians have come a long way from the dreaded lockdown and the administration is unhappy about any prospects of bringing it back as many citizens will not have food on the table without venturing out on a day-to-day business.
“Nigerians are required to wear masks, wash hands regularly with soap and clean water, and keep a safe distance with anybody not in your household, hoping that this will help check the spread of COVID-19.
“Though vaccine availability is within reach, the propensity of the public for noncompliance weakens the fight against the virus. Nigerians must ignore baseless conspiracy theories that seek to deny the reality of the pandemic by complying with the order to wear masks.
“We have a duty to protect ourselves and others in this difficult global health crisis; no one has immunity against this pandemic. Ignoring health warnings and refusing to comply with safety measures does more harm than good. The COVID-19 pandemic is a major threat to public health and wearing of masks, social distancing in public places and the basic hygiene are necessary measures that have to be taken to safeguard the well-being of our citizens.
“Nigerians must always have it in mind that the COVID-19 pandemic is not only a threat to the health of the population but it is equally so to the national economy, and to every aspect of our everyday life.
Protecting public health is one of the sacred duties of any responsible government and the administration will not abdicate that responsibility.”