The presidency on Sunday enjoined Nigerians to wear facemasks and comply with other COVID-19 protocols to avoid another lockdown.
This was after President Muhammadu Buhari was caught in a crowd in his hometown of Daura at the weekend without a facemask.
In a statement signed by Garba Shehu, senior special assistant to the president on media and publicity, the presidency said it is worried by reports of non-compliance with the recently signed executive order that mandates the use of face masks and social distancing.
Buhari had on January 27, had signed the COVID-19 health protection regulations 2021 which prescribes six-month jail term for persons convicted for disobeying any COVID-19 guideline.
According to the statement, Buhari signed the executive order with the best of intentions and not with the motive of punishing citizens.
“The Presidency is worried by reports of non-compliance with just signed an executive order that makes mask-wearing and observation of social distancing in the public mandatory, appealing to Nigerians to give their maximum cooperation for the success of the policy,” the statement read.
“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 sensitization and enforcement of the executive order.”
Shehu said the Buhari-led administration is reluctant to impose another lockdown given the socio-economic consequences.
“The Buhari administration is most reluctant to lock down the country and continues to emphasize 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,” the presidential spokesman said.
“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.
“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.”
He urged Nigerians to ignore baseless conspiracy theories that seek to deny the reality of the pandemic by complying with the order to wear masks.
COVID-19 task forces and committees were also encouraged to persuade members of the public to cooperate with the government and avoid crude methods that may create resentment and defeat the primary goal of the executive order.
Lockdowns and movement restrictions imposed to curb the spread of the virus resulted in economic recessions in many countries across the world, including Nigeria.