*Action followed market forces adjustment, says Petroleum Minister
*Senate Demands closure of Int’l Airports over 5 new COVID-19 cases
By Chesa Chesa, Obas Esiedesa, Ignatius Okorocha, Hassan Zaggi and Chuks Oyema-Aziken
With spiraling negative effect of the Corona Virus (COVID-19) which sparked global economic downturn, the Federal Government yesterday slashed the pump price of Premium Motor Spirit (PMS) from N145 per liter to N125.
This was as government discovered five new carriers of Corona-Virus in the country, which included a six weeks-old baby.
President Muhammadu Buhari cut the price of petrol following crash of the crude oil in the international market.
Similarly, the Minister of Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire, has disclosed that so far, eight people are infected by COVID-19 in the country.
With this development, the senate yesterday enjoined the President Buhari to close all international airports across the country, with the exception of the Nnamdi Azikiwe and Murtala Mohammed International Airports.
Ehanire while speaking on Wednesday on the new COVID-19 infections, confirmed that the five new cases, including the 6 weeks-old, brought the total number of confirmed cases in Nigeria to eight.
Providing breakdown of the five new cases, the Minister said that “of the five new positive cases, three arrived from the United States of America (USA), while two came in from the United Kingdom (UK).
“Two of the three from the US are Nigerians – a mother and child, making the six weeks-old baby the youngest COVID-19 patient we have. The third person is an American national, who crossed the land border and became the first COVID-19 case not arriving by air”.
He said that a “detailed travel history of each of those people are being compiled and the contact being traced.
He also said that the National Emergency Operations Centre (EOC), led by the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), is supporting state governments through the Federal Ministry of Health in conducting risk assessment to guide decision making.
Ehanire added that the Presidential Task Force for the Control of Corona-Virus took some measures to curtail the spread of the virus which took effect from March 17.
The measures, according to him, included the prohibition of foreign travel by public servants, suspension of the Visa-on-Arrival Policy till further notice, and issuance of a firm travel advisory against non-essential travels to high burden countries.
Other measures included a requirement that all persons returning from overseas should compulsorily self-isolate for observation for 14-days.
He said that NCDC will disseminate information on supervised self-isolation, including testing of persons returning for 14 days, to be carried out by the NCDC and Port Health Services.
He urged all residents of Nigeria not to panic, but to avoid spreading false information and rumour capable of causing fear and panic.
*Fuel pump price now N125 per litre
Meanwhile, the Federal Government in slashing the pump price of PMS from N145 to N125 per litre, said it was because of the crashing crude oil price in the international market to $24 per barrel.
Government also said the pump price of kerosene and diesel will also be reduced, but yet to determine the exact amount.
The Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Timipre Sylva, announced after the Federal Executive Council (FEC) in Abuja yesterday that the global fall in oil price to below $30 per barrel as a result of the CORONA VIRUS pandemic, was responsible for the slash.
According to him, “the President approved the reduction in the price of PMS based on the price modulation template approved in 2015. Therefore, the Federal Government has directed the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), to reduce the Ex-Coastal and Ex-Depot prices of PMS to reflect current market realities.
“Also, the PPPRA shall subsequently issue a monthly guide to NNPC and marketers on the appropriate pricing regime.
“The agency is further directed to modulate pricing in accordance with prevailing market dynamics and respond appropriately to any further oil market development”, confirming speculation that subsidy regime has been abolished.
NNPC’s Group Managing-Director, Mele Kyari, in a statement, has directed its retail outlets across the country to reflect the new pump price.
According to him, “effective 19th March 2020, NNPC Ex-Coastal price for PMS has been reviewed downwards from N117.6/litre to N99.44/litre while Ex-Depot price is reduced from N133.28/litre to N113.28/litre. These reductions will therefore translate to N125/litre retail pump price”.
* Senate demands closure of Int’l airports
Meanwhile, sequel to the travel ban placed on 13 COVID-19 high risk countries, the Senate on Wednesday urged President Buhari to close all international airports in the country with the exception of Lagos and Abuja.
They also requested him to formally address the nation on measures being taken to halt its spread in the country.
Aside from the slight airports closure, urged the federal government to suspend airlines that travel to corona-virus prone countires, while pledging to give full support to fight the scourge.
It also called for an emergency meeting of the National Council of Health to harmonise experiences and responses of the Ministries of Health at the state level, stressing that Nigerians must be kept abreast of all measures and developments related to problem.
The Upper Chamber in affirming that they will give full support to help halt COVID-19 from spreading, called for the setting up of a Special Intervention Fund to combat the deadly disease.
It asked relevant agencies at the International Airports to quarantine for two weeks, Nigerians arriving the country from identified high risk countries.
These resolutions were sequel to the consideration of a motion raised via Order 42 and 52 of the Senate Standing Rules by Sen. Danjuma Goje (APC Gombe Central).
Leading the debate Goje noted that the 50 states in the US are affected, adding that even though the government is doing well, its efforts are not enough.
Sen. Oluremi Tinubu (APC Lagos Central), Ajayi Boroffice (APC Ondo North), Jibrin Barau (APC Kano North), and others called for standard procedure against the virus and further advised churches, mosques and hotels to introduce scientific testers to control the spread of the disease.