I will begin by saluting everyone for the patience and sincerity they have shown in the fight against COVID-19, the greatest health test of this generation.
Our nation has registered more than 6,000 cases of the virus and no fewer than 192 people have died as a result of complications from the virus whose roots are firmly rooted in Wuhan, China.
The pandemic showed the weaknesses of our health systems and we had to flee quickly to build facilities to care for patients.
We also had to convert structures like hotels and event centers into testing and treatment centers.
I am happy to report that our healthcare system is now better equipped to detect, test, isolate and treat all cases and track all people who have come in contact with a positive case.
Like the economies of many nations that are struggling as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, ours was no exception.
In fact, ours were the hardest hit because the pandemic occurred at a time when the price of oil plummeted to its lowest level ever.
Coronavirus scams in our economy have seen jobs lost or at risk. Owners of medium and small businesses are in trouble. Thousands of workers are unsure of their wages for this month, after their employers struggled with April's bills.
The media, an important front line in the fight against the pandemic, performed poorly in the face of COVID-19's debilitating blows.
The government believes that, without the media, our nation's struggle for independence from British colonial masters would have changed.
The nationalist zeal of our heroes of the past, like Hebert Macaulay, Nnamdi Azikwe and Chief Obafemi Awolowo, was expressed by journalism and we have journalism to thank for being free from the imperialists.
Without the media, the government would have a hard time disseminating information about our pandemic management.
There would be no way for people to know about the guidelines established by the Presidential Task Force for managing the disease.
The media in Nigeria has been struggling for years with few forms of ventilation, as if afflicted by COVID-19. For most, wages are not paid or are too late. There are times when journalists spend months without paying.
Only a few publishers constantly pay what can really be described as a take-home package. Most don't pay well and, unfortunately, they struggle to pay for these peanuts.
No, thanks to the Coronavirus pandemic, which made us strangers in this world that we mistakenly assumed we knew like the back of the hand, things got worse for the media. Even the best had to make adjustments with terrible impacts on employees.
Coronavirus plummeted sales and advertising fell. Newspapers had no choice but to reduce pagination to 32. Print runs were also reduced because circulation and marketing were affected by the restrictions caused by the pandemic.
I fear a post-pandemic era for this industry that has fought and gained our independence from British colonial masters.
To cushion the effect of the COVID-19 blows on the media, I instructed the Central Bank of Nigeria to immediately develop a stimulus package for the media.
We cannot allow the media to die as a result of COVID-19. We will all live to regret if this happens and our country will be the worst for it.
A country without a strong media that maintains the government with the highest standard of accountability is dead and waiting to be buried.
Our government has also secured an insurance scheme for reporters covering the Presidential Task Force's daily briefings on COVID-19. At this point, I must commend the insurance industry for providing such support within a short period of time.
Our security agencies must continue to ensure that journalists are free to circulate during this period, as they are exempt from all forms of restrictions.
I want to assure the media that their safety and protection remains our primary concern, especially in these difficult and uncertain times.
We value you and will do our best to ensure that you continue to fulfill your role as the Fourth State of the Kingdom, enshrined in our statute.
Our management also instructed CBN to have banks restructure longer-term loans for all media organizations whose businesses are negatively impacted by COVID-19.
Some of the ideas being analyzed include, among others: Suspension of payment of such loans for one year, to give the media ample funding to pay salaries; and debt forgiveness for loans below N10 million.
Our assistance to the media becomes more urgent, because we are aware of the fact that Nigeria is not ready for the full opening of the economy.
In the coming days, the Nigeria Press Organization (NPO) and CBN will meet to develop the plans, which, in the long run, will give us a medium of which we will all be proud.
After providing assistance to the media, our government will criminalize publishers' failure to pay salaries. Guilty publishers may have their properties confiscated and sold to compensate workers' wages.
We will continue to rely on science, lessons from other parts of the world and the verifiable date for waging war on the pandemic, so that we can return our world to what we know.
The current one is a stranger and we must do everything in our power to get rid of him. It is not something we should get used to; it is something that we must fight with all our strength and defeat quickly.
The light shined by Henry Townsend's Iwe Iroyin must not die. The shine should continue.
I thank you all for your attention. God bless the Federal Republic of Nigeria and protect the media.
Farewell shot: If only that dream can come true, hullabaloo in the media will suffer a natural death.