Simon Lalong, governor of Plateau, says anyone caught propagating the denial of COVID-19 in the state would be arrested and prosecuted.
Lalong, who spoke on Wednesday at a meeting with stakeholders on the second wave of infections in the state, said the increased number of COVID-19 deaths is worrisome.
The governor said although the state had no intention of imposing another lockdown, it would begin a more vigorous enforcement of safety protocols.
He warned those who publicly claim that COVID-19 does not exist, to desist from spreading such notions, adding that anyone caught doing so would be prosecuted.
“For those who are in denial and continue to misinform others that COVID-19 does not exist, I want to warn them to desist. I, as the number one citizen of the state, was a victim and God helped me to come out of it. I can tell you that it is not a joke and I do not wish even my enemies such experience,” he said.
“That is why at the last state exco meeting, we decided to criminalise further denial of the disease in the state. In other words, if you deny the existence of the disease, keep your denial to yourself, because if you are caught propagating it or instigating others to follow you, you will be arrested and prosecuted, no matter how highly placed you might be.”
Lalong also said the state government would directly engage with the people to properly sensitise them on COVID-19.
“Again, we have to re-strategise and embark on more education and sensitisation, particularly at the grassroots. The previous approach where we talk to stakeholders and expect them to take the message down seems to be less effective at the moment. Therefore, we are taking the message by directly engaging the people,” the governor said.
“I have directed that my commissioners and other senior government officials go down and engage the people henceforth. We want to break the resistance and ensure that the people own the response.
“COVID-19 is a personal matter that affects people directly. They need to be involved.”