As the lockdown in Abuja, the nation’s capital, Lagos and Ogun States ends today, Nigerians are apprehensive about the next line of action to be taken by President Muhammadu Buhari to combat the coronavirus pandemic.
All eyes and ears will be glued to national television and radio stations by 7:00pm today as the president announces his decision on whether or not to extend the lockdown order again in a nationwide broadcast.
When Buhari issued the restriction order on March 29 this year, the country had only 111 COVID-19 cases, and by the time he extended it two week ago by another 14 days, the number of confirmed cases was officially pegged at 318.
With about 1273 confirmed cases in the country as of yesterday, there are palpable fears that the president may opt for another extension.
Amid prevalent hunger and hardship due to lack of access to essential services and commodities during the lockdown period in the last 28 days, most Nigerians in the affected areas have battled to sustain themselves in the face of the economic downturn.
With increasing crime rate and prices of essential commodities going up, most of the citizens are calling on the president to lift the lockdown.
Our sister publication, LEADERSHIP Sunday had reported yesterday that in view of the rising cases of COVID-19 in the country, President Buhari would today extend the lockdown.
The president, it was reported, may relax some of the restrictions on essential business activities by enabling movements to open up the economy, while religious and social gatherings would remain banned to curb the spread of the diseases, as the government makes wearing of face masks compulsory in public.
State governors had on Saturday asked the president to consider a partial relaxation of the lockdown but continue the restriction on flight operations in the country.
In a letter signed by chairman of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF) and Ekiti State governor, Kayode Fayemi of, the governors said subject to Buhari’s approval, they want inter-state lockdown “excluding movement of essential supplies — foods, beverages, medical and pharmaceuticals, petroleum supplies and agricultural products, internal free movement but with restrictions on large gatherings and assemblies, overnight curfews, and compulsory use of face masks/coverings in the public”.
Preparatory to today’s review of the lockdown, President Buhari yesterday received briefing from minister of Health, Dr Osagie Ehanire, and director-general of Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), Chikwe Ihekweazu, on the latest development over Coronavirus and the reported strange disease in Kano.
Ehanire, who spoke to State House correspondents on the outcome of the closed door meeting in Abuja, said they briefed the president on the activities and overall positions of the Presidential Task Force (PTF) on COVID-19.
The briefing of President Buhari by the minister and the DG of the NCDC came barely 24 hours to the expiration of the 14-day extension to the lockdown in Lagos, Abuja and Ogun.
The minister said the PTF presented to the president its advice and recommendations on the way forward as regard the ongoing fight against the spread of the deadly virus in the country.
Ehinare stated: “We also brought the overall summary apposition of the Presidential Task Force which as you know comprises of not only the health ministry but other ministries.
“We have aggregated the opinions that we have, weighing the health and the socio-economic factors and everything, to present our own opinion and recommendations to Mr President”.
The minister assured that the nation was winning the fight against the pandemic as all relevant health institutions had agreed to work together to achieve the desired goal of defeating the novel Coronavirus.
He continued: “The fight is going on very well. As I said, all countries have continued with the struggle against Coronavirus, using the strategies that they have developed for their own countries.
“We have developed a strong strategy as we are working with other experts groups like the NCDC and relevant health organisations.
“So, we are also working with the states and the governors.’’
The minister, who also spoke on the reported Kano strange disease, said his ministry had been communicating with relevant agencies, including Kano State government with a view to addressing the health problem.
The DG of the NCDC, Chikwe Ihekweazu, who also spoke to the correspondents, advised Nigerians against wasting their meagre resources on the procurement of what he described as uncertified Rapid Diagnostic Test Kits.
He said, “We will continue to build up our testing strategies. At the moment 14 testing centres have been activated across the country. We want to bring the test closer to every state. Everybody is working very hard to solve this problem.
“I can see that some people are already procuring Rapid Diagnostic Test Kits. They don’t work as far as we know. So, I will really recommend that we all stick to the National Strategy, build on it, support its expansion and together we will get on top of the pandemic.’’
Kano Loses Another 2 High Profile Persons Insists Deaths Caused By Meningitis, Diabetes, Others
Meanwhile, Kano State yesterday suffered another major blow from the cold hands of death, with the demise of two of its illustrious sons, Professor Balarabe MaiKaba of Mass Communication Department (BUK) and former commissioner for Education, Alhaji Aminu Yahaya.
Their death happened barely 24 hours after 23 prominent sons and daughters of the state died in one fell swoop.
Maikaba died on Sunday at a private clinic in Kano metropolis, after a brief illness, while Yahaya complained of fever and died few hours later. They have since been buried according to Islamic rights.
On the death of Prof. Maikaba, a relative who pleaded anonymity told the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) that the deceased, who was diabetic, complained of fever on Saturday.
“When he complained of fever, we rushed him to the hospital where he died not long ago. We are already moving to the Abattoir cemetery where he will be buried,” he said.
In the case of Yahaya, his brother, Muhammad Yahaya confirmed the death, saying the deceased complained of fever and died few hours later.
Prof. Maikaba will be remebered for his prominent role in the unbundling of the Department of Mass Communication of Buk into various departments and its subsequent upgrade to the status of a Faculty.
He served in various capacities including Head of Department, Dean of the Faculty and other key academic positions in the university.
The death of the duo is the latest in a series of deaths recorded in Kano metropolis in the past few weeks.
But Kano State government insisted yesterday that while investigation into the cause of the deaths was still ongoing, preliminary report from the state ministry of Health indicated that the deaths are not connected to the COVID-19 pandemic.
In a statement signed by the state commissioner for Information, the state government said the report showed that most of the deaths were caused by complications arising from hypertension, diabetes, meningitis and acute malaria.
It however acknowledged the recent deaths in Kano, promising that it was on top of the situation, as Governor Abdullahi Umar Ganduje has already directed the ministry of Health to conduct a thorough investigation into the immediate and remote causes of the deaths.
The statement noted: “Governor Ganduje‘s administration has been commended from within and outside the state over the proactive measures it took towards curbing the COVID-19 pandemic.
“This explains why Kano, apart from being the most populace state, did not record a case of the pandemic until lately. Though we agree that the situation on hand currently is serious,
“We are not resting on our oars in taking appropriate measures to ensure that the good people of Kano state, and indeed, residents in the state protect themselves from the novel COVID-19 pandemic“
The commissioner further said, “The state government is concerned over what is happening. The Ministry of Health is already handling the situation. When they are through with the medical investigation, further necessary actions will be taken.
“I urge the good people of Kano state not to panic. Government is on top of the situation. The mystery or whatever it is will soon be unravelled.“
But fear has enveloped residents of Kano metropolis as more people continue to succumb to a strange illness that has hit some parts of the city.
Scores of people, including elites and prominent sons of the state, have been lost to the yet-to-be identified disease, with Dala, Fagge, Tarauni, Nasarawa, Gwale and Kano Municipal worst hit.
Among those already buried are academics, administrators, bankers, media practitioners and businessmen
Dr Isa Abubakar, the Director, Centre for Infectious Diseases, Bayero University Kano (BUK), told NAN that the disease resulting to the surge in deaths was not related to Coronavirus.
According to him, none of the deceased was confirmed to have exhibited the symptoms of the pandemic.
Meanwhile, the Kano State Government says it has begun investigation into the cause of the recent surge in deaths recorded in Kano metropolis.
Dr Tijjani Husaini, the Executive Secretary, Kano State Primary Healthcare Board, told NAN that the investigation was to examine causes of the deaths and ascertain the number victims in the metropolis.
Husaini said that the state government would brief members of the public on the outcome of the findings as soon as investigation was concluded.
A worried Gov. Abdullahi Ganduje has also admitted that the health situation in Kano is “getting tougher and tougher by the day”.
“Everything is becoming so serious now. But as the situation gets serious, we are surely on top of it. We require testing machines in Kano and want the Federal Government to bring them.
“It is when we have the machines that we will be able to tackle whatever threat that facing us.”
Ganduje said that all those that had tested positive to COVID-19 in the state were in stable condition, adding that none of them was critical to need ventilators.
“Their (patients) conditions are still manageable,” he declared.
He explained that due to the shutdown of NCDC’s test centre, samples of suspected cases of COVID-19 are being transported to Abuja “despite the cumbersome processes and inconveniences in long distance traveling.
“The federal government should hasten their support programme in Kano with adequate testing centres and all the necessary kits to help contain the spread of the disease,” he said.
Ganduje, who commended Kano people for observing the total lockdown, said that the measure is the only remedy to stopping the movement of the pandemic.
“We are appealing to the Federal Government to support Kano the way it supported Lagos and Ogun; we are doing everything within our power to contain the pandemic.”
He explained that the isolation centre at Sani Abacha Stadium donated by Aliko Dangote Foundation, had a 210-bed capacity, while the other one is located at Kwanar-Dawaki where the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) is active.
Ganduje said that there are challenges of ventilators and other major facilities at Kwanar Dawaki Isolation centre, while the 100-bed Isolation Centre at Muhammadu Buhari Specialist Hospital was being activated.
But residents of the city have urged the state government to intensify awareness creation on the dangers of the dreaded COVID-19 and the need to comply with the stay-at-home order by government.
They also called for more sample collection centres and urged the Kano State government to demonstrate similar commitment to the war against the pandemic as its counterparts in Lagos, Ogun and Edo.
“Gov. Babajide Sanwo-Olu has established two test centres and over 20 sample collection centres; Gov. Seyi Makinde has initiated a mobile sample collection strategy thereby extending the COVID-19 outreach to the grassroots, to enhance effective response and case management of the disease.
“My view is that the Kano State Government should do same. We should not wait for the Federal Government’s intervention before responding to the pandemic,” Mahmoud Ismail, a medical practitioner, said.
He also decried the poor environmental sanitation and personal hygiene in the metropolis, urging government to step up efforts to rid the city of the dirt dotting all corners.
“Poor personal hygiene and indiscriminate dumping of waste in residential areas expose the people to health risks and infections. Government must be proactive,” he said.
Malam Isa Sharif, a health analyst, stressed the need for the state government to prioritise awareness creation to educate the people on the dangers and preventive measures of the pandemic.
Sharif said that such campaign was necessary to contain the spread of COVID-19 and protect the people.
Meanwhile, the Kano State Government said it has recorded four additional cases of the COVID-19, making a total of 77 confirmed cases in the state.
The state’s Ministry of Health made this known on its verified Twitter handle @KNSMOH.
“Update as at 12:30 a.m. April 26, 2020; four new COVID-19 cases confirmed. Total confirmed cases in Kano State are now 77, one COVID-19 death was recorded,” it said.
It enjoined residents of the state to obey the stay-at-home order to break the chain of the virus transmission.
The state governor had said that he will float ten mobile courts to prosecute violators of stay at home order, and social distancing as a step to tame the spread of COVID 19 in the state.
Ganduje described as very tough, the situation of COVID-19 pandemic in the State, stressing that it is very serious and alarming development.
APC, PDP Trade Tackles
Meanwhile, the All Progressives Congress (APC) and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) yesterday traded words over the former’s criticism of federal government‘s handling of the Coronavirus pandemic and the cases of death in Kano State.
Trouble started when the opposition PDP demanded an immediate investigation into the disturbing mass death in Kano State, urging a presidential visit to the state where it said no fewer than 640 citizens had reportedly died under mysterious circumstances in the last one week.
The party said its call was predicated on conflicting reports emanating from Kano State on the cause of the sudden deaths particularly at this time that the nation is battling with the spread of COVID-19 pandemic.
The PDP in a statement noted with dismay that the Buhari presidency had failed to take any concrete step on this frightening development, but is, as usual, waiting to be prodded to stand up to the demand of the office and proceed to Kano state to identity with the people, find solution and contain the ugly situation.
The statement signed by the party’s national publicity secretary, Kola Ologbondiyan, said it was lamentable that president Buhari, who promised to lead from the front, and who recently took up the toga of ECOWAS COVID-19 Response Champion, had rather receded into the safety of Aso Villa and failed to promptly activate any concrete and visible action to investigate and arrest the situation in Kano, where Nigerians are dying in their hundreds.
The PDP described the situation as yet another manifestation of leadership failure and insensitivity of the Buhari-led All Progressives Congress (APC) administration to the plight of Nigerians at critical moments.
The PDP stated: “Our party holds that the situation in Kano demands an immediate Presidential visit and investigation at the very high level. Those dying in Kano are Nigerians and must not be abandoned. The development deserves an utmost Presidential attention to avoid further escalation.
“This is particularly imperative as it is evident that Governor Abdullahi Ganduje and his APC-led administration in Kano State are totally incompetent and have become overwhelmed after failing to take appropriate measures to combat the spread of the coronavirus or whatever medical situation that has taken over the state.
“When Ganduje, who is being dogged by allegations of corruption, was expected to ensure compliance to preventive measures, he rather chose to abandon governance and spent executive time pursuing controversial extraneous issues that have no direct benefits on the lives of the people”.
But the ruling APC fired back at PDP, saying the opposition party‘s allegations were baseless and infantile, even as it called the PDP to borrow a leaf from other well-meaning bodies that have joined hands with the government in fighting the scourge.
In a statement signed by APC‘s national publicity secretary, Mallam Lanre Issa-Onilu, the party wondered why the opposition would be calling for a presidential movement at a period when restrictions on movement was the protocol.
The party called on the PDP to seize the moment and contribute its quota at this period in the nation.
The APC noted: „The All Progressives Congress (APC) condemns in very strong and unequivocal terms the latest attempt by the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to rubbish the commendable efforts of the President Muhammadu Buhari-led administration in tackling the scourge of Covid-19 pandemic currently ravaging the world.
„This is yet another infantile and desperate attempt by the opposition party to play petty politics with a serious matter of national and international importance.
“The latest baseless accusation by the PDP that the APC-led government has not lived up to its responsibility of protecting the people of Kano State against the backdrop of some deaths recorded in the state is a case in point. This allegation is not only baseless, but very irresponsible. It is false in its entirety.
“Shockingly, while all well-meaning organisations, home and abroad, and individuals are putting in positive shifts to overcome the Covid-19 pandemic, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), has rather chosen to dance on the graves of the unfortunate Nigerians that have been killed by the disease.
“PDP has this rare opportunity to stand up to be counted by making positive contributions to end the scourge, but this opposition party thinks this is the time to politicise Coronavirus cases and deaths, particularly in Kano State.
“We invite the PDP to borrow a leaf from the patriotic efforts being made by the cross-party platform, the Nigeria Governors Forum (NGF), who has kept politics aside and joined the President Buhari government in jointly, proactively and frontally combating the pandemic which is currently a threat to our very existence. The PDP must understand that only the living can play politics.
“The APC would, once again, refresh the memory of the PDP, since the party appears irredeemably lost in its present, unenviable state of idleness and irrelevance.Weeks before the pandemic hit Nigeria, this administration had started taking practical steps in preparation for it.
“We urge the PDP to come clean on why it is asking the President to embark on a state visit now. Nigerians should ask PDP if it is praying that the whole of Kano and, indeed, Nigeria be swarming with Corvid-19 cases and corpses in order to fit into its known and unpatriotic wishes against our beloved country.“ the statement said.
BUA Group Donates N3.3bn To Kano, Lagos
Worried by the rising cases of COVID-19, particularly in Kano and Lagos States, chairman of BUA Group, Alhaji Abdul Samad Rabiu, has announced a N3..3billion grant to the two states and the presidential task force to help curb spread of the pandemic.
The donation is in addition to BUA’s earlier contributions to the private sector-led CACOVID and donations to other states.
Announcing this in a statement on Sunday, Rabiu said Kano, which had seen a spike in the number of cases lately, including hundreds of unexplained deaths, would get N2billion, while Lagos which has the highest number of confirmed cases in Nigeria would get N1 billion.
He said the sum of N300million would go to the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19.
Rabiu said the N3.3 billion grant which he was committing through the BUA Foundation would be managed by a working group made up of the presidential taskforce.
13 More Nigerians Return From Togo
Meanwhile, the Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS) has said it received 13 Nigerians that arrived from Lome, Togo at Seme-Krake joint border post.
The spokesman, NIS, Mr Sunday James who disclosed this in a statement on Sunday in Abuja said that the returnees were technicians that went to install Industrial Machines in Togo.
According to James, the 13 returnees have been handed over to officials of the Ministry of Health in Lagos for medical test.
“Also for isolation in line with NCDC directives on medical procedures for new arrivals into the country to curtail the spread of Corona Virus,” he said.
James said that Seme-Krake was a major entry-exit point into and out of Nigeria, bordering Benin Republic, adding that NIS was not taking chances in enforcing strict border patrol.
He said that the service would apprehend anyone that wanted to circumvent the approved routes, hence the numbers that have been turning up through the Seme-Krake border post since the border closure.
Kaduna Govt Extends Lockdown By 30 Days
Meanwhile, Kaduna State governor, Mallam Nasir el-Rufai yesterday extended the quarantine orders being enforced in the state for another 30 days.
A statement by Muyiwa Adekeye, special adviser to the governor on media and communication, explained that the governor’s decision followed a recommendation to that effect by the state standing committee on COVID-19 chaired by the deputy governor, Dr Hadiza Balarabe:
„This is effective from today, 26th April 2020“, the statement noted.
Adekeye said with COVID-19 cases rising rapidly in neighbouring states and the FCT, and with strong evidence of interstate travel being a major means of spreading the virus, the standing committee’s evaluation was that measures to protect Kaduna State residents require further strengthening and more vigorous enforcement.
He further said the governor has endorsed the evaluation and has accordingly reviewed the quarantine orders to strengthen the provisions against unauthorised movements, noting that the two-day window during which the restriction of movement is relaxed on Tuesdays and Wednesdays has been reduced to only one day.
„Henceforth, only Wednesdays will be lockdown-free, until the trajectory of Covid-19 infections becomes clearer“, the statement explained.
The Quarantine Orders prescribe fines, imprisonment and forfeiture for violations of the provisions specified therein“, Adekeye added.
The statement continued: „The Kaduna State Government has clearly stated that no visitor is welcome to enter the state while the Covid-19 pandemic is raging. Entry into or passage through Kaduna State is prohibited whilst the Quarantine Orders remain in force.
“Persons seeking to come into the state will be denied entry. Such persons will be given the option of returning to their take-off points or entering isolation for 14 days in locations and conditions that are so austere that nobody can mistake them for holiday resorts“.
Mobile courts have been empowered by the quarantine order to try violators and impose the prescribed penalties, including fines, imprisonment and forfeiture of vehicles, upon conviction.
Oyo Senior Civil Servants Resume Today
Meanwhile, as senior civil servants resume in Oyo State resume work today, Governor Seyi Makinde has banned meetings, visitors to the state’s secretariat, saying new security measures will be put in place to prevent flouting of government directives.
The governor, who briefed journalists at the end of the state task force on COVID-19 in Ibadan, said the state secretariat would be reopened today.
According to him, only civil servants on level 13 and above with separate offices will resume.
He said the following guidelines were in place to prevent and control the spread of COVID-19 within the secretariat.
He added that there would be new security measures in place, including having only one gate to serve as entrance and exit, while all other gates would be closed.
The governor added that all meetings would be held online and that no visitors would be allowed except if it is absolutely necessary.
Makinde added that there would be hand washing facilities in strategic locations round the secretariat, even as one 100ml hand sanitizer and face mask would be given to each officer.
The governor said canteens around the secretariat would remain closed, while officers are encouraged to bring their own food for lunch.
He added that posters and banners would be in conspicuous places round the secretariat to revalidate guidelines for resumption.
Nigerian Lawyers File $200bn Suit Against China
A coalition of Nigerian legal practitioners has filed a class action against the Peoples Republic of China over the effects of the Coronavirus pandemic on Nigerians.
In suit, the lawyers are demanding $200 billion as damages for the “loss of lives, economic strangulation, trauma, hardship, social disorientation, mental torture and disruption of normal daily existence of people in Nigeria.”
According to a statement by the lead counsel, Prof Epiphany Azinge (SAN), the lawyers concluded pleadings for the class action against the Chinese government.
He said, “The team of legal experts planned a two phase line of action-: first is with the federal high court of Nigeria and secondly to persuade the government of Federal Republic of Nigeria to institute a state action against the Peoples Republic of China at the International Court of Justice at the Hague
“The legal experts will be claiming damages to the tune of 200billion dollars the Chinese Government will be served through its Embassy in Nigeria.”
Suspected Patient Absconds, Returns To Ondo Teaching Hospital
The suspected COVID- 19 patient, who escaped from the University of Medical Sciences Teaching Hospital, Ondo, has returned to the hospital.
The patient who was admitted at the Accident and Emergency unit of the facility had on Saturday evening absconded from the hospital while waiting for the result of his test.
His disappearance led to panic in the town as the people lived in fear of impending spread.
But the Chief Medical Director of the Hospital, Dr Oluwole Ige, yesterday disclosed that the suspect had returned.
Addressing journalists in Ondo town, Ige said the patient has shown symptoms of the disease, stressing that his report was still being expected.
“I can tell you that the patient has returned to the hospital. We are on top of the situation. He is still a suspected case. We are waiting for the result of the test conducted for him and two others“ , he added.