Joe Apu and Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye, Abuja
The leadership of the Nigerian community in South Africa has revealed that no fewer than 11 Nigerians have died from COVID-19 since its outbreak in the country.
President of the Nigerian Union South Africa (NUSA), Mr. Adetola Olubajo, said in a statement from Pretoria that the figure could be more because they were yet to get confirmed information from all provinces of South Africa.
He said the biggest challenge was the belief by some Nigerians in South Africa that the disease was not real.
“Many people believe that COVID-19 pandemic is political and fake and they are just seeing figures. On the contrary, we have seen quite a number of our people that have died from the disease in South Africa. At the last count, 11 Nigerians have died from COVID-19 in Gauteng Province alone. I have attended the funeral of some of them,” he said.
He said the union was encouraging Nigerians to adopt all precautionary and safety measures put in place by the South African government for their safety.
“Another challenge we have is the stigmatisation and refusal of infected people to disclose their status. We have provided a channel through which the identities of infected people will be protected and we give them much needed support. For instance, in case someone can’t get an ambulance, as soon as we get such a call, we ensure the person gets the ambulance,” he said.
Olubajo also said the union was working with a team of Nigerian and South African health professionals in the frontline at various hospitals to assist Nigerians with information.
“We have put in place a mechanism to reach out to many Nigerians in South Africa with information with the assistance of our health professionals,” he said.
He noted the union provided help to Nigerians but preference is being given to vulnerable people like single mothers, students, petty traders and artisans who earn daily living on the streets.
“We are monitoring their progress and how they are surviving COVID-19 economically,” Olubajo said.
However, the Presidency has dismissed report that President Muhammadu Buhari’s aide, Sarki Abba, is COVID-19 positive as sheer fabrication and brazen effort to mislead the public.
Presidency media aide, Garba Shehu, in a statement, yesterday, advised Nigerians to ignore the story.
“We react to the utter falsehood and disgraceful lies, a report by so-called digital newspaper which, Wednesday, claimed that President Muhammadu Buhari’s aide, Sarki Abba is COVID-19 positive.
“This report is sheer fabrication and brazen effort by the online news medium to mislead the public.
“Upon the directive of doctors and scientists and supervision of Professor Ibrahim Gambari, the Chief of Staff, all staff working for and around the President, are routinely and rigorously checked for the virus. The Senior Special Assistant, Social Affairs and Domestic Matters, Sarki Abba, always tested negative.
“The general public is hereby advised to ignore such stories that are intended to mislead the people and create unnecessary anxiety about the safety of the President.
“Don’t let yourself to be manipulated by any medium that thrives on yellow journalism and specialises in peddling fake news in the desperate quest for the market and donor money.”