Desmond Mgboh, Ndubuisi Orji, and Fred Ezeh, Abuja
There is no letup in the strange deaths that have ravaged Kano State, as it recorded four more yesterday, including Prof. Balarabe Maikaba, prominent scholar and former head of the Department of Mass Communication, Bayero University, Kano (BUK).
The Kano State Ministry of Health made this known on its verified Twitter handle @KNSMOH at the weekend.
“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.
Maikaba died yesterday at a private clinic in Kano metropolis, after a brief illness.
His demise is the latest in a series of deaths recorded in Kano metropolis in the past few weeks. A former Commissioner of Education, Aminu Yahaya, died earlier.
Kano recorded its first COVID-19 death on Wednesday, April 14.
The announcement came through the ministry of health’s official Twitter handle but did not reveal the identity of the deceased.
With the reccent deaths, there are fears Kano of becoming the epicentre of COVID-19, speedily overtaking Lagos and Abuja.
The situation became worse last week when a large number of deaths, no fewer than 150 deaths, within a few days last week.
There has been fear and anxiety over the rising record of strange deaths in the state, which officials have attributed to a ‘strange disease’ while residents, obviously in disagreement, said it was COVID-19.
“Things are in disarray here, and there is no well structured response to COVID-19. The government is not communicating. They are not testing, and people are dying. We have had people coming here to hospital and when they died, they are immediately buried without taking samples for testing,” a health worker said.
Notwithstanding the spike, Kano State government, yesterday, claimed 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.
Commissioner of Information, Malam Muhammad Garba, in a statement, said although investigation into the cause of the deaths was still ongoing, preliminary report from the Ministry of Health indicated that the deaths were not connected to the COVID-19 pandemic.
He added that reports from the Ministry of Health showed that most of the deaths were caused by complications arising from hypertension, diabetes, meningitis and acute malaria.
However, professor of Haematology-Oncology, Usman Yusuf, has challenged the state government on its disclosure about the exact number of deaths in the state
“Kano State government lacks the will, capacity, compassion, transparency, or the trust of its people to arrest the situation,” he said.
He alleged that government hospitals were increasingly getting overwhelmed with poor staffing, lack of PPEs, drugs, consumables, bed spaces, or ventilators, while condemning the shutting down of only COVID-19 testing centre in the state, which he lamented had left millions of people in the whole North West zone without access to testing.
He concluded that people in the state were living in fear, uncertainty, anger, frustration and were feeling abandoned by both the state and Federal Governments even as he expressed concerns about the situation degenerating into social unrest.
Yusuf appealed to the Federal Government to immediately make its presence felt in the state, while calling on to the Presidential Task Force to relocate to Kano State and make the state its new theatre of operations from where it would be reporting to the President.
He urged President Muhammadu Buhari to immediately address the nation on these reported deaths in Kano State, outlining specific plans of what the Federal Government intends to do to check the tragedy.
The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) had shut the laboratory in the state following the infection of some key health officials.
Reacting yesterday, president, Medical and Dental Consultants Association of Nigeria (MDCAN), Ken Ozoilo, rubbished the notion that the deaths were as a result of a strange disease.
“It’s very difficult to convince the world that COVID-19 was not responsible for the strange deaths in Kano, given the fact that there’s no COVID-19 testing centre neither is there treatment going on there due to sudden shutdown of the testing centre there. In addition to that, Kano is extremely populated with majority of them in clear doubt about the disease.”
He expressed fear that the situation in Kano could ruin the successes made so far in the fight against COVID-19, because Kano has the potential to spread the virus beyond the North, even when other states have contained theirs.
NMA seeks N500m to procure PPEs
The Nigerian Medical Association (NMA) has begun a bid to raise for N500 million to procure personal protective equipment (PPEs) and other infection control consumables for its members in private health care facilities to enable them contain and manage COVID-19 outbreak.
The move, perhaps, is an indication that NMA has lost hope in the ability of government to safeguard its members responding to the coronavirus pandemic, particularly those in private health care facilities.
NMA president, Dr. Francis Faduyile, in a statement released in Abuja, said the association has unveiled a support programme, tagged “Save Our Private Health Practitioners Initiative,” for the sole objective of raising the financial and material support for its members in private hospitals.
He asked the Federal Government to begin immediate implementation of the proposed comprehensive incentive package for health workers, including life insurance, enhanced hazard allowance and tax relief, urging states to do likewise for their healthcare personnel.
PDP demands investigations
The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has demanded a probe into the death of about 640 persons in Kano State in the last one week.
Spokesperson of the party, Mr. Kola Ologbondiyan, in a statement, said the demand was predicated on conflicting reports on the cause of multiple deaths in Kano State at a time when the country is contending with COVID-19.
The opposition party expressed dismay that government had failed to take concrete steps to stop the deaths. It charged President Buhari to pay a visit to Kano immediately. The PDP claimed that the situation in Kano State was another manifestation of failure and insensitivity of the All Progressives Congress (APC) administration to the plight of citizens in trying moments.
“President Muhammadu 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.
“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 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,” the PDP said.
Falana asks Ehanire to publish full report on investigation into ‘strange deaths’
Femi Falana, Senior Advocate of Nigeria, has asked Dr. Osagie Ehanire, minister of health, to publish the full report of the investigation into the recent deaths in Kano.
On April 22, 2020, at the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 briefing in Abuja, Ehanire announced that a special medical team had been deployed to investigate the deaths in Kano.
In a letter addressed to the minister on behalf of the Alliance on Surviving COVID-19 Action Programme and Beyond, of which he is interim chairman, Falana said the state seemed overwhelmed and asked the Federal Government to take control of the situation.
“During a press briefing held at Abuja a week ago, you did announce that the Federal Ministry of Health, the Kano State Chief Epidemiologist, Officials of the Kano Public Health Department and those of the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) had commenced investigation into the strange deaths and mass burials currently going on in Kano State,” it read. “However, we are disturbed to note that the burials have since continued without any official information on the cause of the strange deaths.
“The people of Kano State and Nigerians in general are worried over the worsening health crisis as it may spread to other parts of Kano State not yet affected as well as other parts of the country, if not urgently addressed. But since the Kano State government is completely overwhelmed, we hereby call on the Federal Government to take over the management of the crisis without any further delay.
“In addition, we are compelled to request for a certified true copy of the report of the joint investigation conducted by the Federal and Kano State Ministries of Health into the strange deaths and mass burials taking place in Kano State.
“The report shold include the nature and cause of the deaths, the number of casualties and patients currently undergoing treatment in hospitals as well as an outline of the measures being put in place by the Federal Government to stop the strange deaths involving mass burials.”