Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye, Abuja
The Presidency on Sunday explained that standard protocol was behind the decision by security officials stopping attendees of the burial ceremony of the late Chief of Staff, Mallam Abba Kyari, from entering the State House.
The Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Mallam Garba Shehu, made this known through his verified Twitter account @GarShehu.
He tweeted: “There is nothing extraordinary about those of us who attend Abba Kyari’s funeral being advised to distance ourselves from the Villa.
“This is in line with the standard rules put in place by the National Center for Disease Control, @NCDCgov and the Federal Ministry of Health. You do these things to stop the spread of #Coronavirus.
“For the most part, the Villa has operated digitally in the last few weeks so there is really nothing new to this.”
There is nothing extraordinary about those of us who attend Abba Kyari’s funeral being advised to distance ourselves from the Villa.
— Garba Shehu (@GarShehu) April 19, 2020
According to him, those who attended the event were supposed to proceed on self-isolation immediately after the ceremonies.
In response to journalists who wanted a true picture of things, the Presidential Media Aide said: “It is true. It’s nothing that anyone should be angry about. They were just obeying rules. We have all attended the burial of a close friend in this season, anyone will know that after such occasion, you are meant to proceed on self-isolation. So what happened was standard protocol.
“If you observed, we have mostly been working digitally, most of our works have been done digitally, in observance of the social distance advice,” the presidential aide said.
Shehu was reacting to an online report by Sahara Reporters that senior State House officials were denied access into the Presidential Villa, Abuja after attending Kyari’s funeral ceremony, which included prayers on the corpse of the late chief of staff at the Defense Guest House in Maitama and interment at Gudu Cemetery.
Sahara Reporters had reported that key aides to President Buhari who attended the burial of the late chief of staff incurred the President’s displeasure for allegedly violating the Nigeria Centre for Diseases Control (NCDC) regulations, especially social distancing.
According to the report, among those who attended the burial and were turned back from accessing the State House were State House Chief Protocol Officer, Ambassador Lawal Kazaure, Special Assistant to the President, Yusuf Sabiu (AKA ‘Tunde’) a nephew to the President, Musa Haro Daura, and Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity Garba Shehu.
Others are National Security Adviser Babagana Monguno, Director-General of National Intelligence Agency Mr Ahmad Rufai, and Personal Assistant on New Media to President Buhari Bashir Ahmed, among several more officials.
Kyari died Friday of complications from the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) in a Lagos hospital and was buried in Abuja on Saturday.
Many observed that there was zero observance of social distancing at the late chief of staff’s former official residence and at the burial site which had been broadcast live on television.
They also observed that in clear violation of NCDC regulation of no more than 20 to 50 people at an event of that nature, the ceremony attracted a large crowd.