Rose Ejembi, Makurdi
In this no holds barred interview with Daily Sun, former Lagos State Police Commissioner, Alhaji Abubakar Tsav, has lamented the increasing number of confirmed cases and deaths arising from COVID-19 in the country. The social critic who described the development as a time bomb waiting to happen wondered why the President would allow himself to be arm-twisted into easing the lockdown in states that have been identified as epicenters of the virus in the country.
For sometime now, issues about COVID-19 has taken the center stage across the globe. Do you think the Nigerian government has done enough to contain the spread of the virus in the country?
The situation is that already we have deficient medical system in this country and our people prefer to go overseas and treat themselves. So, this thing came as a surprise to everybody. There were no equipment. I think it’s now that perhaps they are trying to get equipment. I saw recently on the internet, President Buhari appealing to private individuals to help him to fight this scourge. And what has caused this thing is corruption. We have enough money in this country. If only we are patriotic, we can be able to utilise our money for the common good of the people. But corruption has eaten deep into our fabrics and people take so much money including the ones they know they cannot use. This is what is creating problem for us in this country. And even now, people are still taking money. Initially, government could not do much but I think they’re picking up now and it’s not easy. Look at this issue of restricting people to their homes. In Nigeria, majority of the people live on earn as you work. That means it is only when you go out and work that you can be able to get money to sustain your family. Families are not even registered here. We have no social security, government does not care who and who marries who. Government doesn’t care how many persons have what number of children. So, we were not prepared. This thing came as a bang. Look at the almajiri issue which is creating problems. I read in the papers but don’t know whether it is true or not, I read about how these almajirai were being ferried from the North to the South. These almajirai have no parents in the South, so what do you want them to go and do there? They should go and start begging on the streets again or to go and spread the disease? I don’t think government is doing much like in the case of this woman, Susan Okpe who has been in confinement for about 50 days according to her. And if she has this ailment, it would have manifested by now. They’re just keeping her. She has made a lot of noise and appealed to everybody but nobody seems to come to her aid. I don’t know why they decided to keep her like that.
For four weeks now, the FG had to lock down the country as part of efforts to reduce the spread of the virus. Do you think that had helped in any way especially as hunger had to keep driving the masses back to the streets despite the lockdown?
No, I don’t really think it has helped in reducing the spread of the virus. In a way, one can say it has helped but it has not totally reduced because even people who are confirmed to be COVID-19 positive have been escaping from isolation centers and nobody seems to be doing anything about it. So, I don’t think the lockdown has helped to control the spread much because people are forced to go and fend for themselves. I don’t think that is helping but it is nice that we cooperate with government to reduce some of these headlines. I’m also sure that there are some cases that are not reported. I’m sure there are people in their various homes who have this thing but have not reported themselves. We hear that many people have been dying in Kano but we don’t know whether it’s this same ailment that’s killing them or something different. But I understand that this virus can kill people who have other underlying ailments and that those whose immune systems are okay, it doesn’t last in them. Kano State governor spent most of his time fighting the Emir when he should be doing something that would better the lives of his people. Now, he has a very big situation on his hands. Why I mentioned this case is that the Ooni of Ife, I understand has named some herbs for this virus. Sanusi is an international figure, many people know him, he has connection. Maybe he would have been able to make suggestions that can bring this thing down if he were not pushed away. But the man (Ganduje) is not serious. Maybe, that’s why this thing is getting out of hands there. And the Kano people are not disciplined. They do whatever they want. The other day, I saw them playing football.
But there’s the insinuation that palliatives were not there at all or that it wasn’t getting to those who really need them. What do you have to say about this?
You see, it’s very difficult because our population is very large. It’s very difficult for these palliatives to reach those who actually need them. And we have dishonest officials who are members of the team in charge of these palliatives. They want to make money as much as possible not minding whether they will die the next minute. But they want to use this to make money. This is what is creating problem. And if government had taken adequate steps to try and know the actual number of people living in this country, to try and know people who are living in a particular area, it would have been easy to share these palliatives. Our government has misplaced priority. All they care about is how to make money and that has been our major problem.
During the lockdown, there was closure of interstate borders but people were still seen bribing their way and traveling from one state to the other. Do you think the security agencies were really doing enough in the fight against the spread of the virus?
First of all, let us sympathize with our security agencies because they too are not protected. They have not been given adequate equipment to work with. So, when they’re on the road, they’re more concerned with what they will get. That’s aside from the fact that there are many porous routes which people can use to get anywhere in this country. Sincerely, some of them are doing their best but a lot of things have also set in. They’re not looking after them so well and if you’re in that situation, you have to look for money to buy these protective shields. Where will you get the money from? Of course, from victims who come to use that road. Also, there is no unity and coordination among the security agencies. Everybody wants to outdo the other. It’s like three women marrying one man and every woman tries to impress the husband so that the husband will say she’s the best. Every security agency is trying to show government that it is better than other security agencies. There’s no coordination and that is why this thing is happening. Also, we must all contribute our quota in nipping this pandemic in the bud. My ‘maigad’ came to me this morning and said he would like to travel to Kano to see his family and I told him that if he goes, he should not bother to come back to my house. I told him that he may not even be able to reach Kano because interstate boarders are closed. I said if he goes and is able to make it to Kano, he shouldn’t bother to return because he will create problems for me and my household. After I spoke to him, he said well, he has changed his mind. So, there are some instance where people who want to travel have nobody to speak to them, they do whatever they like and that is why people are flouting this directives. People are going wherever they want and people are running away from confinement centers.
As an experienced security personality, what is your advice to government in the area of security as part of efforts to nip this virus in the bud?
Like I said earlier, there’s no coordination among our security agencies. They are not working as a team. And they themselves have not been protected. So, sometimes when they go out, they have to use crude force against people. I saw a clip recently where one woman was slapping a police officer. She held him by the shirt and slapped him several times and called him names. That should not happen. In all the countries of the world, security agencies are protected. They make laws to protect them against such conducts from members of the society. But here, there’s no law like that. I think this is the time the National Assembly should sit and make laws to protect our security agencies as a way of encouraging them. We need to give them everything they want so that they will be able to perform well at their assigned official duty post. But sadly, they’re not well looked after or provided with the basic security that they also require.
The situation in Kano and lately, Jigawa where the country has arguably been recording high rate of death, do you think the recent deaths are a normal thing in the state as some people are insinuating?
Nobody can say that the increasing number of deaths in Kano is not connected with COVID-19 because Kano is densely populated and most of the people living in Kano are Chadians and Nigeriens. Most of them are destitutes; most of them have no place to stay, most of them stay under the bridge or on the streets. They have no protection and there’s no control whatsoever and they’re very reckless and undisciplined. You cannot control them and they do whatever they want. I’m not a medical doctor but from what I have heard and read about the virus, when you are sick and the virus suddenly attacks you, you can’t last because it will help to accelerate your death. Maybe that’s the situation in Kano. There are a lot of people and government has not provided enough medical services for them. That’s why you have that high number of death in Kano. You can see that when this thing started, the Kano State government started repatriating almajirai to their states of origin. But the mistake they’re making again is that they’re not repatriating prostitutes. They should repatriate prostitutes too to their states because they also spread the disease.
Don’t you think if nothing is quickly done to address the case in Kano and Jigawa states, the Melinda Gate prediction will come to pass in Nigeria?
The Federal Government should declare a state of emergency over coronavirus in Kano and Jigawa states and concentrate its effort there for now. Although, I have read in the papers that the Federal Government denied Ganduje the money he requested for to tackle this virus. He was demanding for money from the Federal Government but he himself did not make efforts to fix this thing. He thought it was the usual way of making money. Government should try as much as possible to assist these two states and they should enforce these safety tips about confinement of people in their houses (lockdown) and the rest of them.
Trial vaccine: Although the Nigerian government has come out to clarify why it agreed for the country to be used as a testing ground for the COVID-19 trial vaccine, many Nigerians are opposed to it. What’s your take on this?
This coronavirus is more severe in other countries than it is in Nigeria. Why can’t they test it in those countries? Why can’t they test it on the countries that manufactured these drugs or vaccines before they bring them to Nigeria? If they test and they find them to be working then, they can bring them to Nigeria. The thing looks suspicious. How can they just come and say they want to test those things here in Nigeria? It’s not proper. I think government should stand on its feet not to allow that happen.
On the gradual easing of the lockdown. We saw in Abuja and Lagos yesterday how millions of people thronged out to the streets without recourse to the precautionary measures of social distancing. Don’t you think that can reverse whatever gains we have achieved during the lockdown?
I think government had been armtwisted to do that because if you impose these restrictions and you find that they’re yielding results, why must you go and relax it? It’s better we allow it to remain so that we can harvest gains from it. These people hitherto had no attack of this virus. If they go out and contact it, what have we gained from weeks of lockdown. There are many people coming from outside in all places; they come and mix up and from there, the thing keeps spreading. So, if I were President Buhari, I wouldn’t have rushed to ease the lockdown yet. I would have allowed it to remain because this is a matter of life and death, this is the time to save the people and not an individual. If government has a way of saving people, it would have saved Abba Kyari. The Federal Government has been the first victim of this pandemic, hence, the need for it to tighten up its method of checking the spread of the virus.