Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye, Fred Itua, Godwin Tsa, Fred Ezeh, Molly Kilete, Abuja, and Romanus Okoye
Chief of Staff to President Muhammadu Buhari, Abba Kyari, and Bauchi State governor, Bala Mohammed, have reportedly tested positive for coronavirus.
However, President Muhammadu Buhari returned negative, following a test carried out by Nigerian Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) on Monday night.
A presidential source confirmed that three staff of the Chief of Staff have also tested positive.
This came as the NCDC announced new cases in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) and Bauchi State in a series of tweets on Tuesday.
The centre said the cases had travel history to Germany and the United Kingdom. This brings the total number of cases in Nigeria to 44.
The agency tweeted: “2 new cases of #COVID19 have been confirmed in Nigeria: 1 in FCT and 1 in Bauchi. The cases have travel history to Germany and the UK. As at 06:25 pm on 24th March, there are 44 confirmed cases of #COVID19 in Nigeria. 2 have been discharged with 1 death.”
Efforts to get official confirmation on Kyari’s situation were unsuccessful.
The country now has 40 active cases, two discharged, one death.
Lagos has 29, Abuja, seven, Ogun, three, while Ekiti, Oyo and Edo states have one each. Nigeria recorded its first death from the disease on Monday.
Also, Vice President, Yemi Osinbajo and Deputy Chief of Staff, Ade Ipaye, are believed to be in self-isolation.
Osinbajo and Kyari seat close to each other at the Federal Executive Council meetings held at the Council Chambers of the Presidential Villa. Their seats are separated by that of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation.
Villa staff and journalists covering the seat of power have been making efforts to get tested by the NCDC.
Meanwhile, the villa is on a gradual lockdown as non-essential staff have been asked to stay away. All the aides at the Vice President’s wing, with the exception of his media aide, did not turn up for work. A source said the VP reported late to work on Monday afternoon, unlike his usual self. Most of his aides had masks and gloves on when they came to work on Monday.
Sources disclosed that Kyari’s close associates, including the former Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Babagana Kingibe, will be tested.
Prominent Nigerians who have had engagements with the Chief of Staff since his return to Nigeria, include the business mogul, Aliko Dangote, Governors Bello Masari and Yahaya Bello of Katsina and Kogi states, respectively, and Inspector-General of Police (IGP) Mohammed Adamu.
Kyari, who was in Europe alongside the power minister, Saleh Mamman, on a trip to Germany on March 7 to meet with officials of Siemens in Munich on Nigeria’s electricity expansion programme, returned to the country on March 14. On the 17th, Kyari also led a presidential delegation to commiserate with Bello on the demise of his mother, while, last Friday, he met with Dangote.
Spokespersons for Dangote and Masari, Sunday Esan and Abdu Labaran, respectively, failed to answer calls to their telephone lines, and text messages were not replied.
The outcome of Kyari’s test prompted that of President Buhari, which came out negative.
As part of measures to curtail the spread of COVID-19, the media department of the Presidential Villa has reduced the number of accredited journalists covering the Villa to 20 for the next two weeks.
Accredited journalists, numbering over 100, will now take turns to cover the Villa.
FG speaks on Kyari’s coronavirus test
The Federal Government has refused to confirm the health status of Kyari. Information minister, Lai Mohammed, did not, however, deny he had tested positive when journalists put the question to him Tuesday.
“We don’t mention names in carrying out this responsibility. It’s a global practice; so, you don’t expect us to mention any name to you,” he told State House correspondents.
The minister was part of the Presidential Task Force on Coronavirus that inspected Kyari’s office within the Presidential Villa on Tuesday. The task force, led by Secretary to the Government of the Federation Boss Mustapha, arrived at the Villa around 2:15pm. Mustapha and other members of the task force, comprising ministers and health experts, spent about 10 minutes inspecting the office.
Daily Sun learnt that Kyari has moved into the Abuja isolation centre located at the University of Abuja Teaching Hospital (UATH), Gwagwalada, Abuja, for commencement of treatment.
A reliable source at the hospital confirmed that Kyari arrived there shortly after the result of coronavirus test returned positive. The source could not confirm if three of his staff who were said to have also tested positive were at the isolation centre. But sources said efforts were ongo to move him to IDH, Yaba, Lagos.
Also, Kyari’s staff, as well as presidential aides who had had contact with him, have been asked to self-isolate.
The source also debunked social media reports that one of the ventilators at the UATH has been moved to the Presidential Villa, apparently, to cater for the Chief of Staff and others who might have tested positive for coronavirus.
Governor Mohammed had gone into self-isolation after shaking hands with the son of former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, who also tested positive for the virus.
In a statement yesterday, Mukhtar Gidado, senior special assistant to the governor on media, said Mohammed was under quarantine.
President Buhari met separately with Masari, the National Security Adviser, Major General Babagana Monguno (retd.), director-general, Department of State Services, Yusuf Bichi, and the IGP. Journalists were not briefed at the end of the meeting.
Crisis looms in Abuja testing centre over inadequate testing kits
Chairman of the Senate Committee on Health, Ibrahim Oloriegbe, has revealed that the Abuja testing centre was running out of test kits.
Addressing newsmen in Abuja, he said: “We do not have enough testing capacity in the country. As at last week, the total testing capacity was 10,000. I engaged with the task force on Friday. Some of you were there. As at today, it has increased to about 10,000.
“One of the decisions we took today was that we want the Federal Government to expand that testing capacity.”
Lagos shuts markets, others
Lagos State government yesterday ordered all markets, shops and restaurants in the state to close shop, except the ones that sell pharmaceuticals and food items, effective from Thursday, March 26. Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu, who gave the order in a statewide broadcast, said that the partial lockdown became necessary due to the increasing cases of COVID-19 in Lagos State.
Sanwo-Olu said that markets would be opened in various schools to ensure people have access to food. He ordered restaurants and eateries to only offer takeaway and not eat-in services.
“The law enforcement agents are fully empowered to enforce the directives. Gatherings in any form must not exceed 25 persons, against the earlier directive of 50 persons,” Sanwo-Olu said.
NASS shuts down
The two chambers of the National Assembly, the Senate and House of Representatives, have suspended plenary and shut down for two weeks, to curb the spread of the infection.
Seven out of the 40 patients that contracted COVID-19 in Nigeria as of Monday night were in Abuja, where the National Assembly complex is located.
In addition to the 360 lawmakers in the Green Chamber, and 109 in the Senate, the legislative complex receives an average of 3,500 visitors every week.
However, while on break, essential committees will continue to offer skeletal services.
President of the Senate, Ahmad Lawan, while making the announcement yesterday after a closed-door session, urged the Federal Government to raise the game and do everything to curtail the spread.
“As at now, the only way out of the pandemic is for the population to observe the recommended measures adviced by the NCDC. The Federal Government should devote special funds to fight the COVID-19 threatening Nigeria. Also, the Federal Government should give financial and other resource assistance to the states in the fight against the virus. The Senate committees on Health and Primary Healthcare and Communicable Diseases will continue to engage with the Federal Ministry of Health and presidential taskforce on COVID-19.”
Speaker Femi Gbajabiamila said the decision was made over the weekend to shut down the House: “Though the House will be closing tomorrow, I will implore all members to be present on the floor for the passage of a bill titled Emergency Economic Stimulus Bill, which the leadership of the House has been working on all weekend and concluded this night.”
Courts in Abuja comply with lockdown directives
Courts in Abuja, on Tuesday, recorded full complainance with the directive of the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Tanko Mohammed, to shut down to prevent the spread of the coronavirus pandemic.
When the Daily Sun visited some divisions of the courts, it was observed that most juges did not show up and only a few lawyers were there taking new dates from the court clerks. At the Federal High Court, some lawyers were briefing their clients on the development.
Some office attendants and staff, all wearing protective kits, were milling around the premises, while some returned home immediately after putting down their attendance.
The closure, for an initial period of two weeks, will be reviewed in due course.
The doors of the courts would be opened only for urgent and time-bound cases.
JAMB goes on 2-week break
The Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board (JAMB) has announced a temporary suspension of all official activities that require contact with humans at its Abuja headquarters and offices nationwide for two weeks.
It also said all services requiring biometric verification were suspended till further notice.
JAMB spokesman, Dr. Fabian Benjamin, in a statement released in Abuja on Tuesday, explained that the decision was in line with professional advice of government on safety of Nigerians in relation to the Covid-19 pandemic.
He, however, said that JAMB has upgraded its ticketing online service, which, he said, would attend to enquiries, complaints and handle some services.
He urged candidates to take advantage of efficient and up-to-date digital platforms to access information and solve certain problems pending new developments.
He assured candidates that the situation will be reviewed regularly, and as soon as the circumstances permit, all suspended services would be resolved with further delay.
NECO postpones 2020 common entrance examination
National Examinations Council (NECO) has postponed the 2020 National Common Entrance Examination (NCEE) into Federal Unity Colleges earlier scheduled to hold on Saturday 28 March, 2020, indefinitely.
NECO spokesman, Azeez Sani, in a statement released in Abuja, on Tuesday, attributed the decision to the outbreak of coronavirus in Nigeria which has altered several programmes.
“The decision was in deference to the various measures put in place by Federal and State Governments to curtail the potential spread of Coronavirus (COV1D-19).”
He said that management of NECO regrets any inconveniences the postponement might have caused candidates and other stakeholders, and assured them that the Council was committed to safety of candidates.
He confirmed that a new date for the examination will be communicated to candidates and other stakeholders in due course, even as he added that registration for the examination continues.
Use unity schools hostels as isolation units – Reps
The House has directed the Federal Ministry of Education to immediately make available hostels in 104 unity schools across the country for use as emergency care centres and isolation units by the Federal Ministry of Health and the National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), should the need arise.
It also mandated the Federal Ministry of Health and the NCDC to immediately develop contingency plans for the establishment of emergency care facilities at the unity schools.
“These contingency plans should include cost estimates for the provision of equipment, material, medicines and other such requirements as may become necessary”.
The lawmakers equally directed the Federal Ministry of Health, to work with the Association of General and Private Medical Practitioners of Nigeria (AGPMPN) and other such stakeholders to develop plans for the deployment of a corps of doctors and medical professionals to these emergency care centres as the need arises.
Furthermore, the Green chamber urged the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), to urgently provide funding for the establishment and operations of the emergency health facilities across the country, as part of its policy measures in response to the coronavirus pandemic.
The House, while lauding the government for the steps so far taken to contain the spread of COVID 19 in the country, resolved to invite the CBN governor,Godwin Emefiele, to brief the leadership on the apex bank’s response to the Covid–19 outbreak, including the procedure and requirements for the disbursement of earmarked intervention funds under the emergency policy measure.
It urged President Muhammadu Buhari to to exercise his authority under the Customs, Excise Tariffs, Etc. (Consolidation) Act to remove any import or excise duty on essential medical equipment as determined by the Minister of Health to be necessary for the management of Covid-19 in the country.
Gbajabiamila, in his lead debate, said corou has emerged as the most significant threat to the physical, mental and economic wellbeing of the people and nations of the world.
PSC suspends staff verification exercise
The Police Service Commission(PSC), has announced the postponement of the Staff Verification exercise scheduled to hold next Monday. The commission has also announced the suspension of its eighth Plenary Meeting.
PSC Head, Press and Public Relations Ikechukwu Ani, said the suspension is in compliance with the containment/Safety measures of the Federal Government in the wake of the Corona Virus pandemic.
Ani in a statement issued in Abuja, said
“The Police Service Commission has postponed till further notice its 8th Plenary Meeting scheduled for today, Tuesday 24th and tomorrow, Wednesday, 25th March 2020. The Commission has also put off indefinitely, its Staff Verification exercise scheduled to commence on Monday, 30th March, 2020.
“The suspension of the two official activities of the Commission is in accordance with the containment/Safety measures of the Federal Government in the wake of the Corona Virus pandemic.
“The Plenary Meeting is the highest decision making body of the Commission and the Scheduled 8th Plenary would have considered recommendations from the different Standing Committees of the Commission on Police Promotion, Discipline, Recruitment and other related matters.
“The Staff Verification is an in-house staff audit and review in line with the extant rules of the Public Service.
The Commission notes that it will abide by all the necessary Federal government measures to contain this ravaging pandemic and advised that Staff must ensure they restrict themselves to the barest minimum contacts and also adhere to stipulated professional behaviour.