President Muhammadu Buhari GCFR
President Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces Federal Republic of Nigeria
Aso Rock Villa, State House, Abuja.
COVID-19 AND THE RISING INCIDENCES OF MYSTEROUS DEATHS IN KANO STATE: A CALL ON THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT FOR URGENT ACTION TO SAVE LIVES
May I start by conveying my heartfelt condolence over the death of 32 Nigerians including Mr. President’s Chief of Staff, Malam Abba Kyari following their infection with the deadly coronavirus; may the souls of our departed countrymen rest in peace and may those who are tested positive for coronavirus have a speedy recovery.
Mr. President, I feel obliged to write this letter to you for five reasons: one is the very scary rise in the number of people that are mysteriously dying in Kano every day since the commencement of the fight against Covid-19 and the eventual lockdown of the state; two is the uncoordinated and unprofessional manner in which the fight against the disease in Kano state is being waged and the attendant and unprecedented mistrust of the government by the governed; three is the near absence of cooperation and coordination between the state and the federal government on the covid-19 response; four is the frightening reality of the tendency of the present health emergency (which has already placed unbearable financial burden on both the citizens and the nation) to metamorphose into a security emergency; and five, is to offer some suggestions in the overall interest of the good people of Kano State and the success of the national effort against the covid-19 pandemic.
Permit me Mr. President to draw your attention to the spike in mystery deaths among the aged population in Kano State in the last couple of weeks. Hundreds of funerals have been recorded in all the cemeteries of the eight metropolitan local governments alone. Looking at the pattern elsewhere in the world where senior citizens with preexisting conditions were the main fatalities of the novel coronavirus, we are concerned that the inability to conduct tests in the state to determine the status of these senior citizens might be responsible for their death. We are even more concerned that if sincere and efficient machinery is not urgently put in place to understand and mitigate against this, more lives of innocent senior citizens will be lost.
At present, and to all intent and purposes, the state has practically no Covid-19 response committee. What was hitherto, working as a covid-19 committee was a contraption of cronies that are both unqualified and incompetent. As such they kowtow to the whims of politicians without any regards to professional healthcare considerations. The committee technically disbanded itself when majority of the members were tested positive for Covid-19. I should inform Mr. President that since the announcement of the positive results of the members of the committee, no test was ever conducted in the entire state again. This is very frightening as neither asymptomatic nor active cases are being identified and isolated, as such carriers of this dreaded virus are all about and spreading it and causing untimely death of especially our senior citizens. The stoppage of the tests coupled with series of revelations from within the isolation centre in Kano together with the state persistence in asking for financial assistance from the central government has deepened the already existing mistrust of the government by the governed. This lack of trust seriously jeopardizes the battle against coronavirus especially if it were to be led by the state.
Mr. President in times of crisis like this, we require a robust and unifying leadership that will assure the citizens that it understands and shares its concerns; but unfortunately, the State Government is even denying that there is an unusual surge in the number of deaths in the state. This denial has also cultivated mistrust and doubt on the part of the citizens as the state government have failed to provide the desired leadership required at a critical time like this.
Mr. President everywhere in the world, the fight against pandemic is being spearheaded and superintended by central governments. The W.H.O. and such other global bodies, for example, have no business liaising with states on matters of global pandemic. But right from the first recorded case in Kano, the state government was in a tug of war with the National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), the federal agency vested with the responsibility of coordinating the fight against the disease. This is very counter-productive to the people of the state and a serious impediment to the success of the nation in the fight against the disease. Especially given the fact that as at today, the NCDC COVID-19 test centre at Aminu Kano Teaching Hospital (AKTH) has closed down ‘due to lack of reagents’.
Kano is the most populous state in the country and Kano city is one of the biggest in Africa. Experts have expressed concern that if the Kano situation is not handled professionally, sincerely, efficiently and competently, we have the tendency of becoming the epicenter of this disease in Africa in a matter of months. Every sincere leader should be concerned about this. Everything that ought to have been in place: from advocacy and awareness campaign to sensitize the public, to the provision of support (material, medical and emotional) to the citizens is conspicuously absent in Kano. Mr. President, in a state like Kano where large majority of its inhabitants earned their living from the informal sector and where big chunk of its citizens live below poverty line, there is no gainsaying that sustaining the lockdown in Kano demands that people are not left hungry. Any support in this regard should not be made on partisan basis. At the moment, the state government palliatives are being distributed based on political patronage (4 persons in each polling unit of 500 persons). This is grossly inadequate. A hungry and angry population cannot be kept in lockdown for too long!
Mr. President, these concerns are what prompted me to write to you to proffer some suggestions that might go a long way to help in the fight against the virus in Kano State. It is my prayer that Mr. President consider the following:
1. The situation in the state should not be seen by Mr. President as a state government matter that should be left to the state. The lives of tens of millions of Nigerians living in Kano state is at stake, as such the central government should be seen to be actively involved in caring for, and saving their lives. There is need for empathy;
2. The federal government should take over the responsibility of rapid response on coronavirus in the state;
3. The State Government should be made to constitute a proper State Taskforce on COVID-19 with members selected base on their professionalism and competence;
4. At least five additional test centres should be established with 10 other sample collection centres across the State;
5. The Taskforce should designate trained medical personnel in all cemeteries across the state that will collect records of all deaths. While another team of medical personnel follow up with inquiry of the cause of death. Furthermore, those that attended to the sick and those that prepared the dead body for burial should also be identified, isolated and contact traced for testing;
6. Since it is undeniable that there is a spike in the number of death and it is probable that these deaths are either as a result of COVID-19 or some other illness, the State Government and citizens should treat and consider all deaths as if it is caused by the virus; therefore all protocols as advised by medical experts be observed whenever death occurs;
7. An independent Federal Government team of experts should be mandated to investigate the rise in cases of death in the elderly population across the State;
8. Palliatives should be generous and general. The virus does not belong to any political party just as hunger and poverty are not partisan.
Your Excellency, while commending Nigerians for their support to, and cooperation with the fight against the pandemic; we appreciate the sacrifices of our health workers and other frontline personnel providing other essential services. Let me also express my gratitude to numerous well-meaning Nigerians who are making enormous sacrifices with their wealth, skills and know how. Mr. President these concerns boarder on matters of life and death.
The time to act on the Kano situation is now.
Long Live the Federal Republic of Nigeria
Long Live Kano State
Sen. Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso