Covid-19: An open letter to Governor Yahaya Bello


Your Excellency,
I write as a concerned Kogite and citizen of Nigeria who recently has become intrigued by your unique response to the COVID-19 pandemic ravaging the world.

I am fascinated especially by your stern refusal to be dragged into the COVID-19 politics as you call it. This I must say is very commendable.

I also watched with pride as your Commissioner for Information and Communication, Kingsley Fanwo, defended the stand of the Kogi State Government on a popular nationwide television programme.

He declared that Kogi state is still COVID-19 free and will not accept any case or figure announced by the Nigerian Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), calling it a beautiful fraud.

I initially felt so proud to be from Kogi until it dawned on me that the statement and the rebuttal meant more than just what was said.

Your Excellency, sir, just so you know that the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) is the brainchild of your political father, President Muhammadu Buhari, created with the mandate to lead the preparedness, detection and response to infectious disease outbreaks and public health emergencies in the country.

Fortunately for Nigeria, President Buhari had the foresight to have signed the Bill for an Act to establish the NCDC in November 2018, just a year before the outbreak of the current public health emergency.

Former President Goodluck Jonathan took steps to establish the NCDC in 2011 when some departments in the Ministry of Health were moved to form the nucleus of the agency but was not recognised by law. So, NCDC is one of Buhari’s most commendable achievements.

Among other mandates, the Centre was created to support States in responding to small outbreaks and lead the response to large disease outbreaks and develop and maintain a network of reference and specialized laboratories such as the one used in testing for COVID-19.

By this, it means that testing Centres for diseases with such highly infectious pathogens like the novel coronavirus must be certified by the Centre as the highest public health body saddled with such responsibility.

Since the outbreak of the pandemic, the Centre has certified a handful of such specialized laboratories across Nigeria. Generally, the NCDC has the mandate to protect the health of Nigerians through evidence-based prevention, integrated disease surveillance and response activities, using a one-health approach, guided by research and led by a skilled workforce.

I read the Press Statement by the Honourable Commissioner in which he mentioned that the State has carried out hundreds of tests and can carry out tests.

If this is true, I strongly believe you were ill-advised by your subordinates. Coronavirus is not HIV/Aids or Malaria. Your Chief of Staff who is a Pharmacist and the Commissioner for Health who should be a trained medical personnel should know this basic public health protocol.

Disease pathogens have different protocols for diagnosis depending on how infectious they are.

Coronavirus tests for the sake of safety of personnel and accuracy is carried out following strict protocols and using recommended kits and equipment. 

Beyond this, your excellency, Fanwo’s branding of NCDC’s activity as fraudulent and numerous other utterances from appointees in your government point an accusing finger at our President, who you have consistently called a man of integrity, and the National Executive Council.

Was it that President Buhari was aware there was going to be an outbreak of a pandemic when he signed the NCDC Act into law?

Well, I don’t want to thread the part of your arch critic Dino Melaye, who has taken a new job of a conspiracy theorist and public health activist. 

But it is curious why President Muhammadu Buhari will set up a Special Presidential Task Force and mandate a national body like the NCDC, which is his creation, to coordinate a uniform response to the pandemic, which your Commissioner has consistently branded as fraud, alluding that states are announcing non-existent cases of coronavirus.

It is also curious that the Director of NCDC, the Minister of Health and the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 reports to the President.

Is President Buhari defrauding Nigerians keeping children out of school and business closed down while the economy suffers and to what end?

It must be noted that you cannot call or paint the NCDC and Ministry of Health fraud while exonerating President Buhari.

The Health Minister and DG of the NCDC are appointees of the President and report to him. It is public knowledge that they have been going to the villa to brief the President regularly.

I have therefore written this letter as a concerned citizen to suggest that you direct Fanwo and the state Commissioner for health to tone down their language.

As they cannot continue to indirectly call our President a fraud and expect patriotic citizens to be mute.

The NCDC is carrying out the mandate of the President and whatever name you call their activities bounces off that office.

This is my humble submission. Please accept the assurances of my esteemed regards.

– Adanu Moses, a concerned Kogi citizen, writes from Abuja.