Kogi State and the Politics of COVID19

Probe Governor Yahaya Bello’s allegations now – Shehu Sani to FG

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Kogi state and the Politics of COVID19
Dr. Chikwe Ihekweazu, NCDC Dir. General (l), with Gov. Yahaya Bello

Kogi and perhaps Cross Rivers states are at the last count allegedly the only remaining states in the country still laying claim to a “free status” as far as the COVID19 pandemic currently ravaging not only the country but the world at large.

The case of Kogi state has in addition to being controversial of late also succeeded to add a great deal of drama to the ongoing controversy. It has been a back and forth game between the Nigeria Center for Disease Control (NCDC) and the Kogi state government over not only whether Kogi state is free of the COVID19 pandemic but whether the right thing has been done to warrant such unattainable claim of a free status in the midst of a pandemic. Consequently, media altercations between the NCDC and Kogi state government over the state’s COVID-19 free status have continued to ensue. As a matter of fact, amidst the Kogi state imbroglio had even arisen at some point claims and counter claims about some existing or non-existing “COVID19 App” amongst numerous others.

However only yesterday, a dramatic anti-climax or twist was added when visiting officials of the NCDC reportedly fled Kogi State, shortly after Governor Yahaya Bello directed them to go into isolation at the state quarantine centre for fourteen days before carrying out their assignment in Kogi, or leave the state immediately if they refused.

The NCDC team led by Dr. Andrew Noah visited the Governor in Lokoja reportedly to help Kogi state and support her efforts in the fight against the coronavirus pandemic.

ncdc officials in kogi 1
Officials of the NCDC in Kogi state

Noah explained to Governor Bello that his team was in Kogi state to support the state in shipping swabs and samples and ascertain the preparedness of the state in fighting Covid-19.

However, an obviously unimpressed and suspicious Governor Bello had a different idea. In his blunct response, he directed that the NCDC team be subjected to COVID-19 test and quarantined to ensure that the laid down procedure of checkmating the scourge by NCDC is strictly followed.

While addressing the officials, he told the NCDC team that Kogi state is highly experienced in fighting infectious diseases such as Lassa fever, malaria and the experience have been brought to bear in fighting COVID-19.

“Our people are adequately sensitised in all languages and locations throughout the state about Covid-19. As much as practicable Kogites now observe social distancing, hand-washing and other protocols for prevention of infection.

“The Kogi State Ministry of Health has deployed health personnel to all the 239 Wards of the State, 2 focal persons per ward, who constantly sensitize the people on the dangers of the virus, communicate news or even rumours of suspected cases to the incident committee or task force for investigation and also assist in contact tracing.

“We have set up 3 modern Isolation/ Containment Centres in the State having a combined capacity of 130-bed spaces. These facilities currently lie unused. It is our prayer and our determination that these isolation centres will remain vacant until the pandemic is over.

“We were the first state to officially release a web application which the general public can deploy to self-assess for Covid-19 risk. That app has proved to be popular and effective in tackling fear among the populace in the face of an unknown killer disease.

“We have had over 200,000 engagements with that app, over 14,000 completed self-assessments revealing scores of cases which required further investigation before Covid-19 could be ruled out.

“This is great as we all know how fear and disinformation are often overlooked but highly dangerous co-travelers with disease outbreaks and other phenomena which disrupt the social order.

“We have provided emergency and toll-free numbers for the general public to call in and report suspected cases of Covid-19 at no cost whatsoever. We have also fielded many of such calls.

“All of them turned out to be false alarms upon investigation and did not meet the criteria from the NCDC for cases which should be sampled for testing. In the circumstances, we cannot manufacture cases in order to be counted among the states which have recorded same. As a Governor I hear there are ‘benefits’ for having Covid-19 cases in your state, well, I am not interested,” he said.

It would be recalled that Governor Bello had only recently also publicly proclaimed that “the state finds recent comments on the state COVID-19 in Kogi by the NCDC DG distressing and that the state is under a serious pressure to declare as being amongst states with COVID-19 patients”.

Whether the Kogi state government is living in denial or whether the NCDC has got its own different agenda which is completely alien and unacceptable to the Kogi state government as claimed in some quarters, the fact remains that a lot more than whatever bickering is going on between both divides is at stake here and a lot more Nigerians are getting worried. More so, given the fact that Kogi is a major transit state and unarguably as vulnerable – if not more vulnerable—to a pandemic feared to be currently ravaging the country.

One such Nigerian who immediately took to his twitter handle to express his concern over the worrisome development was human rights activist and President of the Civil Rights Congress of Nigeria, (CRCN), Sen. Shehu Sani who called on Federal Government to wade in and officially respond to the issues and claims raised by the Kogi State governor on the NCDC and COVID-19 in Kogi state. The former member of the senate, stated this on his twitter handle; @ShehuSani at 2:42 pm on Friday 8th, May, 2020.

According to him, “the FG must officially respond to the issues continuously raised by the Kogi Governor on COhVID-19. “In times of national health emergency like this, such a serious allegation should be investigated, Confirmed or dismissed but must not be ignored”.

Also responding, Gimba Kakanda in his twitter handle [email protected] said; “Governor Yahaya Bello ridiculed and rejected NCDC’s help, citing this moronic excuse. Kogi, you need to shut down this clown’s gym and ask him to face the reality. Your safety shouldn’t be subjected to these childish and embarrassing displays. Coronavirus is not a politician”.

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