Nigeria: Coronavirus - Why Nigeria's Ministers, Governors, Dangote Should Be Tested

Coronavirus (COVID-19) disease graphic.

At least two persons in Nigeria's high political class are now infected with the raging COVID-19, currently causing upset across the world. The Chief of Staff to the President, Abba Kyari, and Bauchi State Governor Bala Mohammed, are among Nigeria's 46 confirmed cases (by Wednesday morning), which include Mohammed, a son of opposition leader Atiku Abubakar.

The coronavirus status of the two top officials suggests possible exposure of many others, whom they had met with in the past days, to the pandemic. This list includes governors, ministers, business leaders, and several other individuals.

Mr Mohammed contracted the virus either after meeting Mr Abubakar's son aboard a Lagos-Abuja Aero flight last Wednesday or during his visit to Germany earlier. The governor only realised his exposure after Mr Abubakar announced his son had tested positive for the virus. Following a test, Mr Mohammed was confirmed positive eventually.

Mr Mohammed shared information regarding his visit to Germany for a water-related talk on Twitter on March 13.

If he had been infected in Germany - not through contact with the younger Abubakar - he may have got senior officials of Aliko Dangote Foundation exposed to COVID-19.

On Wednesday, before joining Mr Abubakar on the plane to Abuja, he met Dangote officials in Lagos. The Aliko Dangote Foundation, Mr Mohammed said on Twitter, was proposing an empowerment scheme for rural women in Bauchi and building primary healthcare centres in the North-eastern state.

Then, last Thursday, Mr Mohammed attended the National Executive Council meeting, chaired by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo. The council consists of all the governors, the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, finance minister and other relevant officials. Also, Thursday's meeting was attended by the DG of the governors' forum, NGF, Asishana Okauru and a few others invited to make presentations.

Mr Okauru has announced he and his family would be observing self-isolation following his exposure to Mr Mohammed last week.

"I attended different meetings of the Nigeria Governors' Forum and the Nigerian Economic Council last week, which were also attended by the Bauchi State Governor," Mr Okauru said in a statement sent PREMIUM TIMES on Tuesday.

"Consequently, my wife and I would be undergoing COVID-19 testing this week. All of the organizations to which my wife is affiliated have already begun 'Work from Home' in line with an earlier Government directive."

As NGF meeting, attended by Mr Mohammed, also held in the past week, Mr. Okauru said, "All members of NGF secretariat that were exposed will be observing self-isolation. We encourage all those who were invited to the NGF meetings for presentations to also do the same."

At least two of the governors have admitted they need to be tested and have gone on self-isolation.

"I just took a Covid-19 test, having gone into self isolation since yesterday evening," Mr Fayemi tweeted Wednesday morning.

"I'm asymptomatic and feel well, but I was in meetings with two people who had since tested positive. I look forward to an all clear and have encouraged all my colleagues to take the test."

The Edo State Governor, Godwin Obaseki, also expressed a similar stance.

"The governor has gone into self-isolation after the Governor of Bauchi State, Senator Bala Mohammed and Chief of Staff to the President, Abba Kyari, tested positive for coronavirus.

"The governor had met Senator Mohammed at the Nigeria Governors Forum (NGF) and National Economic Council (NEC) meetings. He also visited Mr Kyari," Mr Obaseki's spokesperson, Crusoe Osagie, said.

Agric Minister, Dangote exposed too

Last Friday, days after meeting the younger Mr Abubakar, Mr Mohammed held a meeting with the country's agriculture minister, Nanono Sambo., according to a tweet by the governor that day.

The meeting was on Afro-processing, Productivity Enhancement and Livelihood Support, APPEALS project, according to the tweet.

In a Twitter reply to former Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara, Tuesday, Mr Mohammed said, "I am doing great and showing no symptoms.

"I have also advised fellow compatriots to take this pandemic seriously and strictly adhere to @NCDCgov guidelines."

Apart from the governor, no other Bauchi official tested positive, according to an official statement.

Mr Osinbajo who chaired the NEC meeting attended by Mr Mohammed is in self-isolation, his aide said yesterday.

Kyari's contacts... Dangote, others

Mr Kyari, the gatekeeper to President Muhammadu Buhari, was in Germany alongside the power minister, Saleh Mamman, for a talk with the tech giant, Siemens AG. It is believed he got infected during this visit in the second week of March.

Instead of observing self-isolation or seek to be tested on arrival in Nigeria, Mr Kyari continued to meet with various persons and attending events in breach of the government's advisory.

Mr Kyari attended the wedding ceremony of the son of the Inspector-General of Police, Muhammad Adamu in Kano on March 14.

At the ceremony, Mr Kyari was in the company Africa's richest man, Aliko Dangote, whose senior officials would later meet Mr Mohammed, Bauchi governor, on March 18 in Lagos. Also at the ceremony was Kano State Governor, Abdullahi Ganduje, who also later became exposed to his Bauchi counterpart at the NEC meeting of last week.

Two days after the wedding ceremony, a meeting of the Progressives Governors' Forum held with President Muhammadu Buhari, at the State House in Abuja. As always, Mr Kyari attended that meeting, posing in photos right beside his principal, the president.

A Thisday newspaper report quoting State House sources suggest Mr Buhari tested negative for the virus, while Mr Kyari tested positive.

Before the PGF meeting with the president, Mr Kyari had reportedly met with APC chairman, Adams Oshiomole, who was then battling to save his job.

Apart from contacts with his regular staff at the State House, Mr Kyari also led a delegation that included presidential spokesperson Garba Shehu and information minister Lai Mohammed to Okene to commiserate with Kogi State Governor Yahya Bello whose mum, Hauwa'u Ozoho, passed on.

"Gross act of irresponsibility"

Many Nigerians have criticised persons, including leaders, who returned from high-risk countries without observing isolation but rather chose to expose more people to the coronavirus.

"It is sad that the political class is leading this gross act of irresponsibility," said broadcast journalist Ukachi Chukwu, on Facebook. "Mr Kyari returned from a trip abroad and refused to isolate... more importantly he exposed the president to the virus."

"If the political class will not obey instructions and self-isolate, how can they expect ordinary citizens to do (the) same?" the journalist queried.

NCDC boss, Chikwe Ihekweazu, could not be reached for comment on this report. Calls to his phone Wednesday morning were not answered.

However, the agency had said it would not provide details of the individuals that had been tested and their test results.

A story by Quartz on Tuesday suggests Nigeria is not testing enough people due to capacity constraints. According to the report, citing NCDC data, only 152 people had been tested by March 22 - compared with South Africa's over 15,500.

Nigeria has confirmed one death of its 46 infections of the COVID-19 which has caused the death of over 15,000 people globally.

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