The Secretary to Government of the Federation, Boss Mustapha, has said Abba Kyari's death is a proof to Nigerians that "COVID-19 is real and it is a matter of life and death."
Mr Mustapha, who doubles as the chairman of the presidential task force on COVID-19, said this while briefing journalists shortly after former chief of staff, Abba Kyari, was lowered into the grave at a cemetery in Gudu, Abuja.
Since the dawn of the week, Nigeria has seen a daily rise in the number of infected persons, but a recent poll revealed that about three in every ten Nigerians believe they have some form of immunity to the coronavirus.
Yet the virus has infected about 500 people in Nigeria, killing 17. Globally, over 2 million people have been infected and about 15o,000 killed.
Mr Mustapha has, therefore, urged Nigerians to take the disease seriously and adhere to the advice of health authorities.
"It has come to ravage our people, ravage our health and ravage our wealth as a nation so we must take it more seriously and the advisories that has gone out about social distancing, washing of hands and staying at home are not punitive, they are meant for our good.
"We have seen it now, that it has come home to us. If we were thinking of people who had passed on as a result of COVID-19 from a distance, it is not far now. It is just like a brother or friend or a relative that has passed on," he noted.
Mr Kyari, one of Nigeria's most powerful and controversial presidential aides, was pronounced dead Friday, 25 days after he tested positive for the novel coronavirus.
He was said to have contracted the coronavirus during a one-week working visit to Germany March 7 to 14, in the company of the Minister of Power, Saleh Mamman, to broker a deal with Siemens AG, a German energy company, towards improving electricity supply in the country.
The deceased official, who had an underlying medical condition for which he had sought treatments overseas in the past, died at the First Cardiology Consultant (FCC), a highly-sought-after private health facility located in Ikoyi.
Mr Kyari was at exactly 11:20 a.m. Friday interred at the military cemetery in Abuja's Gudu neighbourhood amidst tears from family members and supporters.
His death has drawn varying reactions. While some have extolled him as a great man who worked for a better Nigeria, others have shown less empathy for him -- a similar reaction that trailed a report when he tested positive for COVID-19.
But Mr Mustapha maintained that the deceased official was largely misunderstood by Nigerians as he served Nigeria till he died.
"A lot of people didn't understand Malam Abba but I worked with him for three years and I can tell you that he is a wonderful person, he is a good man; deep down in his heart, he always meant well and I looked up to him as a senior brother in the course of the work that we did in the last three years," he said.
He said Mr Kyari's death is a great loss to the presidency, himself and the nation, adding that the late chief of staff was not only "intellectually upright" but "humorous."
"If I show you my phone, you will see some of the things that he was sending to me even when he was confirmed positive with COVID-19," Mr Mustapha said, "he was still sending jokes. Every piece of joke he picked up in the internet he would send it to me."
More Nigerians react to Kyari's death
In his reaction to Mr Kyari's death, Governor Inuwa Yahaya of Gombe State in a statement by his spokesperson, Ismaila Misilli, lamented that Nigeria has lost a fine and dedicated gentleman, a patriot and a reliable administrator who was always mindful of his duties and responsibilities.
He said Mr Kyari will be remembered for his exemplary leadership, effectiveness in service, dedication and loyalty while carrying out the duties and responsibilities of his office.
"On behalf of the Government and people of Gombe State, I wish to extend our deepest condolences to Mr President, the family of the deceased as well as the government and people of his home state, Borno over this great loss," Mr Yahaya stated.
The Gombe governor prayed Almighty Allah to grant Mr Kyari 'Aljannah Firdaus' and give his family and the nation the fortitude to bear the loss.
In its reaction, the Nigerian Supreme Council of Islamic Affairs under the leadership of the Sultan of Sokoto, Sa'ad Abubakar, expressed "great shock" at the passing of the Mr Kyari.
"The late Chief of Staff was an excellent administrator who was committed to the overall development of the nation through dedicated and loyal service not only to His Excellency, President Muhammadu Buhari, GCFR, but also to the Nigerian people," a letter to the federal government by the Sultan-led Islamic council read.
The letter was addressed to Mr Mustapha and signed by the council's secretary-general, Is-haq Oloyede, the JAMB chief.
The council "commiserates with the President and the government of Nigeria on this grievous occasion. It is the prayer of the Ummah in Nigeria that the Almighty Allah would grant the departed Chief of Staff Al-Jannah Al-Firdaus. Amin."
In his reaction, the Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi, condoled Mr Buhari and the Kyari family on the passing of Mr Kyari.
Mr Amaechi, who headed Mr Buhari's campaigns for 2015 and 2019 elections, described the deceased as "a seasoned and remarkable administrator who took his job seriously and contributed immensely to the success of President Buhari as his Chief of Staff."
"Today, I join Nigerians, members of cabinet and staff of the presidency to mourn late Abba Kyari and pray for the repose of his soul. I also pray that his wife, Mrs. Kulu Abba Kyari, his family and loved ones find strength in this very trying time to bear this heavy loss," he said.
Mr Kyari, 67, had a wife and four children. He was appointed Mr Buhari's Chief of Staff in 2015 and reappointed into the same influential office after the 2019 elections.