Nigeria: In Kano, Concern for Unexplained Deaths Override COVID-19

Kano State.
27 April 2020

Ibrahim Shuaibu writes that in these grim times of the global COVID-19 pandemic, residents of Kano have an additional emergency of unexplained deaths to cope with

Kano State, the busy commercial city of the Northern Nigeria, which also doubles as the most populous state in the country, has witnessed a spate of unexplained deaths in the past couple days, and the state is under lockdown which is unusual for its busy residents who are always on top of their commercial and other menial jobs to provide a living for themselves.

The abnormal death has generated serious in the state, even as the residents are denied the chance to come up together in order to look for a way out of the problem which most of the people attribute to high death to high blood pressure, ulcer and other ailment not related to COVID-19.

But the Kano State government, which initially denied that anything was wrong is yet to come up with modalities to arrest the situation. Meanwhile, Governor Abdullahi Ganduje has finally admitted that he needs help, as he cried out to the Federal Government for N15 billion to combat the strange illness that has taken many lives in the state.

The situation in Kano was previously kept under the wraps, but the increasing death toll became impossible to hide or explain. People were dying mysteriously without any information of what exactly was killing them, even as a number of guesses were made. However, nothing can be scientifically proven because cultural and religious adherence demand quick interment for the dead, thereby denying a critical examination of the corpse through a post-mortem to verify what the cause of death was.

Most of the death has been attributed to high blood pressure, malaria, ulcer and even hunger, while dearth of medical doctors to attend to the patients in hospitals across the state has become situation of worrisome.

Residents of the state have been left wondering what may have led to a surge in the number of deaths after the state government imposed a total lockdown on the state as a result of the rising cases of Coronavirus.

The spate of deaths has caused palpable fear and confusion among the residents, which prompted the question on why the attention of the government shifted to fighting Coronavirus while people are dying in silence.

Some persons even suspect that the people are dying of the Coronavirus without being detected.

Demanding an immediate investigation and visit by President Muhammadu Buhari, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) also berated Ganduje for abandoning governance.

The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in a statement by its National Publicity Secretary, Mr. Kola Ologbodiyan demanded an immediate investigation into the disturbing mass death in Kano state, urging a Presidential visit to the state, where no fewer than 640 citizens had reportedly died under mysterious circumstances in the last one week.

Ologbodiyan said the party's call was predicated on conflicting reports emanating from Kano State on the cause of the sudden deaths particularly at this time that our nation is battling with the spread of COVID-19 pandemic.

He said, "The PDP notes with dismay that the Buhari Presidency had failed to take any concrete step on this frightening development, but is, as usual, waiting to be prodded to stand up to the demand of the office and proceed to Kano state to identity with the people, find solution and contain the ugly situation.

The party describes as lamentable that President Muhammadu Buhari, who promised to lead from the front, and who recently took up the toga of ECOWAS COVID-19 Response Champion, had rather receded into the safety of Aso Villa and failed to promptly activate any concrete and visible action to investigate and arrest the situation in Kano, where Nigerians are dying in their hundreds.

"The PDP described the situation as yet another manifestation of leadership failure and insensitivity of the Buhari-led All Progressives Congress (APC) administration to the plight of Nigerians at critical moments.

"Our party holds that the situation in Kano demands an immediate Presidential visit and investigation at the very high level. Those dying in Kano are Nigerians and must not be abandoned. The development deserves an utmost Presidential attention to avoid further escalation.

"This is particularly imperative as it is evident that Governor Abdullahi Ganduje and his APC-led administration in Kano State are totally incompetent and have become overwhelmed after failing to take appropriate measures to combat the spread of the coronavirus or whatever medical situation that has taken over the state."

The once busy streets of Kano streets have been deserted without vehicular movement on the streets. Unfortunately, the only gathering of a large number of people these days are people carrying corpses to the cemetery for burial, apart from the security personnel deployed to manage the lockdown order by Governor Abdullahi Umar Ganduje as part of the government efforts to curtail the spread of Coronavirus pandemic.

All the cemeteries in Kano state have become busy places receiving different corpses who are mostly elderly people that died from unexplained ailments.

The total lockdown has drawn attention of the public to unusual occurrences in the ancient city of Kano because of the overwhelming way corpses are brought for burial on daily basis. In most of the cemetery in Kano, people used to bury four or five corpses daily under normal circumstances. In the last seven days, however, the number of corpses buried each day have gone up to an average of 15 corpses per day.

A resident of Fagge local government area, one of the eight local governments that make the Kano Metropolis, Malam Saminu Bala told THISDAY, "I was at the Abattoir Cemetery along Wamba Quarters attending a burial when they brought five other corpses for burial. Everybody was complaining about the increasing number of death in the city. The undertaker said they have buried over 60 in just two days."

This situation was soon to go viral on the social media with video and audio clips as well as texts doing the round. As the conventional media took an interest, the state government was taken unawares. It issued a statement promising to investigate the cause of the rise in deaths and make it public. The announcement was made through the office of the Commissioner for Health, Dr. Aminu Tsanyawa although days later the state Governor Abdullahi Ganduje later dismissed the reported deaths in Kano as fake news while responding to questions from journalists.

Ganduje would later concede that only 13 people have been recorded dead in the state. His statement was seen as political without tracking the actual death of people who died under this circumstance.

Reports have it that over 200 people have died within few days since the commencement of the total lockdown in the state.

The Governor said, "I can confirm that only 13 people have been reported dead instead of the rumours going round of mass death. I would like to assure the people that it is not true, it is a rumour. We have people at grave side that are giving us information and also recording the records about dead people and the cause of their death.

"There were three deaths from Gwale, seven deaths in Kano Municipal, while three others from Kumbotso. So this is the actual figure that our staff at graveyards were able to record."

However, under normal circumstance, Kano people often bear the major burden of disease outbreaks, but this unusual death caused panic, worry and even became a time bomb waiting to explode if government does not take immediate action and look at the causes of the death, according to Auwalu Ali Daurawa, a Kano resident who lives near the Farm Centre Cemetery.

The lack of facilities in a densely populated city like Kano which requires all hands on deck to prevent the spread of the novel Coronavirus is alarming and the rampant deaths indeed call for concern. Infections, particularly the ones associated with poor hygiene, are largely linked to poverty. It is the poor who suffer the pains of death and devastations, occasioned by the visit of such scourge.

Independent investigations have certainly proved that it is true that the rate of death have risen in the ancient city by at least 200%. This is indeed alarming and calls for serious concern especially in a period where there is an outbreak of a pandemic.

Regular residents of Kano have cause for worry over the unexplained deaths rather the global pandemic of Coronavirus, which many wrongly believe is a hoax, not real.

The unexpected death of over 200 people in Kano may likely be of harsh condition and unfavorable weather which resulted into high blood pressure, malaria and other ailments and with nobody to attend to the them in the hospitals as doctors and other health personnel have runaway from their post due to fear of Coronavirus pandemic, the predictable result is death.

A nursing officer at Murtala Muhammad Specialist hospital told our correspondent under anonymity that "Most of the call duty doctors have run away for their safety. The condition is seriously disturbing, we are having dearth of doctors not only here but in the other hospitals across the state. They are scared of the COVID-19 and even their welfare is at stake."

She said the there is need for the government's quick intervention because lack of doctors on duty to attend to their patients have seriously contributed to the unexplained number of death in the state. At A&E (Accidents and Emergency) we are short of of doctors or even nurses to attend to the patients.

It would be recalled that the state recorded mass death which has been attributed to high blood pressure, malaria, ulcer and even hunger, while dearth of medical doctors to attend the patients in all the hospitals across the state became a situation of worrisome.

There are reports that attendants and undertakers at the Dandolo Cemetery in Goron Dutse in the metropolis confirmed that there was increase of dead bodies and at it was unusual. The same scenario was reported at Gyadi-gyadi Cemetery in Court Road and Abattoir Cemetery around Kofar Mazugal.

Another cemetery guard at Farm centre, Mani Ahmad told our correspondent that in one day, they buried 19 dead bodies inside the Farm Centre Cemetery, adding that the situation was scary, as it was unusual ever since he began working there in the last four years.

Reportsfrom the major cemeteries in the Kano city, had revealed that about 200 people were buried in the graveyards in the past days and the figure is increasing on daily basis.

A health official at Zage in Kano municipal who claimed to have attended to a number of patients, said those deaths were unrelated to COVID-19 as he explained that none of the cases he attended to came with a symptom related to the pandemic.

"Have high blood pressure, diabetics, ulcer and even malaria. I noticed that some are really short of the usual medications they use to manage their ailments. They are equally short of food, so malnutrition set in.

"Now, with the lock-down and health officials in primary healthcare centres absconding from work, when any complication arises, it leads to death in no time," he explained.

One Abdulazzez Musa said, "Why is that our Government officials are full of lies and propaganda.. This your lies can not stop people from dying when their time reach and it's very true that people are dying in Kano within these days. These are shameless people who don't fear Allah."

Mukhtar Y. Buharista said, "it's not rumour but true. I'm an eye witness of this. My uncle died and buried in Bulukiya graveyard. While entering the graveyard, we saw different people who buried their loved ones."

Abdulbaseer swore by Allah that the news was beyond rumour. "The mass death is not a rumor," he said.

Yakub Adam Chedi had an advise for the authorities. He said, "Please review your findings to ascertain the real facts, and do the needful before it's too late."

Zunnurain junaid also said, "It's not rumour but true. People are dying and you are here telling us it is not true. Go to Dan-dolo and Kara graveyards, you will see newly dug graves there."

However, Dr Mustapha Hikima, the Chief Medical Director, Abdullahi Wase Hospital in Kano revealed that the state's Ministry of Health had conducted a survey to that effect between 13th to 19th April to see the pattern of death in the state.

He added that, "after the quick survey, the result had shown that there is no significant increase in the rate of death recorded in the state and the cemeteries taken as sample in the survey by the ministry were Dala, Fagge, Gwale, Kano Municipal, Nassarawa and Tarauni as they are densely populated areas in the state, revealing that the result did not show significant increase in the number of death recorded normally in the state.

Also, Dr Tijjani Hussaini, state coordinator of technical response team of COVID-19 and also executive secretary of primary healthcare agency in Kano, said that they were yet to ascertain the medical cause of the said deaths, but acknowledged that the situation had "sent residents panicking".

"The investigation is prompted by reports that more deaths have been recorded in the past seven days. We want to know the number of persons already dead. We also want to investigate how they died.

"It is when we have a good idea; when we get the outcome of the findings that we can properly draw conclusions and brief the public," he said.

Most of the questions that Kano residents asked the government and other health officials are, when they will be given attention over this unusual death and why government only concentrated on the issue of Coronavirus instead of the health matters that are seriously of concern to the people.

A public analyst, Mr. Bashir Mohammed Duna concludeded that there was "No cause for alarm. I believe that the life of people is something that government is so much concerned about and I am optimistic that government will seriously look into causes of these deaths."


The once busy streets of Kano streets have been deserted without vehicular movement on the streets. Unfortunately, the only gathering of a large number of people these days are people carrying corpses to the cemetery for burial, apart from the security personnel deployed to manage the lockdown order by Governor Abdullahi Umar Ganduje as part of the government efforts to curtail the spread of Coronavirus pandemic. All the cemeteries in Kano state have become busy places receiving different corpses who are mostly elderly people that died from unexplained ailments

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