Governor Abdullahi Umar Ganduje of Kano State has said autopsies were still being carried out to unravel the cause of deaths in the state.
The state has lost over 640 persons within the last two weeks to what many suspected to be COVID-19 but the state government has said repeatedly that the deaths were not coronavirus related, attributing them to hypertension, acute malaria and diabetes.
Ganduje, who disclosed this in a tweet on his official Twitter handle, yesterday, said: "Over the past week, there have been reports of mysterious deaths in our great Kano State and I'm here to assure everyone that investigations are already ongoing. Autopsies are still being carried out but so far, there's been nothing to suggest that they are linked with COVID-19.
"The state Ministry of Health has been sleepless in its battle against the pandemic and I will like to commend them for their efforts thus far. They have fought hard in the sporadic testing and quarantining of infected persons across the state."
Vanguard, however, gathered that officials of the state have been visiting families of those who have died to ask them what symptoms they exhibited before they died, with a view to ascertaining possible cause of the deaths.
FG not giving Kano enough attention in fight against COVID-19
Ganduje also in an interview with BBC Hausa Service, yesterday, said the Federal Government was not giving the state enough attention in the fight against COVID-19.
In an interview with the BBC Hausa Service on Monday, the governor said the state was not getting the needed support of the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19.
He said there was shortage of sample collection equipment, stressing that the laboratory in the state was not functioning.
He said: "We are in a serious problem. I can tell you the situation is really bad and scary. Because what we solely rely upon in fighting the disease is the testing centre.
"There is also a shortage of sample collection equipment. It is not common equipment that you can go and buy in the market. Those whose samples were collected are still waiting to know their fate.
"The problem is with the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19. Even its Director-General was in Kano. He spent a night here but we have not heard from him again. The Minister of Health is also aware that the laboratory is not functioning.
"There is a serious problem. We have been complaining that Kano needs more than one testing centre, right from the beginning of this.
"Sincerely speaking, we are not getting the deserved attention. If these equipment are under our control, we will do our best to make sure they work properly. But we are not getting the needed support and co-operation from the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19."
DSS D-G's mother dies in Kano
Meanwhile, the spate of death on the state continued on Sunday night as Hajia Karimatu Abubakar, mother of the Director-General of the Department of State Service, DSS, Alhaji Yusuf Magaji Bichi, died.
Hajia Abubakar, who died in Bichi town, has since been buried at Bichi according to Islamic rites.
Among her children are Director-General of DSS, Alhaji Yusuf Magaji Bichi, and Alhaji Muntari Magaji, a lecturer at Bayero University Kano.
There had been an uproar over strange deaths in Kano, though the state government said they were not COVID-19 related.
On Sunday, Muhammad Garba, Commissioner for Information, asked residents not to panic, saying government was on top of the situation.
3 patients on the run
Similarly, three persons who tested positive for coronavirus are currently on the run in the state.
The state Coordinator, Rapid Response on COVID-19, Dr. Tijjani Hussaini, who disclosed this on a radio programme in the state, yesterday, said the patients have switched off their phones, with their homes deserted.
He said the state government had informed security agencies about the development to launch a manhunt for them.
It was, however, gathered that the patients were said to have fled immediately they got wind of the outcome of their test, which turned out to be positive.
Kwankwaso writes Buhari, wants probe into cause of deaths
Also yesterday, former governor of the state, Senator Rabiu Kwankwaso, called on the Federal Government to order an independent expert team to probe the cause of the deaths in the state.
Kwankwaso, who made the call in a letter he personally signed and addressed to President Muhammadu Buhari, urged the government to immediately intervene in the situation to save lives of innocent persons being lost.
On the fight against COVID-19 pandemic in the state, Kwankwaso also called on Buhari to take over the responsibility of rapid response on coronavirus in the state, noting that the state practically had no COVID-19 response committee.
According to him, what the state has is a contraption of cronies that are both unqualified and incompetent.
Kwankwaso said: "Mr. President, I feel obliged to write this letter to you for five reasons: one is the very scary rise in the number of people that are mysteriously dying in Kano every day since the commencement of the fight against COVID-19 and the eventual lockdown of the state.
"Two is the uncoordinated and unprofessional manner in which the fight against the disease in Kano State is being waged and the attendant and unprecedented mistrust of the government by the governed.
"Three is the near absence of cooperation and coordination between the state and the Federal Government on COVID-19 response; four is the frightening reality of the tendency of the present health emergency (which has already placed unbearable financial burden on both the citizens and the nation) to metamorphose into a security emergency.
"Five is to offer some suggestions in the overall interest of the good people of Kano State and the success of the national effort against the COVID-19 pandemic. Permit me to draw your attention to the spike in mystery deaths among the aged population in Kano State in the last couple of weeks.
"Hundreds of funerals have been recorded in all the cemeteries of the eight metropolitan local governments alone.
"Looking at the pattern elsewhere in the world where senior citizens with preexisting conditions were the main fatalities of the novel coronavirus, we are concerned that the inability to conduct tests in the state to determine the status of these senior citizens might be responsible for their death.
"We are even more concerned that if sincere and efficient machinery is not urgently put in place to understand and mitigate against this, more lives of innocent senior citizens will be lost.
No COVID-19 response c'ttee
"At present, and to all intent and purposes, the state has practically no COVID-19 response committee. What was hitherto, working as a COVID-19 committee was a contraption of cronies that are both unqualified and incompetent.
"As such, they kowtow to the whims of politicians without any regard to professional healthcare considerations. The committee technically disbanded itself when majority of the members were tested positive for COVID-19.
"I should inform Mr. President that since the announcement of the positive results of the members of the committee, no test was ever conducted in the entire state again. This is very frightening as neither asymptomatic nor active cases are being identified and isolated, as such carriers of this dreaded virus are all about and spreading it and causing untimely death of especially our senior citizens.
"The stoppage of the tests, coupled with series of revelations from within the isolation centre in Kano, together with the state persistence in asking for financial assistance from the central government, has deepened the already existing mistrust of the government by the governed.
Every sincere leader should be concerned
"Every sincere leader should be concerned about this. Everything that ought to have been in place: from advocacy and awareness campaign to sensitize the public, to the provision of support (material, medical and emotional) to the citizens is conspicuously absent in Kano.
"Mr. President, in a state like Kano, where large majority of its inhabitants earn their living from the informal sector and where big chunk of its citizens live below poverty line, there is no gainsaying that sustaining the lockdown in Kano demands that people are not left hungry.
"Any support in this regard should not be made on partisan basis. At the moment, the state government palliatives are being distributed based on political patronage (four persons in each polling unit of 500 persons). This is grossly inadequate. A hungry and angry population cannot be kept in lockdown for too long."
Aisha Buhari donates 16 trailers of food items, PPEs
Meanwhile, Aisha Buhari, the wife of the President, yesterday, donated Personal Protective Equipment, PPEs, medical consumables and assorted food items to the government and people of Kano State.
Presenting the items to Kano State government, Special Adviser on Administration to the wife of the President, Hadi Uba, said the items that would be distributed by the Aisha Buhari Foundation were targeted at 500,000 households in the state.
"The items we are presenting today to the government and people of Kano State are from the Aisha Buhari Foundation.
He said: "We have divided these palliatives into three. We have food items, which consist of rice, spaghetti, oil and others. We also have the Personal Protective Equipment, PPEs, that include gloves, goggles, facemasks, sanitisers and other things. On the other hand we have the drugs.
"We have decided to pass the PPEs to the state government to distribute to the needy. The food items will be distributed by the Aisha Buhari Foundation."
According to him, the gesture of the wife of the president is meant to cushion the effects of the lockdown in the fight against the spread of COVID-19.
Uba further explained that sixteen trailer loads of assorted food items including, rice, spaghetti, flour, cooking oil and milk are going to be distributed in collaboration with the state government to the needy in the state.
He added that the PPEs include 300,000 hand gloves, 300,000 face masks as well as protective gowns. Also included are 10 automatic dispensers among other medical items.
Receiving the items on behalf of the state government, the Commissioner for Information, Muhammad Garba, expressed delight over the magnanimity of the wife of the president and promised that the items are going to be distributed accordingly.