By Arogbonlo Israel.
Kogi state, popularly known as the ‘Confluence State’, has a reputation for controversy. In recent times, the state has been plagued by a series of crises, such as insecurity, political face-off and ethnic sentiments, among others. It seems there is no end to the controversies.
Last week, there was directive by the Presidential Task Force Committee to visit the state amid Coronavirus pandemic that has since been ravaging the country and the world at large.
Against this backdrop, a team of the Ministry of Health and the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) were sent to Kogi but there were some differences that made their mission to the state unacommplished.
Occupying a 29,833 km² land space bordered by ten states, including the Federal Capital Territory, Kogi has over 4 million population. It also has a total Gross Domestic Profit (GDP) of $4,642 (1,790,001.62 Nigerian Naira) with several natural resources to make a nation great.
According to information gathered, Kogi and Cross River are the two states yet to confirm a single case of the disease in the country.
It was learnt Kogi state government had alleged that there are attempts to declare fake COVID-19 cases in the state, hence, the concession.
What informed the saga?
The Kogi State Government had announced the refusal of the NCDC officials to observe protocols in line with the containment of the Coronavirus pandemic when they arrived the state. This equally stirred up a drama between the two parties as the latter flee the state without adhering to the terms and conditions rolled out by the governor.
Following this, the health minister, Osagie Ehanire said the committee would need to re-engage the state governor again and work with him and his team to create the conditions to which the Ministry of Health and the NCDC can complete their job.
A resident from Lokoja, Abdullahi Jibril, while speaking with this reporter, called on transparency on the part of NCDC in terms of their level of engagement with the governor.
“I join the numerous voices that have demanded for transparency in the discharge of NCDC’s mandate in tackling the novel Corona virus. I sincerely believe that there is more to the shenanigans expressed by the body than the ordinary eyes can see. But for now, her activities is shrouded in secrecy. But for now, her activities (NCDC) is shrouded in secrecy,” he said.
Another resident from Ogugu area of the state, Onojah Johnson lamented over the poor facilities in the state while describing the ongoing saga between the state government and the NCDC officials as having a political undertone.
“It is not that there are not isolation centres, there are but the facilities in place are not up to standard, and that show the level of commitment from the side of the government. In respect of what transpire between the government and NCDC, I personally would want to believe that there are political undertone to what we’re seeing.”
He continued; “Even though there is no reported case in the state, I don’t see any reason why the government should prevent the NCDC officials from coming to the state to carryout their investigation. On the side of the state government, what they are trying to tell us is that the Federal Government is not being sincere. So, that’s the confusion both the state government, NCDC and Federal Government are putting us through right now.”
Umoru Covenant from Okene collaborated with the above view. According to him, the whole saga has traces of political gimmicks.
“The whole hullabaloo about this pandemic is fast becoming a political gimmick. Yahaya bello is trying to play safe by avoiding unnecessary testing of people for the virus. Although the concern of NCDC is anchored on the fact that Kogi State is a melting point, bordering 10 other states across the four regions. However, NCDC should not compel him to make false declaration of the virus in the state. It is not out of place for the state to be free of the virus.
“The tussle is totally uncalled for. If he insists the virus is not in the state so be it. Truth be told , a lot of Governors are declaring false cases just to get money. This is disheartening,” he alleged.
Another resident who don’t want to be mentioned was however of a contrary view about the issue.
According to him, the governor (Yahaya Bello) is only trying to protect his interest because of the internal revenue generated by the state.
He further noted that the government before now usually get adequate funding from the Federal Government but with the recent outbreak, there is no allocation coming from the latter and this is one of the reason the governor is trying to prevent the pandemic by all means so as to avoid further economic downturn in the state.
Medical Practitioners React
A doctor who spoke with confidence explained the health implications associated with the ongoing tussle between the Kogi State Government and NCDC.
“It is not that NCDC are corrupt and want to assign COVID-19 to Kogi by force. Rather, it is all about protecting the lives of healthcare workers and their families. It is about protecting and keeping all citizens, including you, safe.
“You cannot say something is absent when you have not sought for it. And refusing to check for it is not faith but a dangerous kind of foolishness. Faith to me, recognizes the facts but states the truth of God’s word instead,” said the source.
He continued; “I know COVID-19 is not as fatal as the media portrays it. But it is highly contagious. It spreads fast. A healthcare worker can get infected right in the hospital. Especially when attending to a suspected case without PPE and without prompt testing. We have already seen many of such cases. I personally know some colleagues in other states who got infected this way. This infected healthcare worker can unknowingly move about in the population and infect anyone, even you (though it’s not our portion).
“When infected, most healthy young people will not manifest any symptoms but they can spread it to others. The spread may be to a person with compromised immunity who may eventually succumb and die from symptoms. This may be someone’s child, sibling or friend or parent or relative.
“My submission is: it is not mandatory for Kogi state to have COVID-19 cases BUT suspected cases who meet NCDC current guidelines for testing should be allowed to undergo COVID-19 test. I think it is their fundamental human right. Lawyers will know better. This will protect us all and ensure a more transparent COVID-19 response in Kogi State.”
Another resident doctor when contacted by our reporter said he did not want to make any comment as regards the ongoing saga in the state.
All efforts to reach the state Epidemiologist, Dr Ojotule met a rebuff as at the time of filing this report.
Kogi is still COVID-19 free – Govt.
The Kogi State Government in a statement signed by the State Commissioner for Information and Communication, Kingsley Fanwo said it tested 111 residents for COVID-19 but that the tests returned negative.
“Kogi state got testing kits independently but followed NCDC guidelines. One hundred and eleven COID-19 rapid tests were conducted in Kogi state yesterday and all results came out negative,” Fanwo said.
“We brought in about 5,000 testing kits. Testing centers are located in three places. You can do it at the ministry of health.
“We shall not go to streets to pick people to be tested for COVID-19, but hospitals where people with similar symptoms are found and also based on any information of suspected cases,” the commissioner added while briefing newsmen at the state house, Lokoja.
Similarly, the Chief Press Secretary to the Deputy Governor of the state, Promise Emmanuel boasted of the newly bought testing kits by the state government, adding critics should stop making noise about the state’s COVID-19 status.
“Kogi state Government has about 5000 of it, it is also the upgraded of what the FG uses because this produces your result in 30 minutes. If you feel you have symptoms of COVID19 and want to be tested, come forward. Just call the squadron committee’s number.”
Speaking further, Mr Emmanuel said; “People keep saying Kogi is not testing, Kogi must have this and that. Gov Bello is hiding bla bla. How many Kogites have called NCDC to report a case? The rumored people who have died at FMC, they don’t have names, no families or even anyone mourning them? Who also tested them before coming to that conclusion? Some rumors are even draft. Very.
“It is not compulsory or even by force for Kogi to have COVID19, it is not an election. Even if it is, Gov Bello won his re-election November last year, we are not interested in another.”