SECURITY AGENTS TAKE OVER KANO AS LOCKDOWN BEGINS

Confirmed cases rise to 21 in 5 days

Locals urge more commitment from govt

Heavily armed security operatives have taken over major streets in Kano as the one-week lockdown imposed by the state government took effect from 10 O’clock last night. The lockdown is to stem the fast-spreading coronavirus which is increasing daily.

Daily Trust reports that Kano has a population of over 13 million people, and is the third state in the North West to record the COVID-19 case after Kaduna and Katsina.

Before Kano recorded its index case on Saturday, April 11, there had been mounting pressure on the government to shut its borders with other states in addition to stricter movement measures. However, the closure of the boundaries did not happen until Friday, March 27, when the state government banned interstate travels. It was 15 days after the closure of the boundaries that the index case was reported, heightening fears that the vital period had already been lost.

The first COVID-19 case was a 75-year-old retiree and a former ambassador who reportedly travelled to Kaduna, Abuja and Lagos and went back to Kano on March 25. The index case allegedly withheld critical information about his medical condition and travel history to doctors at the hospital where he was first treated, with sources saying that before then, the man had allegedly attended several functions, a development related to the rising cases of the disease in the state.

On Monday, April 13, two additional cases of the COVID-19 were recorded in Kano and on Wednesday, April 15, the state government announced five more cases in the morning and in the evening of the same day, the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) announced 12 additional cases, making it a total of 21cases within a space of four days in the state. The news of the first fatality of the COVID-19 was also reported by the media even though neither the Kano State government nor the NCDC has issued a statement in that respect.

However, there are fears in many quarters on the preparedness of the state government in terms of resources, manpower and logistics to stem the coronavirus pandemic through contact tracing, isolation and treatment. Experts say considering its landmass and strategic location as the business nerve of the North, authorities in Kano State would have to do a lot to make headway in stopping the spread of the COVID-19.

Last hour rush ahead of lockdown

Kano shares borders with Katsina State to the north-west, Jigawa State to the north-east, Bauchi State to the south-east and Kaduna State to the south-west. It was learnt that in the last few weeks, the state capital had witnessed an influx of people from within, and traders from neighbouring states for panic buying. Our correspondents report that ahead of last night’s total lockdown of Kano, heavily armed security personnel have been deployed to take over major streets in the metropolis which has a population of over four million residents to ensure total compliance.

These include the police, civil defence, DSS, military, immigration, road safety, Kano Road Traffic Agency (KAROTA) and operatives of the Hisbah. Speaking on their preparations, Kano Police Commissioner Habu Sani said they would ensure total lockdown across the state. He said an operational order has been given to 71 points across the 44 local government areas of the state to ensure full compliance to the lockdown order.

Sani said those charged with the responsibility of enforcing the lockdown would not hesitate to take any appropriate action within the ambit of the law against anyone that violated the order, and urged the public to comply as the measure was meant for their safety.

Speaking on the lockdown, Governor Abdullahi Umar Ganduje had shortly after receiving the recommendations of the task force committee on COVID-19 headed by his deputy, Dr Nasir Yusuf Gawuna, said, “We are going to do all that we can within the seven days lockdown to trace all contacts of our first index case and the contacts of two other people who came back from a foreign nation and isolated themselves, but whose test results later turned out to be positive.”

According to him, “The seven-day lockdown would give us space and more chances to track down those contacts.” Also speaking on the issue, the Commissioner of Information, Malam Muhammad Garba, noted that the initiative was borne out of the need to effectively manage the outbreak of the COVID-19 in the state. “Apart from the index case involving a former envoy recorded last Saturday, two other cases were recorded on Easter Monday, involving a young man and a woman that returned from Istanbul, Turkey. Subsequently, more cases are being recorded. On Wednesday, we recorded five more cases and much later in the night of same day, 12 more cases were recorded,” he said.

On his part, the Commissioner of Environment, Dr Kabiru Ibrahim Getso, said they have put in place measures to prevent the spread of the coronavirus by disinfecting premises where large gatherings of people were likely to occur. “We also carry out health education of the public on COVID-19 with respect to what it is, how it is transmitted and its preventive measures. There was also the distribution of hand sanitisers, soaps and other handwashing facilities,” he said.

First death humbles those in doubt

The news of the first reported death from COVID-19 and the rising number of infected persons has thrown many residents of Kano metropolis into palpable fear, with many who were initially sceptical about the disease coming to terms with the reality. Some of the residents who spoke to our reporters expressed shock over the sudden development and urged the government to rise to the occasion by intensifying contact tracing to identify possible contacts of those who already tested positive.

According to Sadiq Umar, one of the residents who spoke to Daily Trust, “Today, I believe that we are in crisis because initially, I thought this disease was just manipulation to control our minds and a deception by the elite and their cohorts in the western world. “With what I am hearing about the rising number of cases in the state, from one to four, then nine and today 21 with one death, I think that is enough warning for everyone to take caution.”

Resident Nafiu Ahmad also expressed fear over the current situation and called on the government to take proper measures to protect the lives of the citizens. On his part, the Chairman of Kano Civil Society Coalition, Comrade Ibrahim Ali, decried the nonchalant attitude being exhibited by the people in observing the basic safety measures advocated by the authorities. He attributed the trend to ignorance, saying till date there are some people who do not believe there is the pandemic.

“Our fear is that the issue of social distancing and community transmission. They are very critical because if you look at our own setting, you will see that we don’t observe those rules, we interact very closely with one another perhaps because it is a society where a lot of people live in one place. You have a large number of people living in one house,” he observed. “It may interest you to know that there are people in Kano today who still don’t believe there is COVID-19. Secondly, there are people who don’t believe that the government is serious. Thirdly, there are people who are still with the notion that this is just a political issue. So for us to emerge victorious in the end, the government needs to take everybody along to make people understand that COVID-19 is real,” he said.

He also identified lack of coordination among the institutions managing the COVID-19 issue in the state as one of the setbacks that might compromise the war against the pandemic. “About three weeks ago when the land borders were closed in the state, there were complaints that the measure didn’t work because there were many cases of corruption at the entry points. Many people were allowed to come into Kano. I, therefore, pray that this time there should be no compromise,” Comrade Ali said.

On his part, Comrade Ibrahim Garba, a human rights activist in Kano, said government must prioritise palliatives for the vulnerable. “We expected that they would start distributing food in Kano since yesterday but nothing is happening. In Kano, about 70 per cent of people have to go out in the morning to look for what to eat. If you lockdown Kano without giving them what to eat, will that provide the solution to COVID-19? he asked.

Issues that will compromise Kano lockdown

Daily Trust reports that the Kano State government last month announced the closure of all schools in the state for one month and also ordered civil servants to stay at home for two weeks. The 2-week stay-at-home order was later extended for another two weeks. Similarly, the state government has renovated and equipped Yar Gaya isolation centre, Kwanar Dawaki Pfizer Hospital and the 600-bed isolation centre situated at Sani Abacha Indoor Stadium.

However, some concerned residents told Daily Trust reports that some of the security operatives charged with the responsibility of enforcing the inter-state movement ban imposed by the state government have been compromising the mission of policy. Also, investigation by our reporters revealed that the movement of vehicles continues with the overt collaboration of some security agents manning the entry points.

It was observed that despite the ban, people are sneaking into Kano from different parts of the country including the states worse hit by the deadly virus. Most of the people coming into the state capital after the ban from Zaria road axis disembark at Dakatsalle and take motorcycle taxis to disguise themselves as normal residents of the area.

For Katsina and Hadejia routes, our reporters observed that commercial buses operate every time of the day unhindered. Some of the drivers who spoke to our reporters claimed that they give bribes at the entry point before they were allowed to move on. Officials of security agencies have variously denied allegation of collecting bribe. Also, the issue of observing social distancing is still a major problem. For instance, two days to the lockdown, markets and malls remained crowded. “Even if the major markets comply with the lockdown order, I know we would have problem enforcing the ban in the countless community markets and corner shops in the state capital,” a Hisbah member said. Related

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