Tukur Muntari and Ted Odogwu
The Director General of the Nigeria for Disease Control, Dr Chikwe Ihekweazu, on Sunday said Nigeria needed to stock more of the RNA extraction kits to cater for the expansion of its COVID-19 testing capacity.
Writing on his twitter handle, @Chikwe_I, Ihekweazu, he gave specification of the test kits Nigeria was looking for and preferred manufacturers.
He said, “We’re desperately looking for more RNA (ribonucleic Acid) extraction kits as we expand #COVID19 testing. Product: Total viral RNA extraction kits (preferably spin column and with a lysis buffer). Manufacturers: Qiagen, ThermoFischer, SeeGene, Inqaba, LifeRiver etc.”
The centre earlier said it had added two more laboratories to the existing 13 laboratories established in the country, but Ihekweazu’s tweet raised the fear that Nigeria might lack enough kits to test suspected cases for COVID-19.
During a briefing of the Presidential Task Force for COVID-19 in Abuja on Tuesday, the NCDC DG had said that the centre would increase Nigeria’s COVID-19 testing capacity to 4000 per day across the country with 2000 samples to be done per day in Lagos State.
The NCDC DG’s call for more kits came amid increasing criticisms that the centre was not responding to demands of Nigerians, who desperately sought testing.
A grandmother, Salma Ahmed had, in a video, alleged that the NCDC failed to pick her telephone calls, when she wanted to seek the agency’s assistance for her son-in-law, who later died of COVID-19 in Kano.
In the video released from her home in Abuja, Ahmed said her son-in-law was left to die from the virus in Kano after suffering neglect in the hands of the NCDC officials.
Also, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Ebu-Olu Adegboruwa had, in a statement last week, said his friend who had difficulty in breathing, was told at the Infectious Disease Hospital, Yaba, Lagos to wait till next week.
When contacted on Sunday for update on the case, Adegboruwa said the friend eventually contacted the testing centre at Eti-Osa and he had been booked for testing for Monday (today).
Ghana tests 100,622; S’Africa, 161,000; Egypt, 90,000; Nigeria, 10,061
At 6:03pm on Sunday, www.worldometers.info reported that Ghana with 1,550 confirmed cases and a population of 30.9 million people had conducted 100,622 tests.
South Africa with 4,361 confirmed cases and a population of 59.1 million people conducted 161,000 tests.
Also, Egypt with 4,319 confirmed cases and a population of 101.9 million people conducted 90,000 tests. Djibouti with 1,023 confirmed cases and a population of 985,433 conducted 11,741 tests.
Kenya with 355 confirmed cases and a population of 53.5 million conducted 17,492 tests. Nigeria with 1,182 confirmed cases and a population of 205.2 million people conducted 10,061 tests.
Fears heighten in Kano as another prof dies
In a related development, there was growing anxiety in Kano State on Sunday over mass deaths in the state.
The PUNCH had last week reported that there had been increasing deaths in Kano. People in the city attributed the deaths to malaria-related ailments.
Sunday PUNCH reported that 12 prominent persons, including professors and a newspaper editor, had died in the last 10 hours.
On Sunday, a professor of Mass Communication at Bayero University in Kano, Balarabe Maikaba, died.
A statement by a lecturer at the BUK Mass Communication Department, Dr Ashir Inua, confirmed the death of the professor.
Inua said “Inna Lillahi wa Inna Ilaihi Rajiun. Professor Balarabe Maikaba. We love you and Allah loves you more than we do. We lost you Professor. May Allah forgive your sins and accept you as His obedient servant.”
According to a member of the family, who spoke on condition of anonymity, the deceased who was a diabetic patient, died at a private clinic in Kano metropolis after a brief illness.
He said Maikaba who died at the age of 54, left behind four wives and 15 children and had been buried in accordance with the Islamic rites at Abattoir cemetery located at Kofar Mazugal in Kano metropolis.
No fewer than 77 persons had been diagnosed with COVID-19 in Kano State, which as of last month had not recorded any case.
A health worker in the city, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told The PUNCH that coronavirus cases in the state were higher than what government claimed.
Way people are dying is worrisome – Undertaker
Some undertakers, who spoke to one of our correspondents, agreed that there had been an upsurge in the number dead bodies brought into cemeteries.
One of them, Musa Ahmed of Dandolo Cemetery, described as strange and worrisome the way and manner people were dying in Kano.
He stated, “It is not only in this cemetery that we are experiencing this situation. My colleagues from other cemeteries tell me they have the same experience. I am not a medical doctor, so, I cannot explain exactly the circumstances behind the deaths.”
But the Coordinator of the state Task Force on COVID-19, Dr Tijjani Hussaini, said that the state government was investigating the deaths.
“As I am talking to you, my team has been drafted to all the wards of the eight local government areas within the metropolis. They are taking their time, taking details of deaths in every community so that we can do a proper analysis.”
Kano NCDC officials not responding to distress calls – EX-NIHS ES
But a former Chief Executive Officer of the National Health Insurance Scheme, Prof Usman Yusuf, urged the Federal Government to act promptly on COVID-19 cases in Kano.
The professor of haematology-oncology and bone marrow transplantation, who said the state government must account for the increasing loss of lives, also stated that the NCDC officials in Kano were no more responding to people’s distress calls
He said if the Federal Government failed to act promptly, not only would the situation get out of hand, the northern region, the entire country and the African region were in danger.
The medical doctor stated these in an article on Sunday.
Yusuf, who also spoke to one of our correspondents, lamented that two professors at the BUK, who were his friends, recently died from the infection.
He stated, “Nigeria as a nation needs to wake up to the ever-present danger of the cascading domino effect of COVID-19 infection in Kano spreading to the North-West zone. The North-West infects the rest of the North. The North infects the nation. Nigeria infects the West Africa sub-region, which then infects the rest of Africa.
“It is now common knowledge in Kano that the NCDC officials in the city are not responding to people’s distress calls because they do not have enough staff and have no working materials or personal protective equipment. This unacceptable situation has resulted in many of them being infected by the virus, resulting in the closure of the only test centre in Kano.
“Below is an example of one of the many distress calls and text messages I have been receiving from unknown Kano residents: ‘Good afternoon prof., one of my staff lost his mother today, Friday, April 24, 2020 to circumstances similar to COVID-19 with (sudden fever, coughing and rapid breathing). When we went to bury her at 9.30am, we discovered that my mother’s body was the 18th to be buried since dawn (a time span of three to four hours). Why is the Kano State governor denying COVID-19 deaths in Kano?’
‘Social distancing least enforced in Kano’
“Kano State, in spite of its population density, is the most notorious state where social distancing measures are least enforced and obeyed, with youths still playing football while gatherings in mosques and weddings continue as if all is well.”
As a remedy, Yusuf asked the presidential task force to relocate to Kano and make the state its new theatre of operation.
He also asked the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.) to address the nation on the rising deaths in the state, urging the NCDC to reopen its lab with increased testing.
We are facing serious situation, says Kano govt
But the state Government on Sunday said the COVID-19 pandemic in the state was serious, admitting for the first time the high rate of deaths in the state.
The state Commissioner for Information, Muhammad Garba, in a statement, said the government had started taking measures to resolve the problem.
Garba appealed for the support of every stakeholder, adding that the state alone could not confront the challenge.
He said, “Though we agree that the situation on hand currently is serious, we are not resting on our oars in taking appropriate measures to ensure that the good people of Kano State, and indeed, residents in the state, protect themselves from the novel COVID-19 pandemic.
“More so, the state government has three modern isolation centres where those tested positive for COVID-19 are being cared for. We are also hopeful of getting additional two isolation. The government has also hired a hotel where suspected cases are accommodated.
“Also, the Kano State Government is collaborating with the Bayero University Kano to establish a testing centre within the institution, which will be ready in two weeks time after being certified by the NCDC. This will, indeed, enhance our determination to ensure that every suspected case undergo test.
“Governor Ganduje has also sent a passionate appeal to the Federal Government to urgently work on the NCDC testing centre at AKTH which has been closed down for sometime now.
“We have enough medical manpower that can take care of the patients. What we are now asking for is financial assistance from the Federal Government and other donors to help sustain all this infrastructure and also continue the provision of palliatives to our people.”
Garba said although investigation into the cause of the deaths was ongoing, preliminary report from the Ministry of Health indicated that the deaths were caused by complications from hypertension, diabetes, meningitis and acute malaria.
He said the state governor was awaiting the final report from the ministry of health so as to take necessary action.
Visit Kano immediately over high death toll, PDP tells Buhari
The Peoples Democratic Party on Sunday urged the President to immediately visit the state where no fewer than 640 citizens had reportedly died under mysterious circumstances in the last one week .
The PDP National Publicity Secretary, Mr Kola Ologbondiyan, in a statement also said the situation demanded that Buhari should constitute a high level investigation into the calamity.
He stated that it was worrisome that Buhari had allegedly not taken active measures to address the mass deaths in Kano State.
Falana writes minister, demands details of Kano strange deaths
On his part, a human rights lawyer, Mr Femi Falana (SAN), on Sunday wrote the Minister of Health, Osagie Ehanire, demanding detailed information about the strange deaths and mass burials reportedly recorded in Kano State in the last few days.
Falana, in the letter, which he signed in his capacity as the Interim Chairman of Alliance on Surviving Covid-19 Action Programme and Beyond, made the request for the information on the strength of the Freedom of Information Act 2011.
He specifically requested a certified true copy of the report of the joint investigation conducted by the federal and Kano State ministries of health “into the strange deaths and mass burials taking place in Kano State”.
He also demanded that the report should include “the nature and cause of the deaths, the number of casualties and patients currently undergoing treatment in hospitals as well as an outline of the measures being put in place by the Federal Government to stop the strange deaths involving mass burials”.
He threatened that should the minister fail to accede to his group’s request, he would institute a court action against the minister “to compel official disclosure of the findings of the joint team constituted to investigate the cause of the strange deaths and mass burials in Kano State”.
In his letter dated April 26, Falana noted that during a press briefing held in Abuja a week ago, the minister announced that the Federal Ministry of Health, the Kano State Chief Epidemiologist, officials of the Kano Public Health Department and those of the NCDC had commenced investigation into the strange deaths and mass burials going on in Kano State.
He added, “However, we are disturbed to note that the burials have since continued without any official information on the cause of the strange deaths.
“The people of Kano State and Nigerians in general are worried over the worsening health crisis as it may spread to other parts of Kano State not yet affected as well as other parts of the country if not urgently addressed.”