Home News Fear grips ministers, govs, Villa guests as Kyari, aides test positive

Fear grips ministers, govs, Villa guests as Kyari, aides test positive

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Buhari’s Chief of Staff visited Germany, Egypt after Nigeria’s index case

• Osinbajo, top Aso Rock officials, Kogi gov go into self-isolation

• Panic in Bauchi as Gov Mohammed’s positive status is confirmed

• 62-year-old UK returnee tests positive in Ogun, 32 contacts isolated

Panic on Tuesday gripped some governors and ministers as the Chief of Staff to the President, Abba Kyari, and the Bauchi State Governor, Bala Mohammed, tested positive for COVID-19.

The panic among the governors and the ministers stemmed from the fact that Kyari after his return from foreign trips a few days ago attended the Federal Executive Council meeting on Wednesday, while Mohammed was at the National Executive Council meeting on Thursday.

Kyari, after Nigeria recorded the first coronavirus case on February 27 visited Germany and Egypt. In Germany, he and the Minister of Power, Saleh Mamman, on March 9, met Siemens officials over the power deal signed with the company.

A top government official, who confided in The PUNCH, said there was concern that Kyari and Mohammed could have infected some ministers and governors.

The source stated, “Panic has gripped governors. Kyari went into isolation on Monday, but before that, he had attended the FEC meeting and also travelled to Kogi State to sympathise with the state Governor, Yahaya  Bello over the death of his mother.

“Also Bauchi governors attended the NEC meeting on Thursday. There are fears that both of them could have infected their colleagues with the disease.”

Also gripped with fear were those who had visited the Villa in the last one week and met Kyari.

As panic gripped governors and ministers, the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control said on Tuesday COVID-19 cases had increased to 44 from 40 on Monday.

The NCDC, on its Twitter handle,  said eight confirmed cases had been recorded in Abuja, one in Bauchi State, one in Edo State, one in Ekiti State, 29 in Lagos State and three in Ogun State.

“As at 06:25pm on 24th March, there are 44 confirmed cases of #COVID-19 in Nigeria. Two have been discharged with one death,” the NCDC stated.

A top source at the Federal Ministry of Health confirmed to The PUNCH that Kyari, who recently returned from Germany, was among those who tested positive on Tuesday.

He, however, said the President, Major-General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), had tested negative but the President would be tested again in a few days.

At 65, Kyari is one of the oldest persons in Nigeria with a confirmed case of the novel coronavirus. SaharaReporters had reported on Tuesday that the President’s chief of staff was coughing.

The diagnosis of Kyari with COVID-19 created fears at the Presidential Villa and among governors, who attended the National Executive  Council meeting with him on Thursday last week.

The PUNCH learnt that some very top officials at the Presidential Villa had gone on self-isolation to play safe over coronavirus.

Among them are Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo and the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Mr Garba Shehu.

Also on self-isolation are senior directors and close aides to the Chief of Staff to the President.

Findings indicated that Osinbajo did not report to the office on Tuesday. On Monday, he was billed to inaugurate a digital radio system owned by the Federal Road Safety Commission, but the event was put off abruptly.

The Vice-President reported late to work past noon on Monday, unlike before when he came very early in the morning.

The developments came after reports indicated on Tuesday that Kyari tested positive for coronavirus earlier on Monday.

The Chief of Staff had attended last Wednesday’s Federal Executive Council meeting and had contact with many top officials of government, including the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.); Osinbajo; the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Mr Boss Mustapha; and the Head of Service of the Federation, Mrs Folasade Yemi-Esan.

Many ministers also attended the FEC meeting, including those of finance/budget/national planning, Mrs Zainab Ahmed; health, Dr Osagie Ehanire; Aviation, Hadi Sirika; information and culture, Mr Lai Mohammed; and state, transportation, Gbemisola Saraki.

Following Kyari’s positive test result, Buhari was reportedly tested and his result turned negative.

But, presidential spokesman, Mr Garba Shehu, failed to respond to enquiries on the matter by The PUNCH.

He also failed to respond to a specific question on whether he had self-isolated himself, as a result of his regular contact with Kyari.

But he informed reporters of other newspapers, who also reached out to him, that he could not talk to them “right now.”

Osinbajo’s media aide, Mr Laolu Akande, also did not respond to enquiries by The PUNCH on his boss’ alleged self-isolation, though he was in his (Laolu) office on Tuesday.

However, Akande later confirmed on his Twitter handle, @akandeoj, the fact that Osinbajo was on self-isolation.

He tweeted, “VP Osinbajo yesterday (Monday) at the office conducted his meetings via video conferencing, while observing social distancing. Today (Tuesday), he continues his work from the home office, as he is in self-isolation in accordance with Nigeria Centre for Disease Control protocols.”

A  government official explained that the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 would officially announce the decision that all government officials exposed to Kyari should proceed on self-isolation.

“The task force will make that announcement. That is the agreement taken after discussions across several layers of government. But, it is true that Osinbajo is on self-isolation,” the official added.

The Technical Assistant to the VP (New Media), Mr Philip Obin, later tweeted that the VP held a meeting via video conferencing on Tuesday.

Using his Twitter handle, @PhillipObin, he wrote, “#COVID-19compliant @ProfOsinbajo just concluded a meeting via video conferencing, as he continues to discharge his official duties as the Vice President, Federal Republic of Nigeria.”

The tweet was accompanied by three pictures taken at the said meeting. In one, the VP is seen wearing a medical mask and clutching his iPad. In the second photo and third photos, he is shown sitting at a round table with other participants and his aides.

However, there are two empty chairs both rows in between Osinbajo and the others.

The tweet was to convey the message that the VP was still working, though in self-isolation. Around the VP’s office, the majority of aides were seen wearing face masks.

The development came as members of the PTF on COVID-19 made a dramatic visit to the State House on Tuesday. The members were led by the Chairman, Mr Boss Mustapha.  Mustapha is the Secretary to the Government of the Federation.

The members declined to state their mission, but it was observed that they filed straight to a floor accommodating the office of Kyari. They made a brief inspection, discussed for about 15 minutes and left in two white Coaster buses.

Mustapha merely told reporters, “We are going to brief the media later.” The members drove off without making further comments.

Aside from the SGF, other members of the PTF on COVID-19 sighted at the Villa were Minister of Health, Prof Osagie Ehanire; Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika; Minister of Interior, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola; Minister of Information and Culture, Mr Lai Mohammed; Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr Geoffrey Onyeama; Minister of Humanitarian Affairs and Disaster Management, Mrs Sadiya Umar-Farouk; and the Minister of State  Health, Senator Olorunnimbe Mamora.

Meanwhile, Buhari and his Katsina home State Governor, Mr Aminu Masari, held a meeting at the State House on Tuesday.

The agenda of the meeting was unknown, but Masari left the State House about 12.47 pm after meeting with Buhari. He declined to speak with State House correspondents.

As Masari exited the Villa, the National Security Adviser, Major General Babagana Monguno (retd.); Director-General, Department of State Services, Yusuf Bichi; and the Inspector-General of Police, Mr Mohammed Adamu, arrived for another separate meeting with Buhari.

The agenda of their meeting was expected to focus on security. They did not speak with reporters.

Kyari’s three aides test positive

On Tuesday evening, three aides of the Chief of Staff to the President, Mr Abba Kyari,   reportedly tested positive for coronavirus.

Information at the disposal of The PUNCH indicated that they had been asked to self-isolate.

Kogi gov, Bello, goes into self-isolation

The Kogi State governor,  Bello, has also gone into self- isolation, following reports that the Chief of Staff to the President tested positive for COVID-19.

Bello shook hands with Kyari last week when the latter attended the burial of his mother precisely on March 17, 2020. A close aide to Bello said the governor would be tested for the virus.

He said, “I can confirm to you that his Excellency has gone into self-isolation and is being tested for COVID-19. The result will be announced on Wednesday.”

Others who attended the burial alongside Kyari include the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu; and Minister of Special Duties, Senator George Akume.

Panic in Bauchi as gov tests positive

In Bauchi State, the Governor, Senator Bala Mohammed, also tested positive for coronavirus.

The governor had on Monday gone into self-isolation after having contact with a son of former  Vice President Atiku Abubakar abroad an Aero Contractors flight from Lagos to Abuja.

Atiku’s son, Mohammed, tested positive for the disease on Sunday night. His father said he recently travelled to Switzerland.

The Senior Special Assistant to the Bauchi State governor on Media, Mukhtar Gidado, in the statement on Tuesday, said the test conducted on Mohammed was positive.

He said, “This is to inform the general public that the results of the six initial tests carried out by the Centre for Disease Control on His Excellency, Senator Bala Mohammed, his family and aides that accompanied him to Lagos are out.

“Of the six initial tests carried out, one sample was confirmed to be positive for COVID-19. The positive result happened to be that of His Excellency, Senator Bala Mohammed, the Executive Governor of Bauchi State.

“At this point, it should be noted that the governor is in self-isolation as his doctors and officials from the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control have taken full charge of his quarantine.”

Meanwhile, the result of the governor has created panic in the state, particularly among those who attended events with him after his return from Lagos.

The governor attended the foundation laying of 2,500 housing units on Saturday at Dungal Village and a stakeholders engagement at the Council Chamber of the Government House Bauchi on Sunday.

The foundation laying was attended by some traditional rulers, the state Deputy Governor, Senator Baba Tela, the Secretary to the State Government, Sabi’u Baba; the Chief of Staff Government House, the Managing Director, Family Homes Funds Limited, Femi Adewale, and Ambassador Adamu Jumba, who represented the Minister of Finance, Zainab Ahmed.

The governor, in a statement on Tuesday by Umar Saidu on behalf of the Head of Civil Service, said civil servants from grade 1 to 12 should stay at home.

30 people who had contact with Bauchi gov  undergoing  COVID-19 test

Also, the state government said the blood samples of no fewer than 30 people who had close contact with the governor had been taken for testing.

The government directed that all those that had contact with Mohammed to come forward to be tested and should isolate themselves.

The Commissioner for  Health in the state, Dr. Aliyu Maigoro, disclosed this to journalists on Tuesday evening in Bauchi.

He said that four isolation centres had been created at the Toro General Hospital, the Federal Medical Centre, Azare;  Specialist Hospital in Bauchi and the Abubakar Tafawa Balewa University Teaching Hospital in Bauchi.

Bauchi Islamic schools defy govt

The state Ministry of Education condemned the refusal of some Islamic and Qur’anic schools in the state to close down despite the government’s directive.

The state governor had, on Sunday directed that all schools in the state be closed as from Monday.

Mohammed said the order for all schools across the state to be closed down indefinitely was part of measures to guard against the spread of Lassa fever and coronavirus in the state.

But on Tuesday,  the Commissioner for Education, Dr. Aliyu Tilde, said some Islamic schools had yet to comply with the directive.

He stated this in a statement written in Hausa which he signed and issued to newsmen in Bauchi on Tuesday.

He said, “The Ministry of Education has noticed with dismay that up til now, there are some Islamic and Qur’anic schools that have refused to close down despite government’s directive to do so to contain any spread of the coronavirus.

“It has become necessary to protect these almajiris just as children in the formal school system are being protected. These almajiris come from different parts and they go back to where they came from during the rainy season.”

62-year-old UK returnee tested positive in Ogun, 32 isolated

On its part, the Ogun State Government confirmed that a 62-year-old man who recently returned from the United Kingdom had tested positive for COVID -19.

The state Commissioner for Health,  Dr  Tomi Coker, disclosed this on Tuesday while briefing journalists on the coronavirus in the state.

Coker, at the briefing attended by the Special Adviser to Governor Dapo Abiodun on Public Communications, Remmy Hazzan,  said 32 contacts had been isolated.

Coker said the case was a resident of Sagamu and that he recently arrived in the country from the  United Kingdom on March 17 before he started showing symptoms of COVID-19.

She said the case presented a history of cough few days after he got to his residence in Sagamu  and was  later tested positive for COVID -19.

The commissioner disclosed that 28 caregivers and four family members that had contacts with him were at the isolation centre at the Olabisi Onabanjo University Teaching Hospital, Sagamu.

She said,  “Today, we have a newly confirmed COVID-19 in Ogun State. The said case is a 62-year-old man who resides in Sagamu.

“He had history of recent travel. He travelled on the 17th of March. He presented   history of cough and was tested and the test came out positive. Our priority at the moment is to provide care for the gentleman.  He has  been  transferred to our isolation centre which is located at the OOUTH, Sagamu.”

On contact tracing, Coker said,  “He has recently returned from the  United Kingdom and we have contacted all his contacts who are 28 caregivers and four members of his family, 32 altogether.

“We have been able to contact them. He has been very responsible by isolating himself since he arrived, therefore it makes our job quite easy in tracing his  contacts.”

Sanwo-Olu shuts markets, reduces gathering limit to 25

As part of measures to curb the spread of the virus, the Lagos State Governor, Mr Babajide Sanwo-Olu, on Tuesday ordered the closure of all markets in the state except food markets and those selling essential commodities.

Sanwo-Olu, at a press conference,  said the closure of the markets would take effect from Thursday and would last for seven days in the first instance.

He noted that there had been an increase in the total number of confirmed cases nationwide, with Lagos recording the highest number.

Explaining more measures to check COVID-19 spread, he stated, “All open markets and stores are directed to close, except for sellers of food and medicines, medical equipment and other essential life-saving products. For those that fall into the aforementioned categories, it is imperative that they observe necessary precautionary measures of social distancing.”

Mass gatherings reduced to 25 from 50

“Let us refrain from gatherings or congregations of any kind at this time; and where we must absolutely gather, we are changing that directive, effective from Thursday from 50 to 25.”

He said Lagos could not afford a total lockdown because of the economic implication but measures should be put in place to check the spread of the virus.

The governor stated,  “It is not a total lockdown; we still want people on essential services to go about their normal activities. We are trying to de-centralise markets in Lagos. This is why we want to use some of our closed schools as markets, so people can buy food and medicine without going a long distance.

“We will review the decision after a week. If we see a slow down, certainly we will get back to work. We do not want to shut down, we just want to be proactive. We want people to just calm down the spread so that we get to where we need to get to quicker and faster,” Sanwo-Olu said.

Lagos tracking 1,800 people

The governor added that the state was tracking 1,800 people who might have had contact with any of the confirmed cases.

The State Commissioner for Health, Prof. Akin Abayomi, said the majority of the confirmed cases were imported.

“Out of the 30 positive cases we have in Lagos, the majority are imported, about 20, while five are contacts that we have been tracing and the remaining five are cases we have no idea of where they acquired the infection,” he said.

Go into isolation, commissioner tells AMVCA  attendees

Also, the commissioner advised people that attended African Magic viewers’ Choice Award to go into self-isolation as they could have been exposed to the virus.

In a tweet, he stated, “I hereby notify you that all participants at the African Magic viewers’ Choice Award (AMVCA) held on14th March at @EkoHotels may have come in contact with one of the confirmed cases in Lagos and are most likely to have been exposed to #COVID-19 Infection.

“Attendees at the said event are therefore advised to: observe strict self- isolation, call our #TollFree line 08000corona if they notice any of the #COVID19 related symptoms, Let’s #TakeResponsibility by practising #SocialDistancing to prevent the spread of the virus.”

Convert FGCs’ hostels to isolation centres, Reps tell FG

The House of Representatives has asked the Federal Government to convert the hostels in the Federal Government colleges across Nigeria to isolation centres for suspected cases of coronavirus.

The House also resolved to invite the management of the Central Bank of Nigeria led by the Governor, Godwin Emefiele, to brief the parliament on the economic measures being taken to cushion the effect of the pandemic on the economy and the people.

These are parts of the resolutions passed based on a motion of urgent public importance jointly sponsored by the leadership of the House.

The motion was titled, ‘The Need for the Federal Government to Adopt Emergency Measures to Protect the People and Economy of Nigeria from the Potentially Dire Consequences of a Widespread of the COVID-19 Disease Amongst the Population.’

Adopting the motion unanimously, the House directed the Federal Ministry of Education to “immediately make available hostels in the now-vacated Federal Government Colleges across the country for use as emergency care centres and isolation units by the Federal Ministry of Health and the National Centre for Disease Control, if it becomes necessary to do so, to manage high numbers of people requiring treatment from the COVID-19 disease.”

Also, the House mandated the Federal Ministry of Health and the NCDC to “immediately develop contingency plans for the establishment of emergency care facilities at the FGCs. These contingency plans should include cost estimates for the provision of equipment, material, medicines and other such requirements as may become necessary.”

Coronavirus test kits arrive in Nigeria

Nigeria’s share of the coronavirus kits donated by Jack Ma Foundation and Ali Baba Foundation to Africa Union Member States arrived in the country on Tuesday.

The donations were brought into the cargo area of the Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Lagos by an Ethiopian Airlines cargo plane.

The Government of Ethiopia on Monday received a consignment of medical equipment from the foundations.

The shipment included over 1.5 million laboratory diagnostic test kits and over 100 tons of infection prevention and control commodities.

This relief initiative was launched by the Prime Minister of Ethiopia, Dr Abiy Ahmed, the Jack Ma Foundation, and Alibaba Foundation as part of actions towards the implementation of the Africa joint continental strategy for COVID-19 led by the African Union through Africa Centres for Disease Control.

Each AU member state is expected to get equipment consisting 20,000 laboratory diagnostic test kits, 100,000 medical masks, and 1000 protective suits and face shields to the fight against COVID-19.

Earth cleansing itself, its inhabitants, says Zahra Buhari

Meanwhile, Zahra Buhari-Indimi, daughter of the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), has said the earth is “cleansing” itself and its inhabitants.

Although the President’s daughter did not explain what the earth was being cleansed of, several Nigerians on social media interpreted her comment as an allusion to the coronavirus pandemic.

Buhari-Indimi, who made the assertion in an Instagram story on Tuesday, said, “Earth cleansing itself and its inhabitants. Karma is the most patient gangster ever.”

Several Nigerians on social media derided the comment. On Twitter, @JVA_001 said, “This is the insensitive post that Zahra Buhari decided to put on her stories at this time. This just shows how far removed from reality these people are.

“No compassion at such a devastating time where families are in mourning and scared. Reprehensible you’re say the least.”

@Dr_GoodStuff said, “Bravo! Is she in Primary 2?”

@heitch said, “Let’s know your status. If some people we all know but I won’t mention test positive, then I’ll agree with her.”

FG refuses to stop local flight despite spread of COVID-19

The Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority has said there is no need to stop local flights despite a ban on gatherings of over 50 people by the government.

Bauchi State Governor, Bala Mohammed, who tested positive for Covid19, is believed to have contracted the disease from Mohammed Atiku Abubakar on an Aero Contractors flight from Lagos to Abuja last week.

The spokesperson for the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority, Sam Adurogboye, said over 50 persons could be allowed in an aircraft because all the passengers must have gone through the mandatory screening process.

He said, “All passengers in an aircraft have been screened. At least their status has been ascertained by virtue of the screening they went through before boarding the aircraft.

“So to an extent passengers in an aircraft are protected because they’ve had their hands sanitised and their temperatures checked before they got onto the plane.”

When asked if those who tested positive for coronavirus in Abuja after they had joined flights from Lagos were not screened properly at the Ikeja airport, Adurogboye argued that most of the infected persons were travellers who had visited foreign nations.

He said, “You can see that the majority of the cases are coming from those who travelled to locations outside this country. So there is a need for people to comply and abide by instructions.

“The instruction is that once you arrive in Nigeria from abroad, the first thing to do is to self-isolate yourself. People seem to be neglecting this, but, of course, it is not time to blame. Rather it is time to provide solutions and for people to do the right thing.”

Also speaking to The PUNCH, the Managing Director of Aero Contractors, Ado Sanusi, said the airline had taken appropriate steps to ensure that COVID-19 was not spread.

He said, “We in aviation check temperature of passengers and do social distancing as much as we can. When someone comes to our counter, he is advised not to shake anyone and maintained some distances

“Temperature is usually checked at MM2 and passengers are given hand sanitisers and our crew has been trained on social distancing.”

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