Fear and anxiety have gripped residents of Kano, following the death of no fewer than 14 prominent citizens of the state within the last 48 hours.
This came as the Assistant Inspector-General of Police in charge of Zone5, Benin, explained how Francis Bissong, a Deputy Commissioner Police in charge of the Zonal Criminal Investigation Department in Benin, Edo State, died from COVID-19 complications at his official apartment in Benin.
Those reported to have died of ailments suspected to be COVID-19 include Professor Ibrahim Ayagi, the CEO of Hassan Gwarzo School and former Vanguard Newspaper columnist; Alhaji Dahiru Rabiu, former Kano Grand Khadi; Dr. Musa Umar Gwarzo; Mallam Musa Tijjani, former Editor of Triumph Newspaper; and Alhaji Adamu Isyaku Dal, former SUBEB Executive Secretary. Others are Alhaji Salisu Lado; Hajia Shamsiyya Mustapha; Hajia Nene Umma; Alhaji Garba Sarki Fagge; Dr. Nasiru Maikano Bichi, Secretary, Student Affairs, North West University, NWU; Prof. Aliyu Umar Dikko of Physiology Department, Bayero University Kano; and mother of famous Kannywood artist, Ado Gwanja. They all died on Saturday.
Similarly, yesterday, former Commissioner of Education in the state, Alhaji Aminu Yahaya; and former Head of Department, Mass Communication, Bayero University, Kano, Professor Balarabe Maikaba, were all also confirmed dead. Although causes of the deaths of these prominent citizens of the state could not be ascertained at press time yesterday, Vanguard learned they all died of underlying ailments similar to those of COVID-19. For instance, Kannywood star, Musa Gwanja, said his mother died of hypertension and diabetes at 80 and was buried on Saturday at the Darmanawa cemetery in Tarauni Local Government Area. Similarly, a nephew to the former Grand Khadi, Adamu Balarabe, said his uncle died on Saturday after coming down with catarrh for only two days, after which he was buried at Dandolo cemetery in Kano metropolis.
‘Deaths under investigation’ Reacting to the spate of death in the state, a medical doctor working with Aminu Kano Teaching Hospital, Dr. Mukhtari Gadanya, said: “I would prefer not to speak because the matter is officially under investigation, therefore, whatever one will say is going to be speculation. “It is important to note that it has not been ascertained that the deaths occurring in 2020 are more than those that occurred in 2019.
Nothing has been confirmed as the cause of the deaths. So whatever one is going to say will only be his perception and not the reality on ground.” A nursing staff who works with the Infectious Diseases Department of the hospital, Bashir Yusif, said most of those dying of recent had been exhibiting symptoms of COVID-19, including cough, fever, difficult breathing and cold, although they have not been tested to confirm this. When contacted on the cause of the sudden deaths in the state, Commissioner for Health, Dr. Aminu Ibrahim Tsanyawa, and his counterpart in Information, Muhammad Garba, failed to reply to text messages sent to the mobile phones. ‘We now bury up to 24 daily, up from 3 or 4’ Meanwhile, an undertaker at Abattoir Cemetery in Kano, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told Vanguard yesterday that the graveyard was filled to capacity, saying they were left with no option than to look for space in between tombs to bury new corpses.
He said: “Mysterious deaths do occur from time to time during the peak of the hot season but this year’s is, indeed, overwhelming. “Some of the relations mention that their dead ones died of underlying ailments such as hypertension, diabetes or typhoid. But we cannot say exactly what is killing people but we bury up to 24 bodies a day here, against the three or four we used to bury before this time. “Residents of about four different quarters, including Fagge and Wambai, use this cemetery. Indeed, the rise in death is overwhelming.
Another thing that is worth noting is that most of those dying are elderly and a lot of them are said to be having one underlying disease or the other. “The graveyard is already filled to capacity, such that space is sought in between tombs to bury new corpses, as such the new tombs are scattered all over the place and not uniformly arranged.” Kano State had lost about 640 in similar circumstances last week, according to reports.
‘NCDC only supports states’ Reacting to the deaths in Kano, Head of Prevention, Programmes and Knowledge Management, NCDC, Dr Chinwe Ochu, told PR NIgeria that response to infectious disease outbreaks such as COVID-19 at sub-national levels, is led by states. Ochu stressed that NCDC only supports states in preparedness and response to disease outbreaks, including capacity building, hands on training, guidance and coordination.
“NCDC does not have an office in Kano nor in any state, however, NCDC supported states in setting up public health emergency operations centres run by states to ensure effective coordination of a public health response. “Samples have been collected from close contacts of the deceased for testing,” Ochu said while reacting to allegations raised by Selma Ahmed, mother-in-law of the banker who died of COVID-19 on Friday in Kano.
Governor Abdullahi Umar Ganduje lamented the setback faced by the state in the fight against the deadly coronavirus pandemic with the shutdown of the Nigeria Centre of Disease Control, NCDC, laboratory test centre located at the Aminu Kano Teaching Hospital, AKTH. Ganduje, who requested a quick response by the Federal Government to fix the lab, said at the moment, the state was left with no option than to take samples to Abuja, adding that in the process some of the samples got damaged and frustrate it efforts.
The governor, who stated this while giving an update on the fight against the virus in the state, admitted that the situation in the state was getting tougher and serious but said it was determined to contain the spread of the disease. He also said the state was recruiting voluntary constables and vigilantes to go to the nooks and crannies to ensure strict compliance to the lock-down of the state. Ganduje said the government has established ten mobile courts to try violators of the lock down order, adding that it has also ordered mass production of about one million face masks after which it would make its use mandatory in the state.
The governor said: “I will like to inform you that the situation is getting tougher and tougher, the situation is getting serious and serious but we are determined to keep on moving until we see to the end of the deadly disease with the help of Almighty God. “In terms of the curative aspect, there is no doubt, we have a challenge before us. So far, we have three types of isolation centres. We have an isolation centre which is a hotel we hired to keep those whose samples have been taken and awaiting results of samples.
“When they are found positive, they move to the next level of isolation centre in Muhammadu Buhari Specialist Hospital where we have 100 beds. We give them all the necessary care there. But when we have a very serious case, which we are yet to have, that is a patient that requires ventilators, monitors and probably to be under ICU, we have the Kwanar Dawakin Kudu isolation centre which is ready for that. “As I said, we have very serious problem confronting us at the moment.
The laboratory testing centre is the back bone for the curative aspect of this programme. The testing centre at the AKTH has been shut down for some time and we know the Presidential Task Force has been doing all it can to bring it back to operation because this is causing a lot of problem to the people of Kano State.
So we urge the Federal Government to quicken it actions. “We have taken over 300 samples to Abuja and it takes over seven hours, there is bad road because the road is under construction and if care is not taken, sometimes we found that some of the samples are spoilt and cannot be tested. We appeal to the Presidential Task Force to take this issue very seriously.
“In order to take care of the front line health workers so that they don’t go back home and infect their families, we are providing new accommodation for them.” BUK to set up lab centre, says V- C In the meantime, the Vice Chancellor of Bayero University Kano, Prof. Yahuza Bello, said plans are underway by the institution to establish a laboratory centre. Prof. Yahuza, who doubles as the Chairman, Fund Raising Committee on COVID-19 in Kano, said the lab centre which had already been inspected by the NCDC has the capacity to test 180 samples per day.