THE Presidential Task Force (PTF) on Coronavirus Disease has formally reported Governor Yahaya Bello of Kogi State to President Muhammadu Buhari for what it termed the governor’s hostile attitude to the body.
The Task Force is also displeased with Governors Nyesom Wike (Rivers) and Ben Ayade (Cross River) for allegedly not cooperating with the committee in the fight against COVID-19.
Similarly unimpressed by the attitudes of the Kogi and Cross River State governments is the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA), particularly on claims by the two states that they are coronavirus free.
The Nation gathered yesterday that the Federal Government may impose a lockdown on Kogi State or declare a state of emergency if Governor Bello continues to defy the PTF.
Sources said the Kogi governor who is generally perceived as a core Buharist stands the risk of losing the favour he currently enjoys from the Villa.
The PTF, according to sources, is angry at the “very poor” attitude of Bello to the management of Coronavirus epidemic, which has led to the conduct of only two tests so far in his state.
The committee suspects that the state may be suppressing information about Coronavirus infections in its territory, going by the governor’s alleged maltreatment of NCDC officials sent to the state on Thursday.
The development and reports of some cases at the Federal Medical Centre in Lokoja, the state capital are said to have fueled suspicion by the PTF that the state has more to hide on COVID-19.
Consequently, the PTF has met with all the security agencies to “keep them abreast of the breach of the Quarantine Act by the state government.”
A top level source said: “The facts at our disposal have shown that Kogi is at the risk of COVID-19 because it is a melting point for inter-state travelers and it shares borders with 12 states (about one-third of the states in the Federation) which had recorded infections. The border States are Ondo, Ekiti, Edo, Kwara, Niger, Anambra, Niger, Enugu, Osun, FCT, Plateau and Benue.
“Kogi has only conducted two tests despite the increasing rate of community spread. We were shocked that the state government has refused to fulfill its obligations as enshrined in the Quarantine Act 1990 CAP 384 LFN.
“Yet, the PTF has been very polite in relating with Bello. For instance, the Minister of Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire on Tuesday called the governor and it was agreed that a four-man team of NCDC would be sent to the state.
“But while receiving the four-man team on Thursday, he said they should handover the letter they brought to the state Commissioner for Health. In the process, the commissioner had contact with the head of the team and the governor sparked by ordering his immediate quarantine.
“Following refusal to be quarantined, the governor humiliated the team by ensuring that they were escorted by armed police out of Lokoja to the airport road in Abuja.”
Another reliable source said: “The PTF was briefed by the team which went to Kogi State. And the committee in turn held a meeting with security agencies where the governor’s unbecoming attitude was formally reported.
“The PTF members also unanimously decided to report the governor to President Muhammadu Buhari since he has always boasted that he has the ears of the President.
“The position of the committee is for the President to invoke his powers in the 1999 Constitution to declare a state of emergency in Kogi State or use his inherent authority in the Quarantine Act to impose lockdown on the state.
“The PTF believes any of these steps should be taken if the governor remains recalcitrant. It is left to the President to decide the fate of Kogi State.
“Although the governor is a favourite of the Presidential Villa, it is doubtful if he can have his way. He is overstretching his luck.”
Investigation also showed that the PTF was equally angry with Governors Nyesom Wike (Rivers) and Ben Ayade (Cross River) for “not cooperating with the committee on containment of COVID-19.”
A member of the task force said: “These two governors are not doing enough to contain the coronavirus; they are playing politics with it. They have not paid serious attention to the campaign against COVID-19.
“These two governors are also under watch because we won’t allow them to derail our efforts at containing the epidemic. What we are demanding from the governors are concrete steps to stop community spread, not playing to the gallery. Enough of politics with COVID-19.
“Ayade sees the entire COVID-19 epidemic as not real but an attempt to make money.”
The Cross River governor once said: “I think Africans should come together to the realization that it is not vaccines. It is healthy living. Give people jobs. Thabo Mbeki once told the world, ‘don’t tell us about giving us HIV drugs in South Africa. Give us money let us improve our agriculture.’ Let everybody have a job and is working and living healthy. HIV virus will disappear; the same thing with coronavirus.
“It would sound very controversial but you should know that I am talking from a sound intellectual and scientific background.
“The virus itself, the test method itself, the PCR (Polymerase Chain Reaction) test method is an unreliable method and is never to be used for diagnostic purpose but genomic sequencing, for just research purposes.
“But the PCR is being used, test kits are being produced. Test kits manufacturers are making cool money. If I test you and you are coronavirus positive, what do I do? There are no vaccines. There is no established approved international treatment protocol.”
It could not be immediately ascertained whether the President may impose lockdown on Rivers and Cross River States.
A highly-placed source said: “We won’t allow the situation in those two states to deteriorate, we are monitoring them closely.”
The Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr. Abubakar Malami (SAN), in a recent statement said the President has power to deal with the situation reports in Kogi, Rivers and Cross River States having taken similar measures in Lagos, FCT and Ogun.
Malami said: “Section 3 of the Act enables the President to declare any part of Nigeria as an infected area. Section 4 of the Act further empowers the President to make regulations to prevent the introduction, spread and transmission of any dangerous infectious disease. “Section 6 of the Act requires the President and State Governors to provide sanitary stations, buildings and equipment. Thus, in recognition of the critical roles being played by the state Governors in these trying times, the Federal Government has been working with the states in line with the dictates of Section 6 of the Act,” he said.
“It is important to inform the discerning members of the public that the President did not make a declaration of a state of emergency under Section 305(1) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) which would have required the concurrence of both houses of the national assembly.
“Even at that Section 305(6)(b) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) permits a proclamation of a State of Emergency to run for a period of 10 days without the approval of the National Assembly when the parliament is not in session as in the present situation wherein the National Assembly has shut down.”
Meanwhile, the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA) yesterday faulted claims by Kogi and Cross River States to be coronavirus (COVID-19) free, saying the states must ensure that they follow the testing guidelines issued by the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC).
The association urged the Federal Government to investigate the claims of the two state governments in the interest of safeguarding Nigeria’s public health.
The President of the NMA, Dr. Francis Faduyile, in a statement yesterday in Abuja, said “pronouncements of some political leaders constitute outright interference in NCDC’s coordination of case treatment for effectiveness and learning lessons.”
The NMA “vehemently decries the stance of the Governments of Kogi and Cross River states to NCDC’s advisory.”
It added: “While it would be welcome news for a ‘no-positive-case’ status in any state or FCT, every state must ensure that it is following the testing guideline issued by the NCDC.
“That way, no cases are missed, as that would seriously imperil the whole national response to controlling COVID-19 pandemic.”
The NMA appealed to the Federal Government, through the Presidential Task Force (PTF), to investigate the claims of the two state governments in the interest of safeguarding Nigeria’s Public Health, and to recommend appropriate remedial intervention (s) if necessary to Mr. President.
It said: “NMA review revealed verifiable difficulties in collecting samples, transporting them in the proper media and dearth of test kits by the Coordinating authorities. This development is coming a few days after being told of the markedly increased capacity of 50,000 samples per day in 21 laboratories to ramp up testing nationwide.
“The Association places the responsibility on the PTF and the NCDC to find the fastest workable solutions to fix this challenge, including incorporating the approved private sector laboratories that already have established specimen pick up and transport modalities.”
On the Infectious Diseases Control Bill 2020, proposed by the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, the NMA said it welcomed the resolve of the House to subject the Bill to a Public Hearing.
It called for the withdrawal of the Bill entirely and redrafting it to remove any existing and future doubts in the people.
“The NMA is not oblivious of the socio-political and economic implications of continued lockdown, and the attendant hunger and acute deprivation in the population. But the NMA maintains the firm view that the solution is not to loosen the lockdown prematurely, for that assures more catastrophic worsening of the infection and deaths from coronavirus.
“Instead, The NMA proffers that the solution lies in a more robust and widened palliatives’ policy and its practical and urgent implementation.
“We therefore strongly demand that there should be no further delay in commencement of the payment of the announced sums or contemplation of effective date of implementation as it was of common knowledge when COVID-19 became a public health emergency in Nigeria.”