To start with, only a stupid person would still be doubting the reality of a pandemic that has brought activities around the entire globe to a halt. This author is by no means doubting the devastating reality of COVID-19, but activities within my country are making one wonder if indeed we are taking the fight against the pandemic as seriously as we ought to.
On Monday, March 30, it was reported that some 26 Americans arrived the Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Lagos without screening for the Coronavirus.
The next day, the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed refuted the report published in the front page of the Daily Independent.
The minister said the 26 Americans were screened by the Port health authority and the immigration while the crew that flew them in and out of the country did not disembark from the aircraft.
“I am aware of the history of the 26 passengers and I have placed a call to the head of Port health services who denied the report. We have problem with the crude oil production in the Bonga field, so they made an application for the expatriates to come into the country. They need to come and carry out some emergency works on the Bonga field. They met with the Port Health Authority and immigration that screened them and we have the records to show that they were screened,” he said.
We will not be going into questioning why these so-called expatriates coming from an epicenter of the pandemic would not be quarantined on arrival in Lagos before moving out.
Because they had an urgent problem to fix with crude oil production so that interest supersedes the clear threat their visit exposes the country to in the wake of the pandemic?
Meanwhile, these Americans, who were on board an Air Peace flight, were said to be working for the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation were denied access into Cross River State. The government insisted that they go back to be properly tested before they can come.
Was the governor aware of their visits and was he carried along or did it not matter?
However, the minister apart from describing the report as fake news also went on to say that, “the implication of this which the newspaper did not know is that they have presented to the entire world as if Nigeria is not taking this fight seriously.”
Really? We will soon know who is sending the wrong signals to the rest of the world in the fight against the disease.
On April 7, the police in Rivers State arrested two pilots working for Caverton Helicopters alongside 10 passengers at the Air Force base, Port Harcourt. This resulted in a face-off between the Ministry of Aviation and the state government. It must be stated that there is no love lost between the federal government and Governor Wike, but by authorising Caverton Helicopters pilots to fly ten passengers into Port Harcourt, without adequate communication to that effect, the Ministry of Aviation inadvertently breached the state’s COVID-19 containment orders.
Like the Cross River State scenario, was Wike aware of the coming of these people and the purpose of their visits as the chief security officer of the state, or was it not necessary? Where the lives of Nigerians are threatened, politics must be put aside and both federal and state governments must be in tandem and speak in one voice in the interest of the nation.
Perhaps, the highest ranking casualty of Covid-19 around the world happened in Nigeria with the death of Mallam Abba Kyari, Chief of Staff of President Muhammadu Buhari.
Kyari died from the complication of Covid-19 on Friday, April 17. The remains of the late chief of staff was brought to the capital Abuja from Lagos penultimate Saturday for a supposed private burial. Presidential spokesman Garba Shehu confirmed that the process was: “In strict observation of the protocol put in place for the burial of Coronavirus victims by the NCDC and the Federal Ministry of Health, the funeral prayer and burial will be private.
“Thereafter, there will be no such ceremonies as condolence visits. Well meaning friends, family members and the general public are encouraged to pray for the repose of Abba Kyari’s soul,” he added in another tweet.
Meanwhile, earlier in April, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, the Minister of Information and Culture, had said bodies of persons who die while undergoing treatment for the rampaging global COVID-19 pandemic would not be released for burial. He said the Ministry of Health would ‘handle’ the bodies ‘because they are contagious.’
Mohammed said: “Coronavirus is very dangerous and contagious; there is no medicine for it yet; and it is not just capable of killing, overwhelming healthcare system, it will destroy the economy. In some countries, they are putting dead bodies in big refrigerators, because the morgues have filled up.
“Nigerians should not forget that these are not the types of corpses that can be claimed for burial because it must be handled by the ministry of health.”
However, unfortunate as the death of Kyari was, it provided opportunity for the leaders of the nation to show the world how serious we are with fighting the global scourge. But what did we do? We bungled it and displayed our total lack of seriousness as a people.
Meanwhile, in the same nation where people are daily being arrested on the streets for jogging, where people are prosecuted and convicted for hosting parties and church services, even where there are no known Covid-19 victims in such gatherings, Kyari’s burial was a shame displayed gleefully on global television for the rest of the world to see.
From the crowd that would have been in their hundreds, many of whom were without face masks, and the lack of compliance with the social distancing directive, to the shallow grave as well as the poorly clad grave diggers, everything was wrong. The summit of the show of shame was the video that went viral on social media which captured one of those who handled the body of the late Kyari who was seen disposing of his PPE by the roadside.
After failed attempts to explain what was clearly a poorly organized funeral, the Chairman of the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19, Mr Boss Mustapha, apologised over violations of the very rules they set themselves.
Mr. Mustapha who is also the Secretary to the Government of the Federation says it is regrettable that social distancing was not observed during the burial.
“The PTF recognises, regrettably, the unintentional violation of the principles and protocols that form the core of our message to Nigerians at the funeral of the late chief of staff,” the SGF said. For that apology to make meaning, all those who have been arrested or punished, one way or the other, for breaching these protocols, must be left off the hook. Anything short of that is unacceptable.
Now, if you are still in doubt as to those sending the wrong signals to the rest of the world that we are not fighting the virus as we ought to, then you need to look no further. In this fight, there cannot be two sets of rules for different categories of people. That is a clear evidence of an unserious people. Shame!