The North presently accounts for 54 per cent of the COVID-19 cases and 70 per cent of new ones in Nigeria, the Northern Governors’ Forum (NGF) has said.
Also, amidst continued criticism and caution by the federal government and other major stakeholders, the governors said the process of returning the Almajirai to their home states would continue with due regard for necessary protocol.
The above were some of the highlights of a teleconference during which the governors reviewed the issues of security, coronavirus and others affecting the region.
FG, Reps’ caution
The federal government had, through the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF) Boss Mustapha, has said the repatriation of the Almajirai from one state to the other is against the presidential order banning inter-state travels.
Raising similar concern, the House of Representatives had urged the federal government to enforce the inter-state travel ban order as well as direct the state governors concerned to immediately halt the evacuation of the Almajirai.
The House similarly urged the Nigerian Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) to counsel the affected governors on the threat posed by the evacuation of the children at this critical period.
It also urged the NGF to provide the Almajirai with the requisite tools for the universal basic and technical education system.
The resolutions were sequel to the unanimous adoption of a motion of urgent public importance titled: ‘Urgent need to look into the evacuation of Almajiri amid the coronavirus pandemic’, sponsored by Hon. Aishatu Dukku and Hon. Shehu Kakale.
Presenting the motion, Dukku noted that about 10 million children were in the Almajiri schools in the northern region of the country with over 500,000 Almajirai living in Kano state alone from where majority of the affected children were being evacuated.
She said the evacuation of the children was in violation of the inter-state travel ban currently enforced by the government.
She noted with concerns the evacuation was jeopardising the fight against COVID-19 in view of the high-level movement of the children from different places and the attendant risk of likely infection.
‘No going back’
But in what appears to be a defiance of the federal government’s position, the governors rose from their virtual meeting Wednesday and said the process of returning the Almajiri kids to their state of origin continues.
In a statement issued by NGF Chairman and Plateau state Governor Simon Lalong Wednesday, the governors lauded President Muhammadu Buhari over his concern and efforts at fighting insecurity in the northern region.
The statement was signed by the Lalong’s Director of Press and Public Affairs, Dr. Makut Macham.
On the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic, the statement said the governors resolved to maintain their earlier decision to purchase COVID-19 Mobile Testing Vans which had already been ordered to improve the testing capacity of the states, particularly in the rural areas to boost testing of more citizens especially in the rural areas.
They frowned at the lapses in enforcing closure of inter-state boundary roads, and expressed disappointment that despite several measures taken, including presidential orders, there were still violations where people moved from one state to another through compromise and use of illegal routes.
“They vowed to continue to take further measures to protect their people including the deployment of members of their cabinets and civil servants where necessary.
“The Forum resolved to continue their appeal to the Federal Government for support to deal with the coronavirus pandemic, as the Northern Region now has about 54% of the national cases and 70 percent of new infections,” he said
The governors further said: “The Forum acknowledged and appreciated the intervention of the Federal Government following their request to President Muhammadu Buhari for the deployment of more security personnel to the region to tackle banditry, kidnapping, insurgency, and other crimes which are threatening livelihoods and preventing farmers from going to their farms.”
On the profiling and evacuation of Almajirai, the NGF expressed satisfaction with the drive, saying there had been appreciable progress as many states had transferred the wandering kids to their states of origin without any fuss.
“They resolved to continue with the exercise by strictly following laid down protocols for profiling, quarantining, testing, transportation, handing and taking over as well as reintegration,” the statement added.
Meanwhile, the Zamfara branch of the Nigeria Medical Association (NMA) Wednesday said eight of its members tested positive for coronavirus.
The association which said the members were infected in the course of discharging their duties at various health facilities across the state also advised the state government to recruit more doctors and encourage the study of medicine among indigenes.
The state NMA Vice Chairman, Dr Mannir Bature, who said this in Gusau, the state capital, told journalists that doctors in the state constituted 10 per cent of the confirmed cases in Zamfara.
Bature said the affected doctors got infected in their bid to save the lives of patients at the emergency section of the various hospitals, whose COVID-19 status the doctors never knew.
He, however, said there was no fatality among the health personnel, even as 60 per cent of the infected persons had recovered and discharged, while the remaining were fast responding to treatment.
Bature said 30 other medical doctors were in self-isolation in the state, following contacts with their infected colleagues, a development the association said had created fear among its 300 members in the state.
“The NMA has proposed to the state governor, Bello Matawalle, to engage more doctors and other health personnel as well as sponsor the training of students in medicine so as to boost the number of doctors and improve the healthcare indices of the state,” Mr Bature said.