Still on Kogi govt, PTF’s feud over Covid-19




Bello

It is the battle of the titans where two elephants are involved, except that its victims are the ordinary people of Kogi state. ELEOJO IDACHABA takes a look at the brawl between the Kogi state government and two federal government agencies over the Covid-19 pandemic.

Kogi state has been in the news lately, this time for the wrong reason. The state has been described as a no-go area to everyone because of the uncooperative stand of the state government towards the reality of Covid-19 pandemic currently ravaging many lands.

Therefore, it is correct to say that at the moment, there is no love lost between the state government, the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) on one hand and the Presidential Task Force (PTF) on Covid-19 on the other hand. PTF is the body set up by President Muhammadu Buhari to superintend over the fight against the pandemic across the country.

While the PTF has insisted that there’s the prevalence of the virus in the country, the Kogi state government on the other hand had insisted that the whole talk about Covid-19 was a hoax that was meant to drain government’s funds by those charged with the mandate, a notion PTF took an exception to. And as a result of this, the cold war among the trio started.

PTF declared Kogi, in particular, as a high-risk state for refusing to acknowledge the existence of the virus. It said the state government had failed to report testing as done in other states besides lacking in the acquisition of well-equipped isolation centres, for which it warned Nigerians against visiting the state.

Although the PFT listed other states complicit in their non-challant management of the virus, it specifically cautioned visitors to Kogi whose governor had maintained an unrestrained hostile stand against the way the pandemic was handled in the country.

While making its pronouncement recently, the national incident manager (NIM) of PTF Covid-19 pandemic, Mukhtar Muhammad, who spoke on behalf of the task force, said, “We have states where data is not coming forth. If we don’t test, your data would not be analysed and if your data is not analysed, we won’t know the level of the pandemic in your state. Notable among the states are Yobe, Jigawa, Zamfara, Kebbi and, of course, Kogi that have not been reported at all.

“States that are not testing are probably at much higher risk than the states that are currently known as high-burdened states. A state that is not testing at all is an absolute high risk for Nigerians to visit because there is no testing facility and even if you fall sick, there is no isolation centre and they don’t even acknowledge that the disease exists. So, for that reason, we put that state at the top of high risk states.”

Kogi govt’s reaction

In a rather lengthy reaction, the state government said it would not watch and allow PTF to create panic and scare away investors from the state, saying it may be forced to take legal action against the PTF and NCDC if the harassment and bid to de-market the state against genuine investors continues.

The Commissioner for Information and Communications, Kingsley Fanwo, said reports that Governor Yahaya Bello was not doing anything about fighting Covid-19 because it believed it didn’t exist were false.

Fanwo accused the PTF and NCDC of merely being desperate to create a picture of panic and a health crisis in the state.

In a statement in Lokoja, he said the claims by both federal agencies were an attack on the people of the state through the instrumentality of fear, adding that the state government would not accept that type of situation.

According to him, having emerged the investment destination in Nigeria in the third quarter of 2020 based on the report by the Nigerian Investment Promotion Commission (NIPC), the PTF was desperate to cripple the economy of the state by raising the false alarm that it had a high risk of Covid-19 cases.

“We very much believe their intention is to ensure that investors are scared from coming into the state. Despite their unreliable figures, Kogi emerged the investment destination of Nigeria in the last quarter of 2020. They felt embarrassed and the best way to hit back is to create a picture of the health crisis in the state,” he said.

Reacting further, Fanwo said the state was the first to procure thousands of face masks which it distributed freely to residents of the state while at the same maintaining that the state had done more sensitisation/enlightenment programmes on the disease than any other state across the country.

“We were the first state to procure facemasks in thousands and distributed to all the local government areas. We were the first state to set up a Squadron Team to combat the spread of the pandemic. We also set up isolation centres with state-of-the-art equipment.

“We have done sensitisation more than any other state; so, if we don’t believe Covid-19 exists, we won’t be doing all we are doing to ensure it doesn’t ravage our state. What we said and are still saying is that Covid-19 is not worth all the marketing going on just for a few to make billions.

“That means we do not have to suffer innocent Nigerians while a few smile to the banks; it also means that we can’t afford a deeper recession as a country in the form of a lockdown. The cases reported in Kogi were fraudulent. So, how do we believe the NCDC? They have given us every reason to see them as people not working in the interest of public good. Their data is unreliable and they are inconsistent.”

He said further that, “We are fine in Kogi and do not accept their scaremongering. It was an attempt to intimidate our state, scare investors away and cause unnecessary panic. It is an attack on the good people of Kogi state and we will defend our people against the merchants of fear and despair.

“We won’t submit the lives and psychology of our people to those who have turned Covid-19 to business. The governor had advised a robust synergy between science and common sense; medicine and governance in order to combat the pandemic.

“Politicians have hijacked the process for their selfish gains. We shouldn’t play politics with it. We won’t sit by and watch the enemies of Nigeria infect Kogi with their fear and de-marketing and we would not hesitate to seek legal redress against them. Kogi is safe; investors are coming in. We are improving our infrastructure and doing more for the people.”

Fanwo added, “What we won’t do is to join hands with them to push our people into pain and poverty. Enough is enough. We should stop punishing the poor and defenceless unnecessarily.

“Governor Yahaya Bello would not change his position on this. Why must you change from the lane of truth and integrity? They are the people battling with their conscience. They should know that poverty is dangerous.

“They should desist from oppressing the people of this country. They should stop destroying the good intentions of Mr. President. The samples they collected from Kogi, where are they? They are deceiving this nation. We won’t join that, even in the face of threat and intimidation.”

Frosty relationship

What appears today as a frosty relationship between the Bello-led administration in Kogi and the NCDC/PTF actually started in 2020. For instance, Governor Bello had on March 25, when the pandemic became more pronounced, stated in a viral video where he declared that, “Ninety per cent of the noise about Covid-19 is for political, economic, financial or material gains while the remaining 10 per cent relates to ordinary flu like the common cold Nigerians generally suffer.”

Those remarks were never taken with levity by the NCDC and PTF who alleged that the number of unreported cases of deaths and Covid-related ailments in the state was beyond measure.

According to the NCDC then, “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 travellers 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 had recently 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, 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.”

Therefore, as the brouhaha continued, on May 31, 2020, the state government alleged that NCDC had dubiously allocated index cases to the state with reckless abandon in what the state government called a violation of its own protocol.

PTF seeks Buhari’s intervention

In the meantime, the PTF had formally reported Governor Bello to President Buhari for what it termed the governor’s disdain for the body set up by the president himself. PFT in particular is angry at the alleged poor attitude of Bello to the management of Coronavirus pandemic as it accused the state of deliberately hoarding and suppressing information about the rate of infection in the state. On its part, the NCDC is particularly angry at what it termed the hostile behaviour of the state government towards its four-man team sent to visit the state in 2020. During that visit, it was widely reported that they were hounded out of Lokoja with a threat that they would be quarantined if they didn’t leave the state.

Reactions

In what appears to be a united voice to the position of the state government, a former lawmaker, Senator Dino Melaye, who once represented Kogi-west senatorial district in the 8th Senate, campaigned on the social media against

inoculation of Nigerians with the vaccine, a position Governor Bello had equally maintained.

Melayo said, “I’m calling on all Africans, particularly Nigerians, not to accept the use of any COVID-19 vaccine for now. For 100 years we couldn’t find a vaccine for cancer. For over 40 years we are yet to find any vaccine for HIV/AIDS. For over another 100 years research has been going on finding a vaccine for diabetes and we are yet to find one. How then is it possible on earth that in one year you found a vaccine for Covid-19?”

On the other hand, in what looks like the official reaction of the main opposition party, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), its spokesperson, Kola Ologbondiyan, said the governor was merely seeking attention.

Ologbondiyan said, “You must understand that Governor Yahaya Bello is an attention-seeker, somebody who seeks unnecessary attention. That is the reason he alone can stand against the world. What he is saying cannot be proven in science and the world is in the direction of science and truth. So, he is not deserving of any reaction because he is just an attention seeker.”

As itisI now, the Kogi state government has maintained that it would not back down on its stand on the virus, not to talk of securing the vaccines.

Related content you may like

Be the first to comment