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COVID-19: Mysterious deaths in Kano and the way forward–An open letter to Kano PTF

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Coronavirus

CONCERNED CITIZENS OF KANO STATE
08066313762, 08030772400
sanidanjuma2012@gmail.com

3rd April, 2020

The Chairman,
Presidential Task Force on COVID-19,
Kano Team,
Nigeria.

Sir,

Issues Surrounding The Mysterious Deaths In Kano and The Way Forward

The Concerned Citizens welcome the Special Envoy for COVID-19 as part of the presidential move, the UN and WHO 3000 medics for Kano Rescue Mission. While recognising your giant takeoff and coordinated approaches in this important assignment to check the spread of the COVID 19 and the mysterious deaths in the state, we like to share with your team the outcomes of our preliminary investigation surrounding the unprecedented disaster for speedy action.

1. The closure of specialty clinics in some health facilities and the fear of private hospitals to treat likely COVID-19 patients, have resulted in the increasing number of rejections of patients, who require urgent medical attention. The consequential effect of this leads to untimely death of some that are in critical condition.

2. The unofficial abscondment of frontline medics as evidenced by the small proportion in attendance and their shirking attitudes due to the shortage of protective gears have put immense pressure on the emergency Departments. This may likely increase the number of deaths in the state.

3. The panic and unknown fear due to Corona Virus, hot weather, crowd settlements and the resultant social disorder, stress and trauma as a result of lockdown aggravate the condition of those with underlying ailments thereby causing complications and eventual deaths.

4. Old age, waning immune system, poverty and poor nutrition may likely increase disease susceptibility and worsen the appalling condition battling good people in the state.

5. Increasing pressure on the incapacitated healthcare facilities, poor health system management and lack of comprehensive healthcare policy to cater the exploding population by the state might be part of the causes.

6. The earlier denial of reported spike in deaths, the jettisoning advices from experts and the reluctance of the Kano State Government for prompt action, might have upsurge the menace. Additionally, failure to plan for the anticipated lockdown may likely leads to deaths out of starvation, prostration and other diseases than the actual COVID-19.

For these reasons therefore, may we suggest the followings for effective response to slowdown the mortality rate in the state:

a. The team should advise the state to urgently strengthen the entire healthcare system within near-term with adequate provision of personal protective and other emergency equipment provided for first line contact that are necessary for life-saving response. Moreover, proper distribution, utilisation and restocking of interventions from FG, NGOs and philanthropists remain the needful. Also, free medical services to elderly vulnerable class will be of great help at this critical time to curve the menace.

b. Provision of insurance and incentives to the frontline personnel with their safety as utmost priority. It is also necessary for the state to employ temporary medics to augment the under-staffed health sector. In this regard, formation of special taskforce to ensure that patients are being attended effectively at public facilities will be an important step to deal with tragedy.

c. Of greater importance is for the state to introduce virtual medical consultation (e-consultation) by leveraging on retirees’ experience and minimise physical contact, thereby enjoying social distancing for those with pending follow-ups.

d. It would be good for your committee to draw the attention of the state to engage in systematic distribution of palliatives to the needy to cope with condition and fight hunger. This will make life easier within the lockdown period. However, the palliative arrangement should take cognisance the sheer number of masses in the state.

e. Religious leaders may have a role to play by capitalising on religious doctrine to guide people on how to live with pandemic. While recognising the current ongoing investigation regarding the cryptic deaths in the state, it would be good for the government to utilise traditional rulers to report deaths within their localities for wider coverage.

f. The most important intervention is to mobilise all the necessary resources to bring back our Emergency Departments into full scale operations. Because a simple analysis can show the relationship between increased mortality rate and closure of Accident and Emergency Departments.

g. Upon all these, measures have to be taken to revisit the lockdown policy while controlling the pandemic, would be an important direction to focus, since our economy may not survive the continuous lockdown.

Sir, as your committee and that of the state works seamless, it’s an opportunity for you to plan well and succeed. It is germane to accentuate the government to understand that, there is no important business in politics than responding to peoples’ demand.

Therefore, it is our belief that with the state limited resources, donations from individuals, groups and organisation, some of these recommendations can be executed.

With Kano in our mind, we hope the Chairman will expedite action and free the state from imbroglio.

Sincerely yours,
For: Concerned Citizens;

Dr. Yusuf Ibrahim Kofarmata (CSO)
Dr. Sani Danjuma (Academia)
Dr. Aisha Walida Baffa (MBBS)
Sheikh Tijjani Ahmad Sheikh Isa (Islamic Scholar)
Abdullahi Tasiu (Trader)
Adama Usman Esq.
Tahir Yakasai Esq.

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OPINION: With due respect Mr. President, Nigerians are suffering

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By Adnan Mukhtar Tudunwada

With the increase in fuel price amid closure of borders due to COVID-19, increase in electricity tariff, insecurity, lack of access to good roads, hospitals and other basic amenities; it’s an understatement to say that Nigerians are suffering.

President Muhammadu Buhari was the last hope of the common man in recent years.

But many now doubt whether it is the Buhari of yesterday that is leading Nigeria today.

If not for the little improvement on the fight against Boko Haram, I can say that the Jonathan administration performed better than that of Buhari.

New electricity tariff: Only the rich are affected – KEDCO

Outcry as grain prices soar in Kano

I don’t have to go into any comparison with previous governments, but it is a duty for government to account for what it is doing.

It is a duty for active citizens to ask questions like where we are and where we are heading to.

Since the coming of Buhari to power, the electricity tariff has never gone down.

The petrol price will plummet for just few days or weeks and astronomically skyrockets again.

Unfilfilled promises

Mr. President made so many promises that are yet to be fulfilled. On the economy, the government has done a wonderful job in the area of farming.

But farmers’ access to fertilizer is still not impressive as expected.

There is rapid development in rice farming.

Nigeria is doing well on this sector, but we still have a long way in making the agricultural economy of this country money-spinning, like in other countries.

Where are we in making the refineries active?

What about the Kaduna refinery that we were told is going to start working before the end of Buhari’s first term?

Mr. President, where are we in reducing the cost of governance for political appointees and more especially the running cost of your government?

I am sure so many Nigerians will not forgive him for making them to believe that he was the only messiah, who can rescue the nation’s ship.

Failed government

The gruesome killings in Katsina, Zamfara, Sokoto, Benue and Plateau States because of bandits and farmers-herders clash, together with the kidnapping of innocent citizens by gunmen on our highways is enough testimony of the failure of Buhari government.

One thing that makes life pleasurable for citizens is access to constant electricity and water supply, good roads, health care services and job security.

But of none aforementioned has improved under Mr. President.

The worst is the failure of the President to unite his appointees. There is inter-agency rivalry.

It was Magu and Malami, Abike Irewa and Pantami, Ngige and NSITF, Keyamo and NDE, NSA Babagana Monguno and Late Abba Kyari, all under the watch of PMB.

Nothing in this country is making the common man excited as was envisioned before President Buhari assumed office.

Care-free attitude

There is increase in the price of food stuffs.

The local rice is today being sold at either N23K or N24K, while the foreign rice is close to N30K.

Where will the meager salary of N30K as minimum wage take workers to?

How will a worker pay for his rent, pays school fees for his children, among others?

It is apparent Mr. President seems less bothered about the state of the nation.

He does not even care to address Nigerians in their hardship.

This is totally unacceptable, and reprehensible.

It is time for the President to address the deplorable condition of diverse sectors of the country’s economy.

He still has three more years to bequeath a lasting legacy.

But before that time, I say, and with due respect Mr. President, Nigerians are suffering.

Adnan, a Kano-based  journalist can be reached via: Adnanmukhtaradam@gmail.com, or Twitter: @adnanmouckhtar

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Ganduje’s Covid-19 response strategy and the challenges By Muhammad Garba

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Ganduje washing hands

While one is filled with hope that it is relatively safe now to say that the administration of Governor Abdullahi Umar Ganduje is tenaciously fighting the war against the deadly COVID-19 pandemic, given the numerous measures adopted to cushion the impact of the ravaging disease, the response strategy, right from the beginning, is faced with many unnerving challenges.

This is in view of the fact that the virus is a new challenge to the global health and particularly to developing nations like ours.

Some have even predicted that Kano, given its population and cosmopolitan nature will become Nigeria’s epicenter of the novel coronavirus pandemic considering the rising number of cases then which were attributed to the influx of people from states with confirmed cases of the virus into Kano.

This has created community transmission with asymptomatic carriers.

With no personal protective equipment then except surgical masks and lack of knowledge of the proper protocols on the preventive measures, 50 health workers in the frontline were infected with the virus.

Even the co-chair of the state Task Force on COVID-19, Prof. Abdulrazak Garba Habib and some other members were infected and have to be admitted to the isolation centre for treatment protocols.

This is in addition to the fact that from the onset many still think the coronavirus is a hoax, while others believe that a COVID-19 diagnosis is a death sentence, and do not want their neighbours to think they are infected.

So they avoid being tested, and try to behave as if all is normal.

They go to burials, and shake fellow mourners’ hands because it would be socially unacceptable not to.

They shop, barefaced, in crowded markets and even hold soccer tournaments in the city.

First to accept threat

It is also on record that Kano was one of the first states to decipher the threat even before it occurs and start planning ahead of the epidemic.

It was followed by momentous pecuniary investments into preparedness and surveillance in collaboration with the Presidential Task Force (PTF) on COVID-19, Federal Ministry of Health (FMOH), state Ministry of Health and the Nigeria Center for Disease Control (NCDC), which have been working closely with partners and other stakeholders to coordinate and review the response strategies and implementation activities on a daily basis in order to effectually contain the spread of COVID-19.

Testing for COVID-19 was started in Kano on April 21 with only one testing lab which had to close due to contamination.

At that time, samples have to be sent to Abuja for analysis where in the process, sometimes, the sample got contaminated.

That itself caused delay in announcing how many positive cases have been detected in the state.

A team of medical experts had to be deployed to Kano to facilitate in reopening the testing centre after it was fumigated.

In appreciation of the response strategy by the Ganduje administration, when he visited Kano as part of his assessment tour to the state to assess the state response to the pandemic, Director General of the NCDC, Dr Chikwe Ihekweazu, commended the state government’s response to the fight against the deadly COVID-19 pandemic in the state.

The DG was also quoted to have said recently in an NTA’s Good Morning Nigeria, that Kano is testing more than any state in the country.

While the NCDC sets 100 benchmark of sample collection per state and with five molecular testing centres to enhance detection and effective response to the pandemic,  Kano state’s sample collection goes up to hundreds and strengthening and stabilizing the position also led to drastic drop of the pandemic in the state. Even with the five testing centres Kano still take some of its samples to Abuja for testing.

Mysterious deaths

However, when I watched one of the televised daily Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 briefing by the Hon. Minister of Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire, announcing that 60% of the “mysterious” deaths recorded at the peak period of the COVID-19 pandemic in Kano may have been triggered by or due to the virus, I find it difficult to fathom the report.

One is not surprised at this because, even while the investigation then had yet to commence, coordinator of the Ministerial Team on COVID-19 and Permanent Secretary, FMOH sent to Kano, Dr. Nasir Sani Gwarzo, an indigene of Kano state and medical epidemiologist, jumped to the conclusion that suggested that COVID-19 was the cause of the deaths.

His claim was however, brushed by the minister of health when appeared before members of the House of Representatives during plenary.

He told members of the Green Chamber that investigations into the deaths are of three streams and there is no result yet linking them to COVID-19.

Ehanire even denied Gwarzo making that statement.

Said he: “There was never a case of him (the task force coordinator) saying 80 per cent of people died from that or any other disease at all….The person did not ever say that the people died from coronavirus.”

Based on my understanding of how this collaborative efforts aimed at battling the deadly pandemic works, the FMOH ought to have share its final report with the government of Kano state before sharing it with the media.

Verbal autopsies

That was what informed the decision by the government of Kano state to institute its combined team of experts from the state Ministry of Health and development partners, including the World Health Organization (WHO), National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), AFENET and Lafiya Projects all under the under the leadership of Dr. Muktar A. Gadanya to undertake a study of the situation.

The report by the PTF team believed its “verbal autopsies” found that a total of 979 deaths were recorded in eight metropolitan local government areas in the state at a rate of 43 deaths per day, compared with the typical death rate of roughly 11 deaths per day, while the peak in deaths occurred in the second week of April, and that by the beginning of May, the death rate had gone back down to the normal rate.

However, the report of the team of experts by the Kano state government, which was presented to Governor Abdullahi Umar Ganduje, indicates that only 15.9 per cent of deaths recorded during the ugly incident between March and April has countered the comments made by the Minister of Health.

While presenting the Mortality Review (Verbal Autopsy) findings by the Team, the Lead Consultant, Muktar Gadanya, a Professor of infectious diseases from Bayero University Kano (BUK), disputed the minister’s comments which was based on findings by the Ministerial Taskforce Team on COVID-19, led by Dr. Gwarzo, which earlier stated the large number of the mysterious deaths were caused by COVID-19.

The team of researchers discovered that about 1,774 deaths were recorded, but were able to trace the relatives of about 1604 of the deceased, which represented over 90 per cent of the total figure.

He maintained that out of 1,604 cases traced, only 255 victims, representing 15.9 percent cases of deaths were linked to COVID-19 pandemic.

The team, however, alluded the remaining deaths to diseases related to hypertension, diabetes, malaria and other commonly identified ailments, including self-medication by victims.

As at July 24, 2020, 37, 512 samples were collected in the various testing centres, while 27, 219 of the samples were tested out of which 1, 452 have been confirmed representing 5.33 per cent.

Also, 1, 190 cases were discharged with 209 confirmed cases on treatment and 53 death which represents 3.65 per cent mortality rate. 3, 131 contact tracing were initiated and carried out.

Available data on date of releasing the result of cases under review indicate that the highest case of 80 was recorded in the state on May 5, 2020, while there was zero case on July 4, 2020.

Of the total 53 mortality rate recorded during the period under focus, nine patients died from the disease on the April 25.

As at July 24, 2020, 37, 512 samples were collected in the various centres, while 27, 219 of the samples were tested out of which 1, 452 have been confirmed representing 5.33 per cent. Also, 1, 190 cases were discharged with 209 confirmed cases on treatment and 53 death which represents 3.65 per cent mortality rate. 3, 131 contact tracing were initiated and carried out.

Also, available data on date of releasing the result of cases under review indicate that the highest case of 80 was recorded in the state on the May 5, 2020, while there was zero case on July 4, 2020.

Of the total 53 mortality rate recorded during the period under focus, nine patients died from the disease on the April 25.

Community sample collection

The state government also piloted community sample collection in 10 high risk settlements across two local governments of Gwale and Kano Municipal Council.

The sample collection was implemented across 62 wards of six local governments which resulted in the collection of over 24,000 samples.

This include Nassarawa with 11 wards and 3, 659samples collected from which 45 were confirmed positive; Gwarzo 11 wards, 4, 030 samples and 45 confirmed cases; Kumbotso 11 wards, 4, 165 samples and 51 confirmed cases. The rest are Wudil which has 11 wards, 5, 175 samples collected and 3 confirmed cases; Dambatta has 10 wards and 4,096 samples were collected with 10 cases confirmed; Tarauni with 10 wards where 3, 735 samples collected and 8 cases conformed.

There are also plans to scale up the collection to other local government in both rural and urban areas.

At the sample collection sites, measures adopted in the operation include identified and activated 16 sample collection sites within the metropolis, engaged public and private clinicians on referrals, linked Acute Coronary Syndromes (ACS) and contact tracing to sample collection sites, awareness through community and religious leaders, improved data management, decentralization of data collection to field teams, daily review of HF and Community (ACS) tracking, identification of hotspot through GIS, Home Base Care Management,  Adopted and developed Home base care Standard Operating Protocols (SOP) for Kano State,  rolled out Home Base care across the State, Sixty Two (62) patients on Home Base Care.

Capacity development

The COVID-19 response strategy involves aggressively improved staff capacity in disease surveillance and response, infection prevention and control, laboratory, risk communication and community engagement, case management and POE.

Since the beginning of the outbreak, 842 clinicians and response team were trained thrice on contact tracing and active case to improve number of persons reached, while 11 training sessions were organized for 9,036 health workers on case detection, triaging and management of health care waste.

To ensure effective focus on all sample collection, biosafety and sample transportation, lab personnel, 110 medical records officers were drilled, 9, 252 media personnel, religious leaders, traditional leaders on community sensitization and safe behavior practice, community referral and identification of suspected cases, 264 clinicians, local government Primary Health Care Team on Patient management and home base care, while 252 road transport workers were trained on Point of Entry (POE).

These training helped increase the capacity of health professionals to detect COVID019, as well as increased awareness and compliance with the NCDC’s take responsibility campaign amongst various groups.

Governor Ganduje engages media agencies during the fortnightly press briefing on COVID-19 at the state Government House.

Also as part of its risk communications activities, the Task Force in collaboration with other organisations has produced and shared multimedia content, including videos, infographics and audio jingles targeting different demographics. T

his has helped increase awareness about COVID-19 and enlightened many on how to protect themselves and stay safe.

Despite the daunting challenges and the successes being recorded in the COVID-19 response aimed at stemming further spread of the pandemic and the unrelenting commitment and political will in leading the response strategy, Kano is winning the war against COVID-19.

As evidenced by the above statistics which indicate a downward movement in the spread of the disease, the state is recording a major breakthrough in the curtailment of the pandemic.

Muhammad Garba is the commissioner, Information, Kano state.

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Commemorating NEPU’s 70th anniversary – Tanko Yakasai

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Tanko Yakasai

Today the 8th of August, 2020 marks the 70th anniversary of the formation of the Northern Elements Peoples Union (NEPU), the first and only political party in the history of Nigeria, formed solely not only to fight oppression and exploitation of the common man the Talakawa by the ruling class in Northern Nigeria, but also for the unity, freedom and independence of our motherland, Nigeria.

It is in the cause of championing that commitment to liberate the oppressed and promote unity of the people of Nigeria that NEPU entered into alliance with National Council of Nigeria and Camerouns (NCNC), led by the doyen of Nigerian nationalism and first president of Nigeria, Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe GCON during colonial era and the First Republic political activism in the history of our country.

The ultimate objective of the NEPU/NCNC alliance was for the two parties to eventually merge into a formidable party that will belong to all Nigerians regardless of their ethnic, sectional or religious background just as the VISION and MISSION of the founders of the National Party of Nigeria, NPN, during the Second Republic.

It was the fear of that eventuality that made the British colonial rulers of Nigeria at that time to incite traditional institutions and reactionary elements in northern Nigeria to subject NEPU and its members to unprecedented harassment, wide spread intimidation of arrests, imprisonment and persecution with the sole aim of scaring the educated elements in northern Nigeria to distance themselves from coming out to support the struggle of the party during colonial era and the politics of the First Republic.

That situation led to the paucity of intellectuals among the leading cadres of the party in large numbers.

The situation also led to the stagnation of progress of the NEPU in its struggle for the emancipation of the downtrodden in the North thereby hampering the efforts of forging national unity and success of progressive politics in our national development efforts.

The outcome was the perpetuation of ignorance and lack of enlightenment in the area which constitutes serious drawback of Nigeria’s march to progress and national development.

Liberation of the Talakawa

But in spite of that, all hopes were not lost as the emergence of NEPU engineered the sprouting of many opposition parties in the north at that time resulting in the emergence of political parties opposed to colonial rule such as Borno Youth Movement (BYM), Ibira Progressive Union (IPU), Middle Belt Peoples Party (MBPP), Ilorin Talaka Parapo (ITP), Katagum People’s Party (KPP) Habe Tribal Union (HTU) and many others during the period under reference  – the formation of which resulted in widening the scope of revolt against colonial and feudal domination in northern Nigeria and enhanced the resilience of the peoples’ resolve to liberate themselves from domination and exploitation.

Another achievement associated with the emergence of NEPU was the political awareness among the downtrodden masses of northern Nigeria otherwise known as the talakawa.

All the subsequent political developments in northern Nigeria such as the emergence of United Middle Belt Congress (UMBC), Great Nigerian People’s Party (GNPP) People’s Redemption Party (PRP) and others, were born out of the sacrifices the militants in the NEPU promoted and endured.

As one of the remaining leaders of the NEPU still alive I salute the uncommon courage and fortitude displayed by the political activists in Northern Nigeria in fighting the combined forces of British colonialism and imperialism in collaboration with   indigenous reactionary forces in the region in particular and the country in general both fallen and those still alive.

All the political progress made in promoting national unity in Nigeria drew inspiration from the example of collaborative efforts of the NEPU/NCNC alliance and other patriots.

May the souls of the departed comrades of the struggle for the emancipation of the talakawas who paved the way for the political awareness and national liberation in the Nigeria’s political development rest in peace.

I also wish those of us who are still alive to rededicate our resolve to safeguard the unity, freedom and wellbeing of the Nigerian nation and its people.

Long live the struggle for the emancipation of the common man in Nigeria and for our National unity, peace and prosperity.

Tanko Yakasai OFR is a former National Publicity Secretary of NEPU.

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