The DG of the National Council for Disease Control (NCDC), Dr Chikwe Ihekweazu has been in the news for all the wrong reasons on the past week.
Whilst he is being investigation by the Senate over an alleged N400m fraud, the DG has been accused of appropriating the sales of text kits to himself via his council.
Another battle he is faced with is from two state governors who accuse him of playing politics with the COVID-19 by trying to force them to declare false statistics of the pandemic in their states. They are, Governor Yahaya Bello of Kogi State and Ben Ayade of Cross Rivers State.
In a strongly worded message released in a statement and circulated to media houses, Bello who has insists that Kogi has not recorded any COVID -19 case accused Ihekweazu of trying to force him to declare false numbers.
“The attention of the Kogi State Government has been drawn to reports in sections of today’s press credited to Dr. Chikwe Ihekweazu, the Director General, National Centre for Disease Control (DG NCDC) insinuating that states which are yet to record cases of COVID-19 are either negligent in testing and tracing, or actively hiding, the disease within their territories.
Since Kogi State is one of only 2 states in the country yet to record any case of Covid-19, and indeed the DG NCDC is quoted to have mentioned us by name, we find the said comments, along with the unfair attempt to name, defame and shame us incredibly distressing.
Kogi State confesses that she is not aware the Covid-19 pandemic in Nigeria is a one-legged race to see which state can put as many cases as possible into the national incident basket, and even if such were to be the case, the current administration in Kogi State does not play such games with the lives and psychology of her people.
Kogi State has religiously followed all the NCDC and World Health Organization (WHO) CoviD-19 advisories, both for identifying cases and preventing spread.” Bello said in the statement.
Though the popular independent investigative journalist, Fisayo Soyombo, has done a report claiming that four people had died of COVID-19 in Kogi state, the government or even hospitals are yet to declare any of such incidence.
The governor continues to insist that his government had taken all precautionary measures and was on top of the situation.
He disclosed: “We built our self-assessment app hosted at kogicovid19.gov.ng around the NCDC’s checklist for ‘suspected and high risk’ cases and as at last week it has been visited nearly 200,000 times with over 14,000 completed self-assessments out of which only about 60 presented cause for further investigation which then failed to meet the Covid-19 spectrum.”
Alarming Stories from Kogi that some NCDC officials were ordered to be quarantined by Governor Bello have actually unsettled the country and raised many questions. The said officials who were at the state, reportedly shook hands with people and passed on the microphome used during the meeting, breaking their own and the universal rules of no handshaking and body contact of any kind. The officials allegdly escaped the governor’s orders.
On his own part, Ayade has cried out that the NCDC DG wants to force him to admit to what there isn’t and threatened to quarantine any NCDC official visiting the state. Ayade has since ordered civil servants in his state to return to work.
What is most disturbing however are allegations that the NCDC is not taking the issue of testing seriously as they have shunned the purchase of tearing kits from the private sector but are selling the kits to state governments directly.
One of the Nigerian business men who partnered with a foreign company to import testing kits says the NCDC outrightly rejected the kits without putting them to test.
“Yet they are the ones selling the kits. NCDC should allow the states set up their own testing centres. I had on good authority that a state that collects samples with kits not supplied by NCDC will not have it’s samples validated by them.”
This business man says the NCDC is yet to issue criteria that test kits must meet or direct the state governments to companies that manufacture these kits” he said.
He accused the NCDC of making money out of selling COVID 19 test kits.
“NCDC has no business selling test kits to states. They are not a business concern. The argument before now is that there are lots of fake kits flying around. Spain bought some and had to return them to china and asked for refund. Take on NCDC. Ask them why they are now selling test kits to states instead of allowing them to buy directly. Ask them to show proof that WHO accredits Covid 19 test kits as they claim.
When they sell test kits to states, what kind of mark up do they put on it?”
With such disclosures and the NCDC DG crying out that Nigeria has run out of testing kits, it is worrisome that the council is not seeking other alternatives as some other countries have done.
It is now a known fact that Nigeria is grossly undertesting which may lead to an uncontrollable COVID-19 situation yet the NCDC seems more interested in the politics than the solution.
Many have asked what happened to the medical supplies donated by the Chinese Billionaire, Alibaba founder, Jack Ma, nobody has bothered to give any reasonable response to that question.
Equipment donated by Ma include, 4.6 million masks, 500,000 swabs and test kits, 300 ventilators, 200,000 clothing sets, 200,000 face shields, 2,000 thermal guns, 100 body temperature scanners and 500,000 pairs of gloves.”
Another allegation facing the NCDC boss is that of falsification of figures and the issue of blanketing all deaths in the country under COVID-19.
It is a fact that there is a dangerous outbreak of COVID-19 in Nigeria which experts say is being terrifyingly under reported. Since the presidential task force on COVID-19 went public that the so called strange deaths witnessed in Kano were COVID-19 related, the NCDC has not adjusted its figures as Lagos remains the most prevalent state on its chart.
Nigeria has toyed with the outbreak for too long now, the country cannot afford the far reaching economic implications should the pandemic take on a more deadly character as is being witnessed in America and Europe. The NCDC DG must brace up and face the Coronavirus head on rather than fighting with state governors over status or not of the disease in their locality. The numbers continue to rise, the lock down seems not to have helped. It is time to fight the virus and not the people. It is time now to do things out of the box, as a matter of fact, there is almost not enough time left for Nigeria to get its act together.