By Atsuku Matthew

As the Nigeria Center for Disease Control, NCDC, continue to update Nigerians daily on the dreaded Coronavirus otherwise nicknamed COVID-19, reactions have continued to trail the updates.

As at the morning of 27th April, 2020, the total number of infections stood at 1,273 with 239 recoveries and 40 fatalities recorded.

As the infections continue to rise across the nation on a daily basis, Kano State has become the centre of attention. The state index case was announced by the NCDC on 11th April, 2020. Since then, the state has 77 cases with one casualty and no recovery. Kano has rapidly risen to third on the national table of COVID-19 cases within 14 days.

Kano State borders Katsina, Jigawa, Bauchi and Kaduna States, with a population of 16 million people, according to a UN Survey. This population is only second to Lagos State in the country. Literacy level in the state is pegged at 38%. And with recent happenings in the state, danger looms if nothing is done urgently.

The recent online video of about 2000 football fans watching a football tournament codenamed “Corona Cup” is atrocious. This event took place at the time Kano State is grappling fruitlessly with the COVID-19 pandemic. This act is not only condemnable but the organizers of the competition have to be arrested and prosecuted.

Last week, there was an exclusive report by Daily Trust newspaper and SaharaReporters, of mysterious deaths of over 150 persons within Kano metropolis in a space of 3 days. This report was quickly discredited by the state government as ‘rumours’. However, the rumours have refused to die out as SaharaReporters backed its earlier report with a video where undertakers confessed being overwhelmed by the bodies they had to bury within a space of 3 days. Curiously, the deceased are said to be advanced in age. Between 25th and 26th April, the state lost 25 prominent indigenes; among whom are 6 professors, including Prof. Balarabe Maikaba of Mass Communication Department, Bayero University Kano.

The state government later acknowledged the mysterious deaths albeit a denial that the deaths are COVID-19 related. This is however an indication that all is not well in the ancient city of Kano.

In addition to the above worries is the shutting down of the Kano COVID-19 Testing Center since Wednesday by the NCDC. This was after some staff of the center tested positive to COVID-19. It is worrisome considering that a state of Kano’s population can only boast of one testing center. Also, the recent deaths coincide with the shutting down of the testing center at a time when massive testing is required in the state in order to avoid further community spread.
Rather than play politics with the health of the people, the Kano State governor needs to apply the same urgency used in dethroning Emir Sanusi Lamido Sanusi in containing the spread of COVID-19 in the state. The handling of this issue transcends politics and requires more transparency than what we are seeing in Kano. A major outbreak in the state portends danger to the entire nation.

The Federal Government needs to declare total lockdown in Kano State just as it has done in Lagos, Ogun and the FCT. Anything short of this will undermine the efforts put in place by the FG in arresting the spread of COVID-19 in the country. The location of the state and its population shows that any escalation in the state is a danger to the nation.

What is happening in Kano State is a sit-up call to its neighbouring states. There is need for them to tighten their border security to stop infected persons from coming into their states. The fact that the index case in Plateau State is a returnee from Kano buttresses this point. I commend Governor El-rufai of Kaduna for taking the bold step in extending the quarantine in the state by another 30 days. As tough as this decision is, it is commendable and I urge other neighbouring states to follow suit.

The NCDC needs to do contact tracing of the deceased and increase its testing capacity in Kano State. The fact that corpses of those who died mysteriously in the state were buried by undertakers who are untrained by NCDC to handle COVID-19 corpses is a danger itself. Contact tracing and testing will help in ascertaining if the mysterious deaths in the state are COVID-19 related.

There is need to create more COVID-19 awareness in the state. The staging of the “Corona Cup” is an indication that many people have not yet appreciated the dangers of the virus. Awareness creation will help in no small measure.

If the experience in Lagos State which has similar population as Kano is anything to go by, there is serious trouble brewing up in Kano. Within two weeks of announcing its index case, Lagos recorded no additional case. Fast forward to eight weeks and the state has 731 cases. Within two weeks since announcing its index case, Kano has recorded 77 cases. With this number, it is interesting to see what will happen in the state in the next two months.

As the nation anticipates another nationwide broadcast from President Muhammadu Buhari, there are high expectations as to what his plans are in arresting the ticking bomb that is with us in Kano State.
Delay, they say is dangerous!

Atsuku Matthew
Kaduna State
linkmats@gmail.com

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