By Musa Sunusi Ahmad
The Africa Independent Television (AIT), as monitored in Lafia, this morning, hosted His Excellency, Engineer Abdullahi Sule, on one of its programmes, where His Excellency spoke on several issues pertaining to the efforts of the Nasarawa State Government to trace contacts linked to the late Hon. Adamu Suleiman Ibrahim, among other important issues.
We learnt that a state assembly member from your state died from COVID-19 and he was buried. We understand that contact tracing is ongoing, just as you also shut down the House of Assembly. Can you give us a situation report of what is happening, your responses to the challenges in Nasarawa State?
Nasarawa LG happens to be home of the deceased member of the House of Assembly, Hon. Suleiman. He had his family there, his home there and that is also his local government because he came from Ara, a town close to Nasarawa town. Unfortunately, when his sample was taken but before we got the result, this member passed away. And as a result of that, a lot of the other people who were around, had no idea of what the result will be. The body was therefore handed the body to the family and they decided to bury according Muslim rites, handling the body, washing the body, dressing the body and all the usual rituals associated with the burial. As a result of that, a lot of contact were made. As at yesterday, we have identified up to 74 contacts, either at the burial or while he was at the hospital when the body was being carried, or his family. We separated the contacts into three and the biggest of the contacts were the members of the State Assembly, who sat with him during the period and his immediate family. All the members of the assembly were isolated and the entire House was fumigated. We closed down the House and fumigated the entire assembly. As for his family, we also took their samples. All the members of the House of Assembly had their samples taken, while in isolation. We have taken the samples to Abuja and we are waiting for the results. Then the ten members of his family, those who had direct contact with the body also, we have also taken their samples and taken it to Abuja for testing. We still have a couple of other people, out of the 74, that we are also checking. The only way we can protect the entire town, so that people don’t move around and infect others, was to lockdown the entire town while we are following them one after the other to take the samples. That was the essence of locking down the local government.
Identifying 17 contacts may not be enough, considering that his family members, friends, may have gathered during the burial, as well as the members of assembly. Have we done enough to identify the contacts?
Not 17, 74. Actually, we identified 74 contacts. And all these 74 had their samples taken. But going back, I agree with you even the 74 may not be enough, because the 74 contacts we have identified may have other contacts. That’s the essence of shutting down the entire local government. That way, we will be able to, while taking samples of those 74, they may provide more information about their other contacts. And we will trace them. We are trying to ensure that we test every contact.
We also have reports that the driver transporting samples from Lafia to Abuja, is among the new cases that have been recorded in the state. Can you give us an update of the situation?
That has nothing to do with Lafia. Sometimes when you present this, I think people don’t get the correct information they go and report something completely different. As you know, we have Abuja workers who reside in Nasarawa State. Ado is a town in Karu Local Government Area. And we have a driver who is courier and works for NCDC. And that person resides in Ado, in Karu LGA. During the process of the work, all that we heard yesterday was that he tested positive. His sample was taken in Abuja and he tested positive in Abuja. But because he resides in Ado, we captured him as being from Nasarawa State. But from the report I saw from NCDC this morning, probably because he works more in Abuja, they captured him in Abuja. So, that has nothing to do with Nasarawa State.
You are talking about Ado, Marraba and other communities. Considering the enforcement of the Presidential order on inter state lockdown, we are witnessing a lot of challenge at the Nyanya/Marraba corridor on the Abuja/Keffi expressway. It appears, to a large extent, that the FCT authorities are more concerned about enforcing the lockdown on that border. What’s your response regarding the efforts of your state to enforce the lockdown? We also saw the Benue State Deputy Governor coming to the border between Benue and Nasarawa to enforce the inter state lock down. What is the arrangement to enforce inter state lockdown in Nasarawa State?
I think it’s the other way round, with due respect. If you speak with the FCT Minister, he will tell you that Nasarawa locked down at the border and we were very worried that even our lockdown was not sufficient, in fact, we have to call in the military. I have more problems with the border with FCT than any other border, when it comes to the issue of lockdown. And we have borders with about four other states but the border between us and the FCT is the most problematic. Because, at every giving time, you have people with passes, who will tell you we are social workers, we have special workers, VIPs, security forces, or one thing or the other. These are the kinds of people that continuously breach this lockdown. That is why, no matter the amount of lockdown put in place, at the FCT border, it becomes a problem. And yesterday, the entire system broke down. At one point, the FCT Minister assisted us by sending another team, so that we have two lockdowns at the border. That persisted for a while but with the relaxation of the lockdown on the FCT, the entire system broke down. Though we just couldn’t control it, there were no enough security forces to be able to control the traffic. That was one of the reasons that we decided to relax the lockdown also in Karu. Because it makes all the process to collapse., since at the end of the day, we have all these top VIPs coming with forty, fifty vehicles and the rest of them. That’s the situation.
Maybe we want a situation where the military authorities will make further deployment to handle that particular border?
No they have, to be fair to the Chief of Army staff. When I spoke him, he deployed more men. They sent a lot of people and it worked for a while. But I am telling you that you will have 500 passes in a day, of people who legitimately you have to allow to pass. Because these people work for hospitals, some special forces in Abuja. Like I told you, that is the reason why it makes it difficult turning that border to the most problematic. I have been there many times and it is a very difficult area to lockdown.
The NCDC complained bitterly about the way states are responding to sample collection. That we are not having enough samples from the states to be able to test more persons, despite the fact that we have more capacity in our laboratories now. What is the arrangement in Nasarawa State for sample collection and can you tell us so far, how many persons have been screened and tested?
Well, we have over one hundred people so far, that have been tested in Nasarawa State. But you know, I always commend the NCDC for the amount of work. You know, there is a lot of work being done with the few testing centres that we have around the country. But the truth of the matter, is that when they say they are looking for your sample, sometimes I get confused. Because as I am talking to you, Nasarawa State has sent in almost one hundred samples that we are yet to receive the results. So, sometimes we even try to go to Plateau State for the test. I think they are overwhelmed and I never want to blame them. But each time they say that they don’t have enough samples, then I get confused. If they don’t have enough, then I don’t know why we are not receiving the results of those we sent. As I am talking to you right now, Nasarawa State has close to one hundred samples sent, some of them for the past three days. All the members of our assembly have sent their samples since two, three days ago and they have been waiting. They want to come out. There is a lot of pressure from their homes to know their status. You know, once a sample is sent, especially a VIP, there is a lot of fear whether it is positive or negative. So you get a lot of pressure from there. I don’t know where our samples go and where they are waiting for the samples. But we are doing everything possible, right now, the time we test all these 74 contacts, who are only in Nasarawa town, by the time we move to the FMC in Keffi, where he stayed, we will identify some other contacts, if we move to Lafia, where also some members of assembly have other contacts, we are following all these people. And you said they are waiting for samples, I don’t know. Maybe Nasarawa State is not among such states.