Although repeated warnings to Kano State that an outbreak of the dreaded novel Corona Virus (COVID-19) would turn the state into a massive killing field were ignored by the state government, civil society organization are now stepping up pressure on federal authorities to step in and take charge of the pandemic response in the nation’s most populous state. This comes as the state reels from the reality of hundreds of unexplained, and yet to be investigated deaths possibly linked to COVID-19. The Explainer gathered that the unfolding tragic situation in the state is causing panic and sleepless nights. This comes as more Kano State residents continue to voice their concerns over the lacklustre and less than competent response of the State government led by Governor Abdullahi Umar Ganduje.
To bring the situation under control, groups of civil society organizations have been prodding the Federal Government to move quickly and take charge of the response in Kano. In a letter to the Secretary to the Government of the Federation and Chairman of the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19, a group of CSOs observed since the index case was recorded in Kano on April 11, the situation had been fast deteriorating. The letter, which was jointly signed by Resource Centre for Human Rights & Civic Education (CHRICED), Centre for Information Technology and Development (CITAD), Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC), Women’s Rights Advancement and Protection Alternative (WRAPA, Kano Focal Office) and the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP). Other organizations which added their voices to the call for federal action in Kano include; Legal Defence and Assistance Project (LEDAP), Human Rights Agenda Network – Nigeria (HIRAN), Federation of International Women Lawyers (FIDA), Kano State Chapter, Federation of Muslim Women Association of Nigeria (FOMWAN), Kano, Progressive Impact Organization for Community Development (PRIMORG), Women Peace and Security Network (WPSN), and Youth Society for the Prevention of Infectious Diseases & Social Vices (YOSPIS).
According to the CSOs, based on increasing credible reports from communities across the State, if urgent action is not taken by the federal authorities to mitigate the spread of the virus, Kano State runs the risk of becoming a killing field, as COVID-19 continues its rampage.
“This reality would well be seen in the case of a woman whose viral SOS audio message has been making the rounds on social media after her son-in-law died of complications, which were apparently related to COVID-19. From this citizen’s account, despite repeated, and many calls to the NCDC in Kano, no response whatsoever was received. The State Ministry of Health also showed no capacity or the required acumen to respond to the call for help.
The organizations therefore called on the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 to quickly move into Kano State to support of the State Task Force, Ministry of Health and the NCDC to enable aggressive testing and documentation for identification and treatment of COVID-19 patients. The CSOs equally called for Re-enforcement of health facilities, equipment and health service providers to manage the responses for detection and treatment, as well as massive sensitization and community engagement to raise awareness about the dangers posed by the virus.
Meanwhile, the Alliance on Surviving Covid-19 Action Programme and Beyond led by its Interim Chairman, Femi Falana has sent a Freedom of Information request to the Minister of Health, Osagie Ehanire to demand disclosure of information on the cause of the deaths in Kano. Falana recalled that during a recent a press briefing in Abuja, the Health Ministry, Kano State Chief Epidemiologist, and other officials had commenced investigation into the strange deaths and mass burials currently going on in Kano State.
He said “However, we are disturbed to note that the burials have since continued without any official information on the cause of the strange deaths. The people of Kano State and Nigerians in general are worried over the worsening health crisis as it may spread to other parts of Kano State not yet affected as well as other parts of the country if not urgently addressed. But since the Kano State Government is completely overwhelmed we hereby call on the Federal Government to take over the management of the crisis without any further delay.” The alliance went on to request a Certified True Copy of the report of the joint investigation conducted by the Federal Ministry of Health, and the respective health agencies of the Kano State Government. “The report should include the nature and cause of the deaths, the number of casualties and patients currently undergoing treatment in hospitals as well as an outline of the measures being put in place by the Federal Government to stop the strange deaths involving mass burials,” the Alliance demanded.