Governors of the 19 Northern states of the Federation last Wednesday rose from a meeting with a submission that the North now accounted for 54 per cent of COVID-19 cases in the country.
The governors, who met via a teleconference on the COVID-19 response, also said that the North had 70 per cent of the new coronavirus infections in Nigeria.
Plateau State Governor, Solomon Lalong, who is the Chairman of the Northern States Governors’ Forum, in a statement expressed disappointment that despite all the measures taken by them and the Federal Government, the cases were still rising in the region.
They were also worried that people still moved from one state to another through use of illegal routes.
The governors also said that they would continue the repatriation of the Almajirai, adding that the exercise would strictly follow laid down protocols for profiling, quarantining, testing, transport, handing and taking over as well as reintegration.
That declaration came on a day the World Health Organisation (WHO) stated that the number of COVID-19 confirmed cases reported in Africa was far below the figure it expected from the continent.
The world body said that it had expected that the number of cases in West Africa would have been 1,260,871 by May 17, but the region recorded 24,345 cases.
Director, WHO Regional Office for Africa, Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, during the Africa.com webinar series session 6 tagged “What’s the real story behind Africa’s COVID-19 figures?” said: “WHO believes that Africa’s measures of curtailing the virus are working and are reporting a slowing down of the rate of spread.”
Director General, Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), Dr. Chikwe Ihekweazu, had told the session that only 10 Local Government Areas in the country, accounted for 50 per cent of COVID-19 cases.
As at Friday, Nigeria had 7,261 confirmed cases; 5,033 active cases, 2,007 recoveries and 221 deaths. By the records of the NCDC, the country had tested 41,907 persons with Lagos, the country’s epicentre of the disease having about 3,224 cases; Kano, 883; FCT, 447; Katsina, 308; Borno 247, Jigawa, 241 and Bauchi, 230. Oyo and Ogun follow with 199 and 196 cases, while there have been no reported cases in Cross River and Kogi. Imo State has discharged all its seven cases as at Friday.
Also last week, the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 had urged the state governments to take full responsibility of the management of the cases in their states, insisting that soon, the Federal Government would not be coordinating the fight against the pandemic from the centre. The coordinator of the PTF, Dr. Sani Umar, said it was important that states put their full mechanisms into play to own the management of the disease.
We are however worried at the politicization of the pandemic in the usual Nigerian way. The statistics by the Northern governors brings to mind the quest to make everything in the country political. Rather than emplace effective management systems to curtail the spread of the virus, Nigerians have resorted to crunching the numbers, knowing which area is most infested or not. We are aware that save for Kaduna State, which has stood firm to the lockdown, many states in the country, mostly in the North have played with the lockdown, lifting it at whim. It is on record that the same Northern States Governors’ Forum (NSGF) said it would not be able to lockdown the North because of fear of collapse of its economy.
In some other states, sentiments and politics have allowed the state governors lift bans on religious activities. In this period of the Muslim festival, Eid-el-Fitri, many state governors are trying to impress their people by lifting the bans on religious gatherings, despite warnings from the Sultan of Sokoto and other Muslim leaders to the contrary. What this means is that across the country, there will be mass gatherings of people, with the tendency that there will be a spike in the number of cases soon.
We believe that rather than bandying figures and acting on sentiments, what is expected of the governors is a firm action aimed at curtailing the virus. Whether it is schools, markets, churches or mosques, everything that could lift the figures to the expectations of the WHO should be avoided. It is simple logic that only the living could make money, serve God or acquire education. The dead stay dumb as James Hardly Chase would say.
We expect that governors should wake up to their responsibilities, stop playing politics with a serious issue and focus on arresting the virus nationally. They were elected to make decisions for the people. They should stand up and be counted now, rather than resorting to cheap politics and sentiments. For we believe that it is only by doing such that the nation could be saved from having dead bodies on the streets and not having huge figures as witnessed in Europe, America, China and some South American countries. Other governors should follow the examples of Rivers, Lagos, Ogun and Kaduna, who have effectively kept to the strict protocols of avoiding a calamity.