•Nigeria records first COVID-19 death; confirms 36
•Fears, as Bauchi gov goes into self-isolation
•Atiku’s son didn’t attend S/West PDP rally — Oyo govt
•All land borders shut, FEC meetings suspended indefinitely
By Emma Ujah, Chioma Obinna, Levinus Nwabughiogu, Johnbosco Agbakwuru, Joseph Erunke, Charly Agwam, Adeola Badru
ABUJA — Wife of the President, Hajia Aisha Buhari, yesterday said there should be total lock-down of the country to prevent further spread of coronavirus currently ravaging the world.
Her call came on a day Nigeria recorded her first death in the former Managing Director of Pipelines and Products marketing Company, PPMC, Mr. Suleiman Achimugu, with five new confirmed cases, bringing the total to 36.
This is even as governor of Bauchi State, Senator Bala Mohammed, yesterday quarantined himself in Bauchi, following his contact with one of the sons of former Vice-President, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar who tested positive to the disease.
The governor’s quarantine is said to have heightened fears in the Presidency, as he last Thursday attended the National Economic Council, NEC, meeting at Aso Villa where he exchanged banters with other governors and Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo.
Meanwhile, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar denied yesterday that his son was at a night club in Abuja where he was said to have allegedly interacted with several persons, and gave an account of his itinerary.
On the lockdown, Hajia Buhari in a tweet yesterday, commended state governors for shutting schools, stressing the need for it to be followed up with a total lock-down of the country to prevent further spread.
She said: “It is commendable that state governors have closed down schools. However, this could be counter-productive if parents are still going to work.
“We should not isolate students and expose their parents. Let us remember that they will meet at home.”
Achimugu, ex-PPMC boss, dies
Also yesterday, the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control, NCDC, announced the death of 67-year-old former Managing Director of PPMC, Suleiman Achimugu.
According to NCDC, the deceased returned home a few days ago, following medical treatment in the UK.
The agency said he had underlying medical conditions — multiple myeloma and diabetes and was undergoing chemotherapy.
Meanwhile, the family of the victim in a statement signed by Abubakar Achimugu, said the victim was in self-isolation upon his return from the UK and personally called NCDC after experiencing some discomfort related to COVID-19 symptoms.
The statement read: “Our family is deeply saddened to inform you of the sudden death of our beloved father, uncle, brother, and friend. Engr. Suleiman Achimugu (former MD of PPMC).
“He died of COVID-19 on 22/03/2020 some days after he arrived in Nigeria from the UK. He was in self-isolation upon his return from the UK and personally called NCDC after experiencing some discomfort that are related to COVID 19 symptoms.
“He tested positive and was promptly evacuated to the specialist hospital. He died while receiving treatment.
“We implore the general public to pray upon his soul and the recovery of infected persons. Your thoughts and prayers would be appreciated.”
The victim has since been buried according to Islamic rites.
NCDC confirms 5 new cases
The NCDC also said the nation has recorded five new cases of the virus, bringing the total to 36.
According to the organization, two cases were confirmed in the Federal Capital Territory, FCT Abuja, two also in Lagos and one in Edo State.
The NCDC statement read: “Five new cases of #COVID19 have been confirmed in Nigeria: 2 in FCT, 2 in Lagos & 1 in Edo
“Two cases are returning travelers from the UK. As at 09:45 am on 23rd March, there are 36 confirmed cases of #COVID19 in Nigeria. Two have been discharged.”
A breakdown of cases by states at the moment showed that Lagos has 24; FCT has 6, Ogun State, 2; while Ekiti, Oyo, Ondo and Edo states have one case each.
Similarly, the Federal Government yesterday announced closure of all land borders for four weeks as a measure to check the spread of coronavirus.
The weekly Federal Executive Council, FEC, has also been suspended until further notice.
Secretary to the Government of the Federation and chairman of Presidential Task Force on COVID-19, Boss Mustapha, who announced this, said the Council of State meeting earlier scheduled for Thursday had also been postponed.
He said: “ Ladies and gentlemen, after a further review, Mr. President on the recommendation of Presidential Task Force, PTF, has approved the following additional measures: Suspension of the weekly FEC meetings until further notice; postponement of the meeting of the Council of State scheduled for Thursday, March 26, 2020.
“ All land borders that have been hitherto under partial closure shall now be closed to human traffic for four weeks effective, 23rd March, 2020; in order to protect Federal Civil and Public Servants, a circular to be issued by the Head of Civil Service of the Federation (HCSF) shall direct on actions to be taken immediately;
“ All Abuja and Lagos residents are strongly advised to stay at home, avoid mass congregations of any kind as well as non- essential outings, until further advice is given.”
Mustapha also gave an update on the Coronavirus statistic across the world, citing the World Health Organisation, WHO.
“ As at the time the Honourable Minister of Health (HMoH), briefed you earlier today, the numbers from the World Health Organisation (WHO), confirmed that the virus has covered 192 countries, reporting over 329, 000 cases.
“In Africa, 42 out of 54 countries have reported cases while 48 deaths have been recorded. In Nigeria, 36 cases have been reported and one fatality has occurred. The first responders, particularly the National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), continues to attend to reports received through telephone calls and other medium.
“ We commend Nigerians for stepping out to report and/or make inquiries through the dedicated hotlines. Records show that on Sunday, 22nd March, 2020, over 4,500 calls were received. This shows the high level of awareness amongst Nigerians.
“ The strategy of government is to focus on testing, detection and containment through contact-tracking in order to minimize hugely, the possibility of community spread.
“We urge anyone experiencing the symptoms of the virus or has been in contact with anyone who has been suspected or tested positive to please report at the nearest medical facility or the designated centre.
“ The Presidential Task Force, PTF, continues to monitor the global and domestic developments and has isolated Lagos and Abuja for particular attention in view of their population, mobility and number of cases already reported,” he said.
Bauchi gov in self-isolation
Meanwhile, there is palpable fear at the nation’s seat of power, the State House, following the decision of Governor Bala Mohammed of Bauchi State to go into self- isolation after being in contact with one of sons of former Vice President Atiku Abubakar who reportedly tested positive to Coronavirus.
The former Vice-President had taken to his Twitter handle to announce that one of his sons had been taken to the University of Abuja Teaching Hospital, Gwagwalada Isolation Centre where he is receiving treatment.
He called on Nigerians to pray for the recovery of his son who was said to have returned from abroad recently and was also said to have attended a party at Wuse in Abuja alongside some family family members.
“My son has tested positive to Coronavirus. @NCDCGov has been duly informed, and he has been moved to Gwagwalada Specialist Teaching Hospital in Abuja for treatment and management. I will appreciate it if you have him in your prayers. Stay safe, Coronavirus is real. -AA,” he had tweeted.
This development made Governor Bala Mohammed go into self-isolation, having come in contact with Atiku’s son, had a handshake with him and exchanged pleasantries abaord Aerocontractors aircraft on his trip to Abuja from Lagos.
“Our governor, Bala Mohammed, is in self-isolation, following contact with Atiku Abubakar’s son. Yes. We were on the same flight from Lagos to Abuja. They shook hands and exchanged pleasantries.
“The governor and the rest of us have taken tests. The results will be negative Insha Allah,” a tweet by the governor’s aide who was former Director-General of Radio Nigeria, Ladan Salihu, said.
Fears in circles of power
Already, there is fear at State House, especially among those who were said to have exchanged pleasantries with Governor Mohammed last Thursday at the National Economic Council, NEC, meeting presided over by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo at the Council Chamber, Presidential Villa, Abuja.
Sources at the Presidency hinted that aside from fellow governors, Vice President Osinbajo also interacted and exchanged pleasantries with the Bauchi governor.
Though the result of the test he was said to have taken is not out at press time yesterday, it was learned that some members of the council and staff at the Presidency had started to express apprehension over their interaction with the governor.
Vice President Osinbajo called off the commissioning of National Traffic Radio, was scheduled to take place yesterday.
Though the Office of the Vice President gave no reason for the sudden cancellation of the commissioning, it was not clear at the time of filing this report whether the cancellation had anything to do with the outbreak of COVID-19 in the country.
Further confirming the situation around Governor Bala Mohammed, his Senior Special Assistant on Media, Muhktar Gidado, said the governor decided to immediately isolate himself after news filtered in that Mohammed Atiku had tested positive to Coronavirus.
He, however, added that the blood sample of the governor and his entourage had been taken for confirmation.
“So far the governor has not exhibited any symptoms but based on recommendations of the Nigerian Centre for Disease Control, he has decided to isolate himself in order to avoid the risk of spreading the disease.
“Blood samples of the governor and his entourage have been taken for clinical tests. Consequently, all official appointments have been cancelled. Any inconvenience caused by this development is highly regretted,” Gidado said in a statement yesterday.
Atiku dismisses reports about son
Dispelling some of the erroneous reports about his son yesterday, former Vice President Atiku Abubakar said in a statement by his spokesman, Paul Ibe: “For the purpose of putting the records straight and dispelling false narratives about the itinerary of a son of former Vice President of Nigeria, Atiku Abubakr currently undergoing treatment for coronavirus (COVID-19) infection, I wish to make the following clarifications:
“The clinical case returned to the country on 17th March via Switzerland from some business engagements in France and Switzerland. He attended a private meeting of six persons same day in Lagos, stayed in his private house for the night and took an Aero 5.20pm flight to Abuja on the 18th.
“The case did not travel with his family or any other but travelled alone by Emirates Airline. The case wore face mask as a precautionary measure since his arrival in Nigeria.
“The case did not show symptoms of infection and voluntarily placed a call to NCDC on arrival in Abuja late on the 18th to inform them he had returned from COVID-19 prone country and desired to be tested.
“On the 19th, NCDC took his blood sample which result came positive on the 20th. He subsequently went into self-isolation to protect his family within his own house.
“Meantime his son has since tested negative, while his wife’s result is being awaited. The two persons are currently in self-isolation. We urge members of the public to disregard the perfidious information that the case accessed open locations. He was not at Play Lounge nor any other club in Abuja as being mischievously bandied about.
“The case neither attended the Friday Jumu’a prayers nor any social gathering until his evacuation to Gwagwalada Specialist Hospital on the 20th where he is being treated and managed.
“We thank Nigerians for their prayers and support through this difficult time. Once again, it needs to be restated that the risk and danger of #COVID-19 is real. Ensure you follow the World Health Organization and Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) guidelines on how to stay safe.”
It was another Atiku’s son in Ibadan — Oyo govt
Similarly, Oyo State Government has denied media reports that the son of former Vice President, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, attended last week’s Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, South-West zonal unification rally, held in Ibadan, describing the reports as false.
In a statement by Governor Seyi Makinde’s Chief Press Secretary, Mr. Taiwo Adisa, the government disclosed that the Atiku family has confirmed that the son who attended the rally was not the one infected.
Adisa said: “We want to place on record for the notice of the general public that the information suggesting that the said son of Atiku Abubakar was the same person that represented him at the southwest PDP unification rally in Ibadan, Oyo State is false.
“We have since confirmed that a different member of the Atiku family is the person so infected. The public should please ignore such unfounded rumour.”
Adisa, while sympathising with the family of the former vice president, stressed that, Governor Makinde is determined to curtail and contain the spread of Coronavirus in the state.