Mohammed Tettes writes Governor Yahaya Bello.

19th May, 2020

His Excellency, Yahaya Adoza Bello,
The Executive Governor,
Kogi State of Nigeria,
Government House,
Lokoja,
Kogi State.

Dear Sir,

MANAGING COVID-19 IN KOGI STATE – THE IMPERATIVES OF AN IMMEDIATE LOCKDOWN.

INTRODUCTION:

According to the Paediatric Infectious Disease Journal, the history of human corona virus started in 1965 when medical researchers, Tyrell and Bynoe discovered they could transmit a virus code named B814 found in human embryonic tracts organs cultures obtained from the respiratory tracts of an adult that reported a cold. While this virus could survive within a body, the researcher concluded that it may be impossible for it to be grown outside. Within that period, another research group led by Hamre and Procknow advanced and were able to grow a virus with unusual properties in tissue cultures of samples derived from medical students who also reported colds. Both the B814 and Hamre’s virus called 229E were ether-sensitive and therefore presumably required a lipid-containing coat for infectivity.

Currently, the World Health Organization submits that COVID-19 is a newly discovered infectious disease caused by a newly discovered corona virus. The organization notes that the virus spreads primarily through droplets of saliva or discharge from the nose of an infected person triggered by sneezing. With no known vaccines, the WHO concludes that there are many ongoing clinical trials evaluating possible treatments for the virus in humans.

THE PROBLEM:

The trending 2019/2020 coronavirus pandemic was first identified in Wuhan, China in December 2019. The WHO declared it a public health emergency of international concern on the 30th of January 2020 and eventually a pandemic on the 11th of March 2020 with over 2.38 million cases, over 600,000 recoveries and about 165,636 deaths in 185 countries around the world. Wuhan is the capital of China’s Hubei province. The most populous city in Central China and 9th most populous city in China.

In Nigeria, the Lagos State Health Department first confirmed case of this virus was reported on the 27th of February 2020 when an unnamed Italian tested positive. On March 9, 2020, a second case was reported in Ewekoro, Ogun State. This was a Nigerian who contracted the virus due to initial contact with the Italian.

Presently, the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) has reported a total of 541 cases, 166 recoveries and 19 fatalities.

On the 2nd of April 2020, the NCDC submitted that community based transmission of the virus is evident in Nigeria. This means that person to person transmission in local Nigerian communities is manifesting. 14 days later, Dr. Chikwe Ihekweazu, DG of the NCDC disclosed that the deadly virus will grow to every state in Nigeria because there is no reason suggesting why it will not.

A DOMESTIC PERSPECTIVE:

As you are aware Your Excellency, our dear Kogi State was created on the 27th of August 1991 alongside Anambra, Enugu, Abia, Adamawa, Edo, Delta, Jigawa, Osun, Kebbi, Taraba and Yobe States. Over these states; especially those in the North Central and South East Flanks, Kogi State is popular – first, for being the only road access corridor linking the South East, South South and South West to the FCT, second, being its intimidating 29,833 kilometres square landmass and finally, being the only Nigerian political territory sharing boundaries with 10 Nigerian states – the FCT, Nasarawa, Benue, Enugu, Anambra, Edo, Ondo, Ekiti, Kwara, and Niger States.

Your Excellency Sir, it is at this point that I consider it crucial to say that unless bold and drastic measures are taken, one variable which ordinarily should remain a positive attribute of our state may be a reason why Kogi State could be worst hit by this pandemic.

Available records at the NCDC indicate with scientific evidence of unquestionable accuracy that of the 10 states which share common boundaries with our dear Kogi, a mind blogging 9 have recorded one or more index cases of the COVID-19 pandemic. Specifically, they are Anambra (1), Benue (1), Enugu (2), Niger (2), Ondo (3), Ekiti (4), Kwara (9), Edo (15) and the FCT (81).

Your Excellency, these are facts recognized by the NCDC and attested to by the Presidency, the World Health Organization and the United Nations as a result of which it can be safely concluded that Kogi State is not safe and this is as a result of the initial submission of the NCDC that community based transmission of the virus is manifesting and some carriers may be asymptomatic for a long period. It is utterly inaccurate or deceitful to conclude that Kogi State is safe.

You may recall the infamous “dead bodies on the streets” remark of Madame Melinda Gates. Pursuant to it, I wish to also draw your attention to the statement of the UN on the 17th of April 2020, warning Africa to prepare for at least 300,000 fatalities. This pandemic is a ticking bomb. If it explodes while Kogi is asleep, Nagasaki will be child’s play; God forbid.

THE PREPAREDNESS OF KOGI STATE:

I am a principal stakeholder in Kogi State with over 35 years’ experience in credit assets and liability portfolio management, business development, human capacity development, sales, revenue and liquidity management as well as international finance from a multinational FMCG corporation – Heineken International. It is pursuant to these that I possess a clear capacity to identify a sufficiently fortified or faulty system even from afar.

I agree that your administration responded appropriately by first setting up a “Kogi COVID-19 Squadron Committee” and next designating FAREC Clinic and the Kogi State Diagnostics Centre as isolation facilities. However, is clear by virtue of eye witness evidences that besides these executive pronouncements, nothing more has been achieved.

On the 25TH and 27th of March 2020, the COVID-19 Squadron Committee announced a looming lockdown but till date, while Kogi is surrounded by 9 states with various levels of critical COVID-19 cases, our people are carrying on as if all is well. Your Excellency Sir, I personally received invitations of 7 church, mosque and traditional marriages which have held amidst pomp and carnivals in Kogi State since President Muhammadu Buhari maiden COVID-19 national address.

Party supporters and other agents of government may disagree with my view by insisting that our state is capable of handling an outbreak. This is surely a fallacy if viewed against the fact that total fiscal estimate of Kogi State for the 2020 financial year is N176B out of which capital overhead for the entire state covering all sectors – education, health, works, transport, agriculture, internal security, ICT, women development e.t.c is N97.153B which comes with no guaranty of as much as 40% implementation.

Those who say our state is capable should prove it in Naira and Kobo terms because from a stand point of logic and veritable proof, Kogi state is incapable for a large-scale state-wide emergency.

Those who also argue that Kogi State is technically locked down because adjourning states have closed their boundaries with us should be ignored because they neither sleep at the boundaries nor can they attest to a 100% compliance in those states especially with transporters and commuters that are mostly defiant and determined. In most cases, they succeed in beating checkpoints over and over again because buses from the Niger Delta, the South West and South East still arrive and depart Abuja daily.

The NCDC has said that nothing will prevent a nationwide spread of COVID-19. Kogi State must brace up, hope for the best while expecting and preparing for the worst. I am told of the existence a website which serve as a resource pool for self – test and incidence reporting. As innovative as it may be, considering the level of literacy, access to internet resources and data as well as electricity across our state, it is only safe to imagine that the website will be of no substantial use.

LOCKDOWN KOGI NOW:

Your Excellency, the most logical line of action to take now is to enforce a full lockdown of our state starting from the various entry points spreading across 9 other states. By doing so, whereas there may be inconveniences, you will have only succeeded in implementing the smartest, cheapest and safest WHO / UN prescribed method of combating the COVID-19 pandemic.

I urge you to act now so Kogites may remember you as the patriot who like Late Dr. Stella Ameyo Adadevoh (during the Ebola outbreak) single handedly contained the invasion of our state by this invisible enemy.

Permit me to strongly recommend the need to rejig the Kogi COVID-19 Squadron Committee. Without undermining your capacity to apply your own initiative, you may wish to take a clue from your Ekiti State counterpart, Dr. Kayode John Fayemi and expand the group to bear a semblance of the Aliko Dangote lead national coalition against COVID-19 “the CA-COVID-19” not a community based political party structure. By this, I mean its membership should inspire hope by comprising of more distinguished Kogites who have track records of excellence in public and private service plus a strong character capable of attracting global support and trust.

May I therefore suggest that patriots like Dr. Tunde Ayeni, Dr. Jide Omokore, Brig. Gen. Tunde Ogbeha, Architect Yomi Awoniyi, Surveyor Abubakar Sulaiman, Alhaji Ibrahim Idris, Capt. Idris I. Wada, Sen. Ahmed Salau Ogembe, AVM Salifu Atawodi OON, Vice Admiral Usman Jibrin, Sen. Nicholas Ugbane, Ms Natasha Akpothi, Pastor Isaac Omale, Mrs Eugenia Abu, Dr Idris Omede amongst others be brought on board. These persons wield tremendous influence beyond Kogi state and can drive a global action for support which is what an ideal action team should engage in.

When you featured on Channels TV flagship evening political show, “Politics Today” last night being 19th April, 2020, you lamented the absence of further support beyond a beggarly N28.5M donated by one of Nigeria’s first tier lender – UBA. This is not a good sign by any standard.

Our governor, please, rejig the Kogi State COVID-19 task team. Exercise direct supervision of the team. Bring on board some or all of the aforementioned names. Make an executive proclamation empowering them to act and you will be shocked that the level of cash, material and logistics support for Kogi State will quadruple within a forth night.

WHAT NEXT:

The principal function of the Kogi COVID-19 Committee I am proposing will not include pedestrian matters like engaging markets, motor parks and prayer houses or enforcing lockdowns but only raising funds from available sources and providing strategic crisis intervention from a global perspective. Local security formations will enforce the lockdown.

Their responsibilities under your direct supervision will include identifying facilities that will serve as isolation centres, ensuring availability of media sensitization resources, test kits, ambulance services, medicines and PPE’s including hand gloves, quality hand sanitizers, soaps and free face masks. Since schools are closed, selected befitting secondary schools should be given a facelift, repainted, secured, fitted with power generators and health equipment for tentative conversion to medical facilities.

Food security and provision of other essential palliatives to our vulnerable people is essential. This task team will also establish and manage federal constituency food banks where bulk food items procured from farmers in Kogi and elsewhere will be stockpiled for onward distribution to households who require them. This critical responsibility should never be left to party members to avoid acute hunger in Kogi State which is capable of triggering strife, youth restiveness and organized violence. As this pandemic rages, we must not underestimate the effects of hunger.

CONCLUSION:

Your Excellency, you must rally men and women of goodwill “now wey e dey hot” because time is fast running out on us all. Global resources are shrinking. The spending capacity of the FG is reducing and for the avoidance of all doubts, the Nigerian business community which raised over N15B for the entire country will not do it a second time. Not for Nigeria. Not for Kogi State.

Considering that Kogi State is yet to attain full economic viability, very few corporates will show willingness to mobilize support funds and donations for us because as it is often said “capitalists put their money only where their mouth is”. It is for this reason that an illiquid state as Kogi State must quickly review its priorities and reaction processes and thereafter reposition itself to reflect the dire nature of our case so we may be taken seriously. We must score the goal before the sound of the final whistle.

I realize the enormity of the work involved in governance and understand the peculiarity of our local politics. I therefor urge you to come all out and trigger an affirmative action that will remove our state from the path of danger.

Your Excellency, whereas former Senegalese President, African philosopher and poet, Leopold Sedar Senghor opined that “emotions is for the Africans and reasoning is for the Greek”, I am strongly hopeful that Kogi State in this episode will not be the Africans under reference.

I assure you of my highest regards and cooperation towards defeating this pandemic

Yours Sincerely,

Mohammed Adah Shaibu Tettes
Egume, Dekina LGA.
Kogi State.

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