How The North Is Making A Mockery Of Nigeria's Covid-19 War


Coronavirus (Covid-19) has spread to 34 out of the 36 states in Nigeria including the nation's capital, Abuja. The number of cases has also been increasing exponentially with social media commentators, and interest groups calling for a fresh lockdown by the Federal Government. As at yesterday, the total number of confirmed cases in the country stood at 4,151 with 128 deaths. While the Southern states led by Lagos have been putting up a formidable fight against the novel disease, the same might not be said of its Northern counterparts, in whose states the virus has been strongly holding sway.

This has instilled fears that the battle against the disease is going to be a long one. Even if Lagos which has been investing the best of its resources contains the contagion, the North might spur a second and possibly third wave of attacks with imported cases.

Below are some reasons why the North appears to be making a mockery of the unconventional war:

(1) Embarrassing protests by coronavirus patients in Gombe:

Since the coronavirus pandemic started across the world, it has never been reported that the patients were involved in disruptive activities. Gombe state stood out and made history. On two occasions, it has been reported that the patients dangerously stormed out of their isolation centre, and block roads in protests. According to reports, they were expressing their grievances about the lack of medical attention, drugs, food, and other facilities that will make patients comfortable in a hospital environment. A similar event also took place in Niger State, some patients in an amateur video threatened to discharge themselves over the feeding arrangement at the isolation centre in the state.

(2) Patients attacking health workers:

Recently in Kano, it was recorded that some coronavirus patients at one of the isolation centres in the state held health workers, specifically three doctors and a nurse hostage. They allegedly locked them up in a room for four hours in protest against 'poor treatment' at the facility. The healthcare workers who were uncomfortable wearing PPEs had to break down the door of the locked room after it appeared they were suffocating. This disgraceful action similar to what took place in Gombe State reeks of the government's poor handling of coronavirus war.

(3) Escape rate of patients from isolation centres:

We can't deny the fact that the psychological weight of coronavirus on patients has been severe. This prompts some patients to live in denial of the disease, and possibly abscond from the isolation facilities. This is a widespread challenge in Nigeria, but the Northern states (Niger, Bauchi, Taraba, Borno, city of Abuja etc.) have recorded many incidents of patients breaking out of the holding facilities to dangerously rejoin the society. Patients like this, just like the infamous 'patient 31' in South Korea, are 'super-spreaders' of this disease. 

(4) The Almajiri challenge:

When lockdowns were imposed by state governments, some indigents had no home to return to. The streets have always been their homes. The Almajiris fall in this ill-fated category. Their nomadic nature has made them easy targets of the imported disease. It is on this basis that the kids have been suspected carriers in recent times, and the fears of people are valid. With millions of the Almajiris roaming the streets in the era of coronavirus, there will hardly be headway in containment efforts of task force teams.

(5) Interstate travels amid lockdown:

Despite the ban on interstate travels in Nigeria to curb the spread of the disease, there appears to be some sort of mass migration from the North to the South. Humans are being criminally smuggled from the North in truckloads of goods and animals into Southern states. Some of them have been able to either outsmart or bribe the security agents at the borders. In recent times, many of the travellers have tested positive to the virus. It is mind-boggling how they easily leave the Northern States in the first place and head down to the South amid security checks.

(6) A high rate of infection among health workers:

While it is normal for health workers to test positive for coronavirus due to their level of exposure to the disease, the rate of infection in the North is unprecedented. It was reported some days back that 34 doctors in Kano State had tested positive while one died. And also, rumours have it that 25 members of staff of a government hospital in Yobe State were suspected to have contracted the virus, after coming in contact with patients with symptoms of the ailment. In other states in the North, the story seems the same. It is being bandied about that patients have been easily contracting the disease at the hospitals. The rate of infection has been simply traced to one factor, which is the inadequacy of PPEs for health workers, as well as training to deal with the virus.

(7) More mystery deaths:

Harvests of deaths have recorded in the Northern part of the country. The North-West has been particularly hit the most. It started with Kano State but has now spread to Jigawa, Sokoto, Katsina, Yobe, and Zamfara States. In Jigawa for example, 92 people reportedly died in 7 days. In a similar vein, it has also been reported that no fewer than 155 persons had died in Yobe State within 6 days. The responses of most state governments to the mysterious deaths have been very questionable. It took the intervention of the Federal Government to unravel the mystery behind the continued unexplained deaths in Kano after many denials and cover-ups by the state government.

(8) Testing capacity:

As at when Nigeria had only conducted 12,000 tests, Lagos State - the epicentre of the pandemic in Nigeria accounted for approximately 8,000 of the figure. This means other 34 states including the FCT conducted about 4,000 tests in total, which is abysmal.

Testing which is the basic way of identifying infected people, and isolating them to prevent spread has remained a huge hurdle to scale in Nigeria. It took the intervention of the Dangote Foundation to increase the testing capacity of Kano State by 400 tests per day through the donation of a mobile laboratory. Most northern states have been plagued with this challenge. There have been disturbing reports of sick health workers being allowed to treat patients without their health status being known. It bores down to the problem of testing.

In conclusion, if this array of challenges bedevilling the Northern part of the country is not checked, it will amount to a setback in the coronavirus battle. At the end of the day, most states in the South might be forced to tighten the closure of their borders, and scrutinize migrants from the North to prevent a second wave of infections.

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About Osahon

I'm a journalist and a Political Scientist undergoing a doctoral programme focused on media, democracy and governance in Africa. My mission is to uphold the role of the media as the 'fourth estate of the realm' and also tell the Nigerian Story to the world. You can contact me on Phone number: +2347053302356.
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