From Joseph Amedu, Lokoja
Governor Yahaya Bello of Kogi state has tackled the Director-General of the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), Dr Chikwe Ihekweazu, who claimed that states which are yet to record cases of COVID-19 are either negligent in testing and tracing or actively hiding the disease within their territories.
According to Bello, “our self-assessment app hosted at kogicovid19.gov.ng around the NCDC’s checklist for ‘suspected and high risk’ cases and as at last week, it has been visited nearly 200,000 times with over 14,000 completed self-assessments out of which only about 60 presented cause for further investigation which then failed to meet the COVID-19 spectrum.”
In a statement issued in Lokoja on Wednesday and made available to newsmen, the Commissioner for Information and Communication Strategy, Mr Kingsley Fanwo, noted that since Kogi was one of the only three states in the country yet to record any case of COVID-19, it found the comments by the NCDC DG distressing.
“What we expect from the NCDC is a commendation of our efforts to contain the outbreak of the pandemic.
“Kogi State confesses that it is not aware the COVID-19 pandemic in Nigeria is a one-legged race to see which state can put as many cases as possible into the national incident basket, and even if such were to be the case, the current administration in Kogi State does not play such games with the lives and psychology of her people.
“The governor of Kogi State does not believe that increasing the burden on the overwhelmed NCDC and the other agencies cum resources labouring in the frontlines of our response to this deadly pandemic, when neither case nor cause for such has genuinely risen in the state, is helping the country in any way.
“We have also adhered strictly to the various guidelines from, and directives of, the Federal Government, customised to improve both efficiency and efficacy within the peculiarities of our own circumstances.
“While we are not surprised that they have worked for us so far in keeping our state COVID-19 free, we do find it disconcerting that the lead agency in the fight is possibly expressing doubt in their efficacy while simultaneously denouncing us for following her own guidelines.
“In fact, we built our self-assessment app hosted at kogicovid19.gov.ng around the NCDC’s checklist for ‘suspected and high risk’ cases and as at last week it has been visited nearly 200,000 times with over 14,000 completed self-assessments out of which only about 60 presented cause for further investigation which then failed to meet the COVID-19 spectrum.”
“As of Tuesday the 28th April 2020 we insist that Kogi State has no confirmed case of COVID-19 or any case to the knowledge of our vigilant medical structures across the state which matches the suspected or high-risk factors for it. If the situation changes at this very moment we shall not hesitate for a second before alerting the NCDC.
“Convinced that we have not erred in any way to deserve censure from a body we have obeyed without complaint, even when the result has been serious disruptions to our society and way of life, we, however, reiterate that we shall not capitulate to intimidation of any kind.
“Accordingly, if the latest position is to forward all cases of cough, catarrh, fever and allied febrile and respiratory ailments occurring in Kogi State to the NCDC unvetted as possible COVID-19 cases, we demand a firm and public advisory to that effect from the agency, and not the indirect (and documented) pressure which we have come under this week from high up the hierarchy of the agency.
“We are thus left with no choice than to issue this rejoinder, both for the records, and to avoid being unfairly victimised or stigmatised howsoever the highly fluid coronavirus curve/situation develops in future,” the statement added.
He said Kogi State had religiously followed all the NCDC and World Health Organisation (WHO) COVID-19 advisories, both for identity.