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COVID-19: Why we sent Ministerial team to Kogi State by Ehanire, says no plans to probe Kogi, Cross River COVID-19 free status

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Nigeria’s Minister of Health Osagie Ehanire briefs the media on the status of the novel coronavirus COVID-19 in Abuja, Nigeria March 2, 2020. REUTERS/Afolabi Sotunde

Minister of Health, Dr Osagie Ehanire has said that there is no plan either by the Federal Ministry of Health of the Nigerian Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) to carry out any probe to validate the COVID-19 free status of Kogi and Cross River states.

He told The Guardian that what is presently going on is just a constructive engagement of all Governors by Federal Ministry of Health adding that a ministerial team will be visiting Cross River State next week to build the state’s testing capacity for coronavirus disease.

Kogi and Cross River are the only states which have not recorded any case of the disease in Nigeria.

Ehanire who was responding to inquiries by The Guardian on the alleged plan to investigate claims by the two states that they have no single record of any case of coronavirus, said, No “probing” is going on or planned; just a constructive engagement of all Governors by Federal Ministry of Health. A ministerial team will visit CRS next week”.

A Ministerial team of the Federal Ministry of Health on the 7th of May, 2020 were in Lokoja to work with the Kogi State government in order to ensure that the state has the adequate testing capacity and also advocate for the engagement of traditional rulers and community leaders in surveillance efforts of the State.

However, the team returned the next day without accomplishing its mission as the state governor, Yahaya Bello insisted that the team comprising of the officials of NCDC and Dept. of Hospital Services of the Ministry of Health must be tested for coronavirus and also embark on 14 days isolation in line with the NCDC guideline.

Ehanire said that the Ministry of Health team sent to Kogi State returned to Abuja, without mission accomplishment and that new efforts will be made to engage Kogi authorities for resolution of differences.

The minister did not provide answers to the Guardian questions on the areas of disagreement between the ministry and the Kogi State government as well as how far they have gone in resolving the issues.

But the Director-General of NCDC, Dr Chikwe Ihekweazu told The Guardian that one of the mandates in the Act establishing NCDC is for the agency to support states in the prevention, detection and control of infectious disease outbreaks adding that given the nature of the virus that causes COVID-19, its mode of spread and the nation’s porous borders, all the states are at risk of recording confirmed cases

Chikwe explained that since the first COVID-19 case was detected globally, NCDC has been providing guidance and support to all states and had deployed Rapid Response Teams to support the 36 states and the FCT. ”

He said, “Currently, our Teams are in 34 states and the FCT. While the NCDC cannot impose support on states, we continue to appeal to states to ensure a unified front against our common enemy which is the virus. We remain available to provide support to all states in Nigeria “.

However, in a sponsored Tv programme monitored by The Guardian, Governor Bello said that the Ministerial haven come from Abuja which already have high number of confirmed cases of Coronavirus must be tested and quarantined for 14 days.

He said, “The NCDC officials are here to help us build our testing capacity since they have come, we are going to work with them but after observing their own rules and regulations. Its either they go into quarantine for fourteen days after which they continue their job. Here, from the records given to me, we are Covid-19 free in Kogi state so if anybody coming to help us, we must know their status. We have our samples collection here, we have dozens of samples collections from NCDC too”

“We are going to take their samples including that of the DG Protocol who had contact with one of them, we are going to take his own sample too and then all of them will go into isolation, after 14 days they are free to come and do their job. Covid-19, as we are meant to believe, is a war and as far as the Commander-In-Chief that is leading the war against COVID-19. I must guide my troops very well and in guiding the troops, I must ensure that when the enemy which is Covid-19 is approaching, I should be able to defend my troops either to take them to take cover in the trenches or go into the bunker and then know what the COVID-19 is up to. It is part of the protocol that you should not go to where there are cases and that you don’t leave where there are cases for a place where there are no cases”.

It would be recalled that the Kogi State Government recently alleged that there were plans to ‘import’ cases of coronavirus into the state through illicit means. The government claimed the plan was part of an “unholy conspiracy to declare Covid-19 in all states of the federation.”

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