The Kogi State Government is unrelenting in disputing claims by the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) and the family of a COVID-19 patient of the existence of the deadly virus in the state.
The family of Ahmad Ejibunu, the Chief Imam of Kabba, said in a statement that he tested positive for COVID-19 following a test at the National Hospital, Abuja.
He was referred to the hospital from the Federal Medical Centre (FMC) in Lokoja after he was initially taken to the Specialist Hospital in Kabba for what was thought to be flu.
Senator Dino Melaye said yesterday that he personally knows the man in question and had confirmed that his family was telling the truth about his status, but the state government would have none of that.
The Commissioner for Health, Saka Audu, said the state government would not accept what he described as fictitious cases.
He said the tests conducted on all the contacts of those who were said to have COVID-19 in the state turned out to be negative.
The Obatebise of Oweland, Chief Tai Ejibunu, had in a statement on Friday said Ahmad Ejibunu, the Chief Imam of Kabba, tested positive at the National Hospital, Abuja.
Ejibunu said the Kogi State Government should stop living in self denial.
According to him, the Chief Imam was first admitted at the Specialist Hospital in Kabba and later at the Federal Medical Centre (FMC) in Lokoja, from where he was referred to the National Hospital where he was eventually tested.
“The family is concerned about the wellbeing of other Owe sons and daughters, and we wish to confirm that COVID-19 has found its way sadly into our community and the state.
“Therefore, there is no need for the Kogi State Government to deny the obvious.
“We would like to stress that the Chief Imam, of recent, had never ventured outside Kogi State by way of travelling outside the state. So, the ‘virus’ could have been contacted within.
Melaye: I know the patient
The former senator representing Kogi West, Dino Melaye, weighed in on the side of the family of the Chief Imam yesterday, saying the statement on the health status of the religious leader was correct.
He said in a statement: “I want to announce that the COVID-19 case in Kogi is real and authentic and cannot understand why any responsible government will want to deny and invariably kill her citizens.
“One of the cases is from Kabba and the victim is personally known to me. I cannot be part of those who will play politics with the lives of my people.
“COVID-19 is real, but it is not a death sentence if handled early enough.
“Family members of the Kabba victim who got a referral to Abuja from the Federal Medical Centre in Lokoja and all those who had contact with him should please surrender themselves for a test so as to curtail the spread.
“The Kogi State Government must come down from her imaginary high horse and start contact tracing to help curtail the spread.
“It is illogical to think we will be free with our proximity to affected states.”
“God will hear our cry and heal our land. God bless Okun land! God bless Kogi West! God bless Kogi State.”
We would not accept fictitious cases, says Kogi govt
Responding to the claims, the Commissioner for Health, Audu, said evidence at the disposal of the state government showed that the state remained free of COVID-19.
He said that all the contacts of the index cases of COVID-19 in the state announced by the NCDC tested negative for the disease.
“One needs not dig deeper to see the handwriting clearly written on the wall at how desperate NCDC is to nail Kogi State with a COVID-19 case, and there is no telling how low they are willing to stoop to do so,” he said in a statement in Lokoja.
“They claim the patient was positive but hasn’t been taken to an isolation centre. As at this moment, he is still in the National Hospital.”
Audu said the doctor who first attended to the index case being cited said he (patient) had no “fever, cough or difficulty in breathing … the only complaint was that of general body weakness.”
Continuing, he said: “The doctor had no reason to refer the patient to the FMC Lokoja except on the insistence of the patient, because they felt he was not getting better.
“On reaching FMC on the 24th of May 2020, FMC claimed the patient was referred to them on account of one week history of fever, cough and difficulty in breathing with high suspicion of Covid-19; a claim the referring doctor has vehemently refuted.”
The commissioner said the state government had even planned to evacuate the Chief Imam from the National Hospital in Abuja and test him using a private molecular laboratory and the state’s rapid test kits, but “the patient eventually denied us the opportunity to get it done, citing fear of receiving punishment from the Federal Government (NCDC).”
He accused the NCDC of “manufacturing fictitious claims and attaching them to states.”
Besides, he said the centre has “consistently refused to support Kogi State in her fight against COVID-19.”
He said: “Despite the fact that we do not accept the fictitious cases, we have gone ahead to do contact tracing to identify all those who came in contact with them, tested them and they all came back negative.
‘They will be retested in the next 14 days post first contact’
“The normal NCDC protocol is to collect samples through the state ministries of health where an epid form (epidemiological form) will be filled by the state epidemiologist and a sample number called an epid number attached to accompany the sample to the laboratory for onward testing.
“In this case, who filled the form? Where is the sample’s epid number? Is it the FCT state epidemiologist that filled the form and took samples at the same time? If that is the case, then they should have recorded the cases for FCT and not bother us with their ruse.”
The commissioner had said on Friday that “Kogi State till this very moment is Covid-19 free.”
He added: “We have developed the full testing capacity and have conducted hundreds of tests so far, which have come back negative.
“We have also continued to insist that we will not be a party to any fictitious COVID-19 claims, which is why we do not recognise any COVID-19 test conducted by any Kogite outside the boundaries of the state, except those initiated by us.
“Any attempt to force us to announce a case of COVID-19 will be vehemently rejected.
“We are more than prepared to secure the life of our people and have no interest in playing politics with their health concerns.”
No controversy about confirmed cases—Ihekweazu
But NCDC Director General, Dr. Chikwe Ihekweazu, said there was no dilemma in the two confirmed COVID-19 cases in Kogi State, insisting that the two cases are not controversial in any way.
His words: “There is actually no dilemma in the two confirmed COVID-19 cases. They followed absolutely normal practice.
“These were patients that were referred from a Federal Medical Centre in the state to the National Hospital, Abuja. This is a normal referral pathway when you have a case.
“The physicians in the National Hospital, Abuja, I don’t have any influence over the work that they do. They suspected COVID-19 based on the clinical symptoms of the patients.
“They asked for a test and the test came out positive. The individuals live in Kogi State.
“In public health, your public health response is based on where you live, because that is where your contacts are.
“So, this is not controversial in any way. Standard practice was followed.”
The Nation gathered that the leadership of the state chapter of the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA) may meet the governor later this week over their safety in the face of the controversy.
An NMA source said: “We as medical practitioners are not unaware of the danger posed by this controversy. But most importantly, we are worried that politicians are playing politics with something as serious as COVID-19.
“Our members and other health workers across the state are worried and are currently confused following the refusal of the state to do contact tracing. We are not sleeping over the matter.
“The national leadership of the NMA has reached out to us and we have met to discuss the matter.
“We will further seek the position of the government on it so we can know what to do.”