Nigerian Army, Bauchi, Cross River Governments Disagree Over 35 Soldiers Declared Positive For COVID-19

In Breaking News, International News, Politics

By Olugbenga Adanikin, International Centre For Investigative Reporting

The Nigerian Army says it is unaware of the claim made by Bauchi State Government that 35 soldiers in the State have tested positive for the Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19).

The Cross River State Government also denied the report, describing it as fake. Bala Mohammed, the Bauchi State Governor and Rilwan Mohammed, the Executive Secretary of Bauchi State Primary Health Care Development Agency had on Wednesday, June 10 told newsmen at the Government House how the military personnel, 10 inmates from the Nigeria Correctional Center, Bauchi, four Imams tested positive for COVID-19. The Government officials also announced that a medical official died due to the pandemic.

Mohammed, who is also the Chairman, COVID-19 Contact Tracing Committee in the State explained that the 35 confirmed cases comprise officers from the 245 battalion in Calabar, Cross River State, 223 battalion in Zuru, Kebbi State and some were from the Staff of Army Medical Referral Services.

He said the 35 personnel were being treated at the Bayara Isolation Centre.

17 from the 35 cases were from Calabar – Bala Mohammed

The State Governor was more specific while disclosing the military base of the soldiers before they arrived Bauchi.

According to him, 17 from the 35 confirmed cases were from Calabar in Cross River.

Mohammed noted that though, he would not like to dwell in the controversial issue with the State Government over repeated claims of recording no COVID-19 cases in the State, he said there was no need for pretence.

“We have seen that the Armed Forces have 35 cases. Some of them came from Calabar, Cross River State; Calabar that is said to be COVID-19 free and when they came to Bauchi, we tested them and they are 17 from that State.

“We, in Bauchi, are not pretending, I don’t want to join issues with anybody. There is no need pretending that this thing is not there.” Mohammed stated.

 We are not aware – Army

But, Sagir Musa, the Army Spokesperson debunked the claim when The ICIR reached out to him. He said the Army was unaware of the incident.

“I am not aware of this development. To the best that I know, there is no report of this nature in the Nigerian Army,” Musa responded to The ICIR’s enquiry via text message.

It is fake news – Cross Rivers State Government

Betta Edu, the Cross River State Commissioner for Health, also dismissed the news report. She simply labelled the report as “Fake News!” when the reporter reached out to her to verify if truly 17 from the 35 COVID-19 cases were from her State.

Meanwhile, as of May 28, 2020, Cross River State was yet to record a case of the pandemic. Edu attributed the zero-infection to the proactive efforts of Ben Ayade, the State Governor.

“This is neither a coincidence nor luck, this free status of the State is as a result of the State’s early measures and proactive efforts even before the said virus hit Africa,” she stated.

Cross River is currently excluded from the list of States with confirmed COVID-19 cases.

It is the only State in Nigeria that has never recorded any case according to the NCDC daily update.

On April 1, 2020, Ogbu Ngim, Chairman, Medical Advisory Committee of the University of Calabar Teaching Hospital, debunked the story of a suspected COVID-19 case after 35 Americans were denied entry into the State.

Though the patient was taken into isolation as a precautionary measure, the State Government insisted the female patient did not exhibit COVID-19 symptoms.

However, as of Tuesday, June 16, 17,148 confirmed cases of the virus have been recorded, with 455 deaths while 5,623 persons have recovered and discharged.

You can confirm from Bauchi State Government – NCDC

To further ascertain the authenticity of the report, The ICIR contacted Emeka Oguanuo, Spokesperson for the Nigerian Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) but he could not confirm the incident.

He said the State shares data with the Centre but referred the reporter to the Bauchi State epidemiologist instead.

“The Bauchi State is more responsive. They have an epidemiologist. You can confirm from them,” Oguanuo said.

Efforts to get reactions from Mohammed, the head of COVID-19 contact tracing in the State proved abortive.

Muktar Gidado, the Senior Special Assistant on Media to the Bauchi State Governor did not respond to phone calls and text message sent to him.

Aliyu Maigoro, the State’s Commissioner for Health was contacted but he did not respond to both calls and text message sent to his mobile line.

Garba Dahiru, the State’s Commissioner for Information who responded to the enquiry told the reporter that he had no new information, aside from what was earlier announced by the Governor.

He promised to confirm and get back but he did not. A text message sent to Dahiru’s line to remind him was also not replied. But a top Government source in the State confirmed the reported COVID-19 cases in the State.

He said aside from the initial 35 cases, more military personnel tested positive for the virus.

According to him, the State Government has started preparing the list of the affected soldiers to reach out to their Commands to commence contact tracing in their barracks. “Yes, it is true. We can’t just test them without the army’s notice. In fact, we are compiling names of the affected soldiers. We want to send them to their respective states so that they can start contact tracing in their families.”

The Bauchi State Governor  was confirmed positive on March 24 and recovered on Thursday, April 9.

As of June 16, Bauchi ranked 11th on the list of States with the highest number of COVID-19 confirmed cases.

It has recorded 430 cases while Lagos topped the list with 7,461. Since the global pandemic started in Wuhan China, December 31, 2019, the World Health Organisation (WHO) as of today says 8,006,427 confirmed cases have been reported in 216 countries, areas or territories.

The death toll has reached 436,899 and WHO has advised governments across the world to take preventive measures more seriously.

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