Coronavirus hits hard on Government officials

FROM Makurdi to Akure, Abakaliki, Asaba, Umuahia, and even Abuja, Covid-19 appears to be hitting hard at government officials, their spouses and their children.

Governor David Umahi of Ebonyi State is the latest of such high profile officials to test positive for the virus.

His status was revealed yesterday and he has since proceeded on self-isolation.

But the situation is morescary at the Government House, Makurdi, where Governor Daniel Ortom’s wife, her son, the Secretary to the State Government, the governor’s Chief of Staff, the state’s Head of Service and about 30 other officials and aides are infected.

Governor Ifeanyi Okowa of Delta State, his wife and their daughter remain in self-isolation as is Governor Rotimi Akeredolu of Ondo State.

Mr. Noel Donjur, the Chief of Staff to the Plateau State Governor, is also in an isolation centre after testing positive.

However, Governor Okezie Ikpeazu of Abia State, who had been in self- isolation after testing positive, has now recovered and tested negative.

Governors Nasir el-Rufai (Kaduna), Seyi Makinde (Oyo) and Bala Mohammed (Bauchi) had at different times contracted the virus before they got healed.

But President Muhammadu Buhari’s first Chief of Staff, Mallam Abba Kyari was not that lucky. He died of complications arising from Covid-19 on April 18.

There are also speculations that Mallam Babagana Wakil, the Chief of Staff to the Borno State Governor, who died on July 1, might have contracted the virus.

Confirming the health status of Governor Umahi yesterday, Ebonyi State Commissioner of Information, Uchenna Orji, said his principal was asymptotic and has since isolated himself in line with Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) protocols.

The Governor handed over the running of the state to his Deputy, Kelechi Igwe to “take over the frontline coordination of our fight against Coronavirus pandemic to protect our people from the scourge of the virus.”

Umahi said some of his close aides similarly tested positive for the virus after undertaking the test.

He did not reveal the identities of those who tested positive.

The governor appealed to residents in the state to take preventive measures.

He added that he was working from home and would conduct all meetings virtually.

Governor Samuel Ortom of Benue State told reporters in Makurdi that his Chief of Staff, Mr Terwase Orbunde; the Secretary to the State Government, Prof. Tony Ijohor; the state’s Head of Service, Mrs Veronica Onyeke and the Deputy Vice Chancellor Administration, Benue State University, Makurdi, Prof. Godwin Achinge, all tested positive for Covid-19.

The governor spoke less than 24 hours after his wife Eunice and son also tested positive.

He said: “It is no longer news that my wife, one of my sons and staff tested positive for the virus too.

“The test was carried out about a week ago. When the result came out, 35 persons in the state tested positive for the virus.”

The governor himself is scheduled to undergo a fresh test in view of the latest development. An earlier one had shown that he was negative.

He said: “M test result came out negative, but the medical officials said that another test will be carried out on me after three days.

“So, after this interaction I will isolate myself. I will be in isolation until I have clearance from the medical officials.

“Covid-19 is real and I enjoin my people to take the preventive measures seriously.

“I want my people to be alive and free from the disease.

“We have to stop the spread of the disease by maintaining all the Covid-19 protocols.”

Breaking the news of her own status late Friday, Mrs Ortom said: “Few moments ago (on Friday), I received my result from the tests earlier carried out on me by the NCDC personnel on routine screening at Government House, Makurdi, which returned that I and my son and some staff are Covid-19 positive.”

Among the staff are cooks and aides.

She said: “We have from this moment gone into total isolation as required by the protocols and would immediately begin the management treatment as advised by medical experts.

“While I have taken the responsibility to personally call everyone I can recall to have had recent contact with to go for testing, I advise anyone who has had close contact with me in the last two weeks and the public to go for screening and testing.”

Governor Okezie Ikpeazu of Abia State is out of danger after recovering from Covid-19 and testing negative.

Information Commissioner John Okiyi Kalu, in a two-paragraph statement yesterday, confirmed that the governor tested negative on Friday.

His words: “To the glory of God, repeat Covid-19 test conducted by the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) on samples submitted by Governor Okezie Ikpeazu on Thursday, 2nd July, 2020, returned negative result on Friday, 3rd July, 2020.

“Governor Ikpeazu is therefore deemed free of the virus according to the extant guidelines of NCDC and the World Health Organisation (WHO).”

A video posted by a member of the Ikpeazu kitchen cabinet, Erondu Uchenna Erondu jnr, on Friday showed Ikpeazu playing table tennis with a friend in his Abuja residence.

From his self-isolation, Ondo State governor, Rotimi Akeredolu, yesterday appointed his Special Adviser on Health, Jibayo Adeyeye, as the state’s Acting Health Commissioner and the Vice-Chancellor of the University of Medical Sciences, Ondo, Adesegun Fatusi, as the new chairman of the State Inter-ministerial Committee Against Covid-19.

Both positions were held by the immediate past health commissioner, Dr.Wahab Adegbenro, who died on Thursday of complications arising from Covid-19.

But the estranged Deputy Governor Agboola Ajayi is insisting that Akeredolu should hand over to him within 21 days, failing which the constitution will be invoked.

The Deputy Governor, who spoke through his Media Adviser, Comrade Allen Sowore, said Section 190(2) of the 1999 Constitution is clear on when and how a governor can hand over to his deputy.

He said: “Refusal and failure of Mr. Governor to hand over the running of government to his deputy while in self-isolation and temporarily incapacitated underscore his absolute disregard for the rule of law; a spite on the people and a direct assault on the provisions of the constitution which he swore to uphold.

“Not only that, his deliberate obstacles to ensure that government continues to run while he’s in self isolation as a result of the fact that he has tested positive for the Covid-19 puts lips service to his hypocratic war against the ravaging pandemic.

“Our candid advice is that the energy dissipated on pulling down the office and person of the deputy governor should be channeled into resolving the lingering crisis in the health sector, particularly the current strike embarked on by medical practitioners in the state in the middle of this pandemic.

“Nobody will take us seriously when doctors are on strike and yet we pretend to be fighting a pandemic. It will only indicate that we’re taking the health of the people for granted.

“The Deputy Governor has a track record of performance in the various offices he has held – first as supervisory Councillor, LG Chairman, Member of the National Assembly – where he served as the chairman of the House Committee on NDDC and even now as the Deputy Governor.

“Nothing serves as threat to good governance than the current nepotism and lackadaisical attitude towards the prioritisation of people’s welfare.

“It’s imperative to inform the general public that, Mr Governor and members of his kitchen cabinet have deliberately barred the Deputy Governor from all government activities as all the daily itinerary and work schedules released from Chief Of Protocols have not allocated any function or duty to the person or office of the Deputy Governor in recent times.

“The Deputy Governor empathises with the good people of Ondo State at this critical period of our statehood that Mr Governor has decided to personalise administration and governance of our dear state.”

Responding on Friday to Ajayi’s first call that the governor should hand over to him, Akeredolu vowed that he would not entrust the state to “ a threat to good governance in the state.”

The governor, speaking through his Information and Orientation Commissioner Donald Ojogo, said he could not entrust the state to “a threat to good governance in the state.”

“Mr. Governor will not be advised to hand over to his deputy. It is not done because there is no reason for that, “Ojogo said, adding: “The deputy governor has since left our party and has since left governance, even though he has not left government.”

Normal activities have resumed at the Akwa Ibom State Government House, Uyo, despite the Covid-19 scare which enveloped the state’s seat of power early last week, following speculations about the health status of some staff.

Information Commissioner Charles Udoh told reporters that no staff of the Hilltop Mansion was infected.

Our correspondent, who monitored activities at the Government House over the week, observed that government business was going on smoothly.

The Press Secretary to the Deputy Governor, Mr. Ekikere Umoh, said there was no cause for alarm.

He said the 18 press corps members who had initially displayed symptoms of Covid-19 had all recovered.

The Delta State Government is downplaying the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic on government business despite the health status of Governor Okowa, his wife Edith and their daughter as well as the Secretary to the State Government (SSG) Chiedu Ebie and Information Commissioner Charles Aniagwu.1

Okowa’s Chief Press Secretary, Olisa Ifeajika, in a telephone chat yesterday, said the governor and his family were in high spirits and in stable conditions, stressing that the governor had not missed a day of work albeit from isolation.

He said: “Even before now, both State Executive and the State Covid-19 meetings were held regularly through virtual platforms.

“Some of us talk with him and he gives directives. Coronavirus has no effect at all on government business.

“Government House has not been shut down. Government business is going on as usual. The only new step taken is that visitors to Government House must make their Covid-19 status known before admittance.

“In Delta, nothing has changed. Those who contracted the ailment are not sick. They were only asked to stay indoors, which was already the norm.

“Even before he tested positive, Governor Okowa had always advocated the need for Deltans to stay indoors if there is no pressing need to be outdoors, or use a face mask if they must go out.

“We have not shut down Government House; any government officials who go for test, is for them to know their status.

“Government is moving, and the governor has been speaking. He is only in isolation centre. The only difference is that you don’t see him on the road. But he has been treating files.

“Just three days ago, he met with local government chairmen in the state. They had a virtual meeting. It was the same thing with the Covid-19 team.

“The Governor is not sick. That he tested positive does not make him sick. He is stable, responding to treatment. Even the SSG, in his confinement, he handled a few things. It is not a death sentence.

“I myself have being in isolation for 12 days. I have not had any symptom. If it continues like this by Monday, I will get back in my office.

“When somebody tests positive, people who had contact with such a person are advised to go on self-isolation. That was what every one of us did.

“Yes, my office, SSG and information were shut down, and all of us were asked to go for them to fumigate the places.”

The Nation gathered that many top government functionaries, including career civil servants of the rank of permanent secretaries, directors and heads of parastatals and agencies, are afraid of a possible order compelling them to go for Covid-19 test.

A source who preferred anonymity said: “Almost all the offices have been shut down. Workers are afraid as the key components of the government have tested positive.

“These are people who have been observing the protocol, yet they still contracted it, meaning all of us are not safe.”

As at Friday, Covid-19 had claimed 628 lives across Nigeria.

Among prominent Nigerians who died of coronavirus related causes last month alone were the immediate past governor of Oyo State, Senator Abiola Ajimobi; Senator Sikiru Adebayo Osinowo representing Lagos East and popular Nigerian-American broadcaster, Dan Foster.

The Kogi State Chief Judge (CJ), Justice Nasir Ajanah, also died last month in an isolation centre in Abuja, although the state government insists that the state is being blackmailed on the matter of Coronavirus and denied that Ajanah was a victim of the virus.

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