‘I Don’t Know Why it is Hard to Believe Kogi is Coronavirus Free’


As COVID-19 pandemic continues to ravage the country, Kogi State Commissioner for Health , Dr. Saka Audu Haruna discloses strategies deployed by the state government to contain spread of the disease to Ibrahim Oyewale

Honourable Commissioner, Kogi State along side with Cross River State have no index cases of Coronavirus disease, what is magic?

I want to really appreciate the media for being a partner in progress. We have been in this war all together against COVID-19. The role the media has played is truly heart warming. I appreciate the media. Kogi State so far has not recorded any confirmed case of Coronavirus officially. And we believe that our strategies are working for us, even though we are at a vantage position on the map of Federal Republic of Nigeria, that also attracts a lot of risks making Kogi State to be vulnerable to the spread of the disease outbreaks like Lassa fever and now COVID-19 .The commuters from all the six geo political zones have Kogi as central passage. No matter what you do if you travel by land from any of the six geo political zones, South to North, East to West and South you must pass through one part of Kogi or the other. Therefore, Kogi State is vulnerable to diseases. This is what we recognized in the earlier stages to impose some restrictions. We closed schools from primary to the highest institutions within the state, then we imposed restrictions on vehicular and other cyclic movement across the state, banning the commercial motorcycles operators and tricycle popularly known as Keke NAPEP. We also designated points where the commuters could stop for in-bound and out-bound passengers. This has truly worked for us. But this restriction couldn’t have been extended further by the time we relaxed it. Because we recognized that up to 90 percent of our people if not more all are informal workers .Salary earners would rightly expect their money to be paid by the end of every month, whether they go to work or not, but our informal workers-the farmers, this is farming season if they can not cultivate, there would not be food during the dry season this is part of our decision. If you look at COVID-19 from economic and health view points, that helped us to mitigate the scourge of the Coronavirus.

Going by the stories trending in the social media that there are patients who have exhibited the symptoms of Coronaviru at Federal Medical Centre ,Lokoja, and the state government is trying to cover up and that five patients have allegedly died recently. What is your reaction?

I want to state clearly that the state has not refused to take sample for test ,what we are saying is that tests must not be a prerequisite for treatment. It is wrong to say Kogi State has refused to test patients. I must also make this clarification that a situation where COVID-19 tests will be a prerequisite for patients to receive care would be vehemently rejected because before COVID-19 there are people that have various symptoms of diseases and the hospital is meant to bring succour to such people in distress.

Are you talking about symptoms that may suggest COVID-19 ?

Yes . I will state clearly ,from what I understand as at now Kogi state has no case of COVID-19 clearly as at today . Kogi State has not denied anybody that meets the criteria for test and Kogi State will never deny citizens of their rights to test. But we have come a long way in battling the Lassa fever on annual basis. This year alone we have had 30 cases of Lassa fever and unfortunately we lost 12 of them .These 12 people died in Federal Medical Centre, Lokoja. Those we were able to rescue through our centre , Kogi State Specialist Hospital survived. We gave 100 hundred case management and those that found their ways to Irrua in Edo State also survived. The idea of making Lassa fever test or COVID-19 test as prerequisite for a patient to receive attention is what we don’t want to tolerate. It will interest you to know that it takes between 7 and 10 days after samples have been taken for test for COVID-19 to receive result what would have happened to such patients if you have to wait for 10 days before your patients receive attention? I think there is a misunderstanding .We continue to conduct COVID-19 test for appropriate patients, but it should never be a criteria for patients to receive care . I am a board member at the Federal Federal Medical Centre, I have not received official report of any case of mysterious death from that centre and I am the Incident Manager from my capacity as Honourable Commissioner for Health, Kogi State. I have not received any of such information from Federal Medical Centre. I am the link or let say my office is the link between the Federal Medical Centre and the state government. As far as I am concerned we have not received such claims. I think we just have to ignore all those who are bent on painting the government black . The other time they said we constructed a tent in FMC with a total cost of N7 billion. Nobody will believe such a frivolous claim. The truth is that Kogi State government is doing everything necessary to defend the integrity of the state and to defend the interest of the people of the state.

People are insinuating that without presence of testing centre in Kogi how do we know whether people have contacted Coronavirus?

We are all matured people and we understand that Kogi State is surrounded by the state’s who are harbouring cases of Coronavirus disease. But even in China where it emanated from , when Wuhan was locked down ,Shanghai and Beijing that was still operating freely . There are some colleges within Wuhan that are free from COVID -19 till date . None of them recorded any case of Coronavirus and the lame claims that we are surround by states that are positive and therefore Kogi State must be declared positive cases does not hold water and I want to advise the general public to believe in what the state government is doing .We have interest of our people at heart. That is why we set out very early ,all the new committees that many states are forming today have been in existence in Kogi State since 2017 because of our experience with Lassa fever. And we have focal persons at least two across the wards. In each of the 21 local government areas of the State, we have a structure and that structure is functional that is what has worked for us I don’t know why it is hard for people to believe till date that Kogi State is Coronavirus free. By special grace of God it will remain so.

What is the relationship between National Center for Disease Control NCDC and Kogi State government now?

National Center for Disease Control is a federal agency saddles with responsibility of controlling diseases of public health magnitude . NCDC has been our partner from Day One and they will continue to be our partner in progress . We have cherish all the relationship ,the collaborations, the cooperation that existed in the past and we will continue to sustain that . But a situation where rumour peddlers will create problems between the NCDC and Kogi State government will not be tolerated . We received so many of their personnel in the past. We are working together. We don’t have any problem with them .

There has been agitations for test and provision of testing kits in Kogi State, what is your take on this?

The idea of test kits does not even arise. Because the Rapid Testing Kits till date have not been accepted by the NCDC as true method for evaluating COVID-19 disease and has not been authorized to be used in Nigeria .Kogi State is yet to be assigned with designated laboratory because of our closeness or proximity with Irrua and Abuja that is just the reason .We have invited NCDC to validate our PCR machines ,we have have one in Okene. We have 7 genes machines across the state . And by the special grace of God, very soon we would be able to single handedly carry out COVID-19 test with supervision of the national team.

Can an individual come out to say he wants a test conducted for Coronavirus ?

If you do not fit into this criteria for now, such individual will not receive the opportunity to carry out the test .In the last three months since the out break of Coronavirus in Nigeria, NCDC and our partners have been able to carry out over 16,000 test. This may not be surpass my local government area alone if the test has to be carried out on everybody in the state. Nigeria is not buoyant enough to test everybody and I don’t think test should be compulsory. Only individuals exhibiting the symptom fit into criteria .We know that there is community transmission in certain parts of the country and even in Lagos where they are doing house-to-house test .You must exhibit a symptom before test can be carried out or you are a contact to someone has tested positive. Only those who are at risk would be tested .Kogi state indeed was the first state to launch a web based App. We have received over 16,000 evaluation across the state and few of them were categorised high risk and we will reach out to them .We will call on individual basis to ask them about their health status and to alley their fears and help where it is necessary and also to send a team after some people where the situation demands such action .I think Kogi State has done so well and deserve to be commended.

There have been a lot of romours on COVID-19 that have cause sleepless nights and panic in Kogi State. What should the people do?

The people of state should continue to imbibe those preventive measures that we have instituted, those that NCDC has advised, the World Health Organisation (WHO) and Kogi State Ministry of Health. The bulk of the preventing measures lie within the reach of the people and people can help the government to do this on their own. The government is spending huge sums of money to secure the state. The people of Kogi State are advised to follow instructions and imbibe those laid down preventive measures ,like washing of hands , use of face mask, avoiding crowded environment and social distancing. These will help us in preventing COVID-19 from ravaging our communities.