COVID-19: Several Frontline Security Operatives Enforcing Lockdown Directives Feared Positive

  • Eight confirmed cases, one dead as navy tests over 1,300
  • Army, police isolate infected personnel as several others opt for self-medication
  • Navy builds isolation, treatment faculties in Lagos

Chiemelie Ezeobi

Fears abound over the health of security operatives who have been on the frontline of enforcing the lockdown directives issued by the federal government to flatten the curve of COVID-19 pandemic.

THISDAY investigations revealed that some of the security operatives have tested positive to the virus, and have been isolated and quarantined, just as several others have opted for self-medication.

This paper had last Monday exclusively reported that a lieutenant commander with the Nigerian Navy (NN), Chike Okoro, deployed to the Naval Pay Office in Lagos, had died from underlying complications of the virus.

Further investigation revealed that the navy was not the only service with personnel on the frontline who have been affected.

In Lagos, the army, civil defence and the police have had their personnel test positive to the virus and have been in the isolation centres receiving treatment.

It was also gathered that while there were those who voluntarily submitted themselves to the test and subsequent treatment, there were yet others who manifested the symptoms but opted to self medicate on herbal mixtures and even hydrochloroquine, a malaria drug.

Presently, THISDAY gathered that to prevent community spread amongst its personnel, the navy, army and air force are carrying out rapid testing.

In the navy, the Western Naval Command (WNC) while carrying out the rapid testing on over 1,300 personnel discovered eight of its personnel tested positive. They have been isolated and quarantined.

In the case of the lieutenant commander that died, it was gathered that the navy immediately carried out contact tracing and discovered four persons that had come in contact with him- his driver, orderly, steward and a friend.

All four have been tested and are waiting for their results in isolation.

Confirming the incident, the Flag Officer Commanding (FOC), WNC, Rear Admiral Oladele Daji, who debunked claims that several of his men were positive, said nonetheless, the navy has put workable measures on ground.

He said the navy mandated its personnel on joint operations to comply with all regulations on COVID-19 prevention, adding that a taskforce pays unscheduled visits to ensure compliance.

He said: “Nose mask is compulsory. The command also produced pocket sanitisers that they gave those of us in the field with strict warning to ensure we use it especially those who cannot avoid touching their faces.

“From the numbers we have tested so far, only eight confirmed cases have been recorded and so, you can see that eight out of 1,300 doesn’t translate to many.

“We have been taking precautions. We have been calling Lagos COVID-19 response to make sure that we do test because of the nature of our work.

“We have been sending samples for test and I can tell you that so far, we have tested 1,300 personnel, not counting their family members and only eight are positive.

“Thankfully, most of the cases are serving in the medical centres so it is possible that it was from there they got it.

“Because of this, the Chief of the Naval Staff (CNS) Vice Admiral Ibok-Ete Ibas procured 1,800 PPEs and we distributed it to all our medical personnel in Lagos.

“You know they have to touch and see patients and most of these patients are civilian patients that come to our hospitals because of the modern equipments we have in our hospital.

“The CNS directed that every medical personnel, before they see any patient, must have their personal protective equipment.”

Also, Daji said the command was being proactive and not under pressure, adding that it has built isolation and treatment facilities at the Naval Dockyard, Victoria Island, following predictions that cases in Lagos might rise to 120,000 by July.

He said: “So, we are thinking ahead that the available facilities in Lagos State may be overwhelmed. If that happens, though we are praying it doesn’t come true, we have set up isolation and treatment centres.

“We already had isolation centres that accommodates two in a room and there are 78 rooms which we have been using to quarantine our personnel that returned from abroad before the airports were closed. “

Also, General Officer Commanding (GOC), 81 Division of the Nigerian Army, General Olu Irefin said the division has only recorded a case of a female soldier who was receiving treatment.

He said precautions were immediately taken to prevent spread because the personnel of the division were part of the larger society.

He said: “It is not true that many of my personnel have COVID-19. We have our COVID-19 response team formed by the Armed Forces of Nigeria and our isolation centre in Yaba. We have all the testing equipments and kits. We have been carrying out testing of our personnel once there is suspicion.”

The police on the other hand, have their personnel in the isolation centres, some of who THISDAY gathered, have proven difficult to contain.

However, the Commissioner of Police, Lagos State Police Command, Hakeem Odumosu said only two of his men were confirmed to have COVID-19 and they have been treated and discharged.

He said: “You should know that there are many police formations in Lagos. When they say police in Lagos, it does not necessarily mean Lagos State Command.

“We have CP Railway, Command, Maritime, CP Airport, CP SFU, CP Anti-Fraud, among others and they have personnel too.

“But if you are referring to my command, I can tell you that only two persons had the virus and they have been treated and discharged.”