Kogi Contingent Records 100% Negative Covid-19 Tests

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Students performing calisthenics display at the opening ceremony of the 19th National Sports Festival in Abuja, Thursday

* Oyo, Taraba athletes disqualified for failing tests

Adibe Emenyonuin Benin City

The Kogi State contingent to the 20th edition of the National Sports Festival (NSF) which includes 41 athletes and 35 officials have tested negative for the Covid-19 virus carried out at the sports fiesta in Benin City, Edo State.

Local Organising Committee (LOC) however said that the contingents from Oyo and Taraba states stand disqualified from the sports festival as their contingents failed to meet with the Covid-19 guidelines for the games.

Kogi State recorded the 100 per cent negative tests for its contingent after undergoing a rigorous screening conducted by the National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) officials.

Observers noted that NCDC officials were particularly cautious about the contingent from Lokoja because of Kogi State’s official stance on the coronavirus disease which has killed millions around the world and 2,058 in Nigeria.

In the early days of the pandemic when most world leaders responded to curtail the virus, Kogi State Governor, Yahaya Bello, was caught on video declaring, ‘we ain’t gat no covid!’ as he dismissed reports that he either had the disease or that it had not reached his state.

That video, which subsequently went viral early in 2020, set the pace for the young governor’s controversial positions on the disease over the next one year.

Swimming against popular tides, Gov. Bello refused to institute a universal mask mandate in the state.

He refused to join in the lengthy lockdowns adopted by his colleague governors at the NCDC’s insistence. He kept his state and its economy open throughout the lockdown in the country. Bello is still campaigning against copycat advisories and use of unproven vaccines till date.

Although his position has set him on a collision course severally with the NCDC, the Presidential Taskforce on Covid-19 and other bodies in the coalition managing the disease for the country have left Bello and Kogi to their fates. When an NCDC team visited his state in May of 2020 to test for the disease, he tried to quarantine them for the 14 days duration and they fled back to Abuja. He would later point to the WHO team which went on investigation to Wuhan in January 2021 and accepted quarantine for the 14 days duration by the Chinese authorities, as proof that he was right and they, wrong.

It was against this backdrop that special focus was placed on the Kogi contingent on entering Benin City for the festival by NCDC officials.

Briefing journalists at the screening centre in the Games Village concerning Oyo and Taraba states contingents that failed the Covid-19 tests, Deputy Governor and Chairman of the LOC, Philip Shaibu, noted that the state had to be strict with the guidelines so as not to use the games as an avenue to spread Covid-19 in the state which has already been flattened.

Shaibu explained that in the event PTF gives approval for both states to be admitted, the teams may have to go through strict Covid-19 screening and testing again before they will be allowed into camp.

Shaibu said the two athletes which tested positive to Covid-19 instant PCR test on arrival have been taken to the Stella Obasanjo Hospital Isolation Centre.

He said unless the PTF on Covid-19 gives a counter directive, both states have failed to meet with the Covid-19 guidelines of the games.