Nigerians have continued to castigate the government’s lack of transparency, inconsistencies and lies in the handling of the treatment and burial of the late Chief of Staff to President Muhammadu Buhari, Abba Kyari.
Kyari’s death was announced on Friday. He was 67. On Saturday, he was buried at Gudu Cemetery, Abuja, amidst controversies and concerns that the global standard for burying COVID-19 victims was violated.
“NCDC is now apologising to Nigerians on behalf of the undertakers at Abba Kyari's burial. Double standard,” a Nigerian, identified as Concerned Citizen, lamented on Twitter.
The manner in which Kyari’s burial was handled by top government functionaries is not the only issue that has ruffled feathers in the country.
Critics of the government have continued to pick holes in the way the Buhari administration handled Kyari’s treatment at a private hospital.
Many Nigerians have faulted government’s inconsistencies in the information it dishes out and for giving Kyari special privileges denied other citizens.
President Buhari rode to power on the promise of change and transparency – a promise critics say he has failed to keep.
The handling of Kyari’s Coronavirus infection and death has further dented the image of the government and heightened agitations for improved healthcare in the country.
Recall that Kyari tested positive for COVID-19 on March 23 after returning from a trip to Germany.
The Presidency was forced to announce that he had contracted the virus after an exclusive report by SaharaReporters.
When he was flown to Lagos for treatment, his whereabouts was shrouded in secrecy.
Probed to talk about the whereabouts of the late COS, Lagos State Commissioner for Health, Prof Akin Abayomi, kept sealed lips – he claimed he did not know his location.
However, on Saturday, Abayomi changed positions, revealing that Kyari was admitted at First Cardiology Consultants in Ikoyi to receive care for the virus.
To absolve the government of any indictment, Abayomi claimed the state government accredited the facility (First Cardiology Consultants) to treat persons infected with COVID-19.
“As a basis for accreditation, First Cardiology Consultants established a separate specialist wing with staff dedicated to the treatment of complicated cases of #COVID19 under the supervision of the Lagos State #COVID19 emergency response team,” he said.
This was an earlier position by the Minister of Health, Osagie Ehanire, who at a forum said that no private hospital had been accredited to treat persons infected with the virus.
He had warned that any private hospital found treating COVID-19 patients risked being shut down.
He said, “There is no private hospital that has been accredited to manage COVID-19 cases in Nigeria.
“Treating of private patients is not allowed. It is risky.
“Coronavirus is one of the most easily transmitted diseases you can think of. So, it is not allowed to treat Coronavirus privately.”
Another undoing of the government was the release of Kyari’s corpse for burial, a privilege that was denied other families of COVID-19 victims.
On April 3, 2020, at a News Agency of Nigeria Forum in Abuja, Nigeria’s Information Minister, Lai Mohammed, had said corpses of COVID-19 victims could not be claimed for burial.
He said the Ministry of Health would ‘handle’ the bodies ‘because they are contagious’.
Mohammed was quoted as saying “Coronavirus is very dangerous and contagious; there is no medicine for it yet, and it is not just capable of killing, overwhelming healthcare system, it will destroy the economy.
“In some countries, they are putting dead bodies in big refrigerators because the morgues have filled up.
“Nigerians should not forget that these are not the types of corpses that can be claimed for burial because it must be handled by the Ministry of Health.”
At Kyari’s televised burial, over 100 persons, who neither wore protective gears nor observed social distancing rules, showed up to observe the burial rites.
FLASH: Social Distancing Violated As Abba Kyari Is Buried In Abuja pic.twitter.com/5KRhGt77XH— Sahara Reporters (@SaharaReporters) April 18, 2020
Global health authorities say the virus cannot be transmitted posthumously but added that it could still survive on clothes for a few hours.
In other countries, bodies of such victims are being cremated or the government bury them in mass graves.
Kyari’s body was released for burial by the Lagos State Government and to justify that move, Prof Abayomi said there was no policy against the release of corpses of persons, who tested positive for COVID-19 for burial – contradicting Lai Mohammed’s earlier position.
To pacify Nigerians, Chairman of the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19, Boss Mustapha, has apologised over violations that took place during Kyari’s burial on Saturday.
Mustapha, who is also the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, made the apology during the daily briefing by the task force.
He said, “The PTF recognises, regrettably, the unintentional violation of the principles and protocols that form the core of our message to Nigerians at the funeral of the late chief of staff.
“These principles, for emphasis, include the guidance provided on mass gatherings, social distancing, personal hygiene, and restriction of movement.
“Lessons have been learnt and appropriate measures have been taken to close all gaps.”