A former governor of Borno State, Ali Sheriff, has denied that he refused to submit himself for COVID-19 test after he allegedly had contacts with persons who later died of the disease.
Mr Sheriff had two weeks ago buried his father who died in a fire accident in Maiduguri. The burial was attended by many prominent residents of Borno, including the state’s former governor, Muhammed Goni, who died last week of suspected COVID-19 complication.
An online publication, Sahara Reporters, published a report that Mr Sheriff was one of the contacts being traced by the Borno State Committee on COVID-19 in relation to two prominent persons that died after attending the late Sheriff’s burial.
However, Mr Sheriff claimed that the report was “baseless” and “false.”
He said Sahara Reporters misinformed in saying that the late Shehu of Bama who died of suspected COVID-19, attended his father’s burial. The former governor said the deceased monarch was never at the funeral.
He, however, did not deny that Mr Goni attended the burial few days before he died.
In a statement issued by his spokesperson, Kolo Adam, and shared with PREMIUM TIMES, Mr Sheriff said he had never undermined the fight against COVID-19 and had been observing social distancing “even before the order by the federal government.”
The former national chairman of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party alleged that the disinformation was the handiwork of “naive-minded politicians.”
When asked to confirm if the Borno COVID-19 committee did contact the former governor with the intention of testing him for the new coronavirus, the Borno State Commissioner of Home Affairs, Information and Culture, Babakura Abba-Jato, said he knew nothing about the matter.
Mr Abba-Jato, who is the spokesman of the COVID-19 ommittee, told journalists during the Monday briefing that he has not received such information from the chairman or secretary of the committee.
He represented the secretary of the committee, Salisu KwayaBura, who was absent at the Monday briefing.
“Honestly I don’t have any information about that; because these are questions that need answers from the technical people,” he said.
“I can only ask this question if at all I have a briefing from them. But on hundred percent scale, I don’t know anything about it.”
Read Mr Sheriff’s full statement below.
“Our attention has been drawn to a false publication trending in Sahara Reporters, making the round baseless report that Former Borno Governor, Ali Modu Sheriff, Tricks Health Officials, Flees To Abuja To Avoid COVID-19 Test Despite Close Contact With Dead Victims.
“That Sahara Reporters: gathered that Sheriff had refused to make himself available for COVID-19 test despite meeting two prominent citizens of the state, who died of the virus recently.
“That: A member of the state prevention and response team said the former governor was one of the contacts being traced and linked up with the late former governor, Mohammed Goni, and Shehu of Bama, Alhaji Kyari Elkanemi, who both died of the virus.
“Therefore, let me unequivocally responded that all the above were falls information prepared with malicious intention full of political gimmicks.
“The late Shehu of Bama did not have contact with Sheriff for the past one year; and was not present at the burial of Senator Sheriff’s Father; talk less of attending the funeral prayers that can warrant for a meeting between the two.
“There was no place where Sheriff shakes hands with anybody during the burial of his late Father. Not to talk of coming in contact with late Goni during the funeral procession.
“And the State COVID 19 Committee when contacted refuted such unfortunate report and revealed that it had never invited Sheriff for a test.
“For the record Sheriff and his family were all tested negative in Abuja, before proceeding to Maiduguri.
“Since the discovery of the virus in Nigeria Sheriff had never undermined the issue of COVID 19 and confined himself to social distance even before the order by the federal government.
“However, it is unfortunate that naïve minded politicians instead of praying for protection started to make mischief out of the COVID-19 Pandemic.
“Meanwhile, as we are investigating the source of this unfortunate and malicious report, the general public is hereby advised to ignore such fabricated information by mischief makers.