The Kogi State Government has reacted to the Presidential Task Force (PTF) on COVID-19 labelling the state a high-risk zone to be avoided over the disease.
The National Incident Manager (NIM) of the PTF, Mukhtar Muhammad, on Monday, said the state government had failed to report testing and refused to establish isolation centres.
The PTF, in its analysis of the pandemic in Nigeria, identified 22 high-burdened local government areas in 13 states.
Mr Muhammad said “In addition to these, we have states where data is not coming forth. If we don’t test, your data will not be analysed and if your data is not analysed, we won’t know the level of the pandemic in your state.
“Notable among the states are Yobe, Jigawa, Zamfara and Kebbi and of course Kogi that has not been reporting at all.
“States that are not testing are probably at much higher risk than the states that are currently known as high-burdened states.
“A state that is not testing at all is an absolute high risk for Nigerians to visit because, there is no testing facility and even if you fall sick, there is no isolation centre and they don’t even acknowledge that the disease exists. So for that reason, we put that state at the top of high-risk states.”
According to Mr Mohammed, the 22 high-burdened local government areas, mostly in state capitals, contributed over 95 per cent of new cases recorded in the last six weeks.
PREMIUM TIMES had reported how Kogi governor, Yahaya Bello, spread misinformation about the virus as his government constantly discouraged testing.
The controversial state has only recorded five cases of the virus since the pandemic broke out February last year. In fact, it last recorded a COVID-19 infection in July 2020.
Also, Kogi, a state of almost 3.5 million people, had tested only 425 samples by December 11, the national situational report published December 12 by the NCDC showed.
Reacting to the PTF warning, Mr Bello’s chief press secretary, Onogwu Muhammed, described the position of the Taskforce as ‘political.’
Mr Muhammed, who spoke via a recorded phone-in interview granted on Tuesday, said: “We think of how to make our people live healthy as a state. The governor has made his position known as far as the Coronavirus is concerned. We believe in the existence of coronavirus and we are taking the necessary precautions as advised by the NCDC and other health institutions across the world.
“We are not arguing or debating with the PTF or whatever body or whatever group of people who come in based on sentiment or political interest in order to say whatever they want to say. Our major and fundamental objective as a state is to protect the lives of the people.”
Mr Muhammad said the government was committed to the health of its citizenry , citing its response to the Lassa Fever outbreak in 2017.
“In 2017, when there was an outbreak of Lassa fever…it was devastating and much more deadly than coronavirus and what did the government do? We went to the NCDC and said ‘this is the problem we are having in Kogi State and what are we going to do?’
“Based on their advice, Kogi State set up a bio-safety laboratory and by that, we nibbed the outbreak quickly and forestalled other problems. In the case of coronavirus, the state government quickly set up four isolation centres. Well equipped and they are there.”
He further stated that every action and response of the state to the pandemic had been met with criticisms but later adopted by other states.
The governor’s spokesperson advised the federal government to focus on solving the problem of insecurity, which he said has claimed more lived than COVID-19.
PREMIUM TIMES reached out to Mr Muhammad to know the number of COVID-19 tests carried out in the state so far.
But he failed to respond to telephone calls and text messages put across on Tuesday.
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