The Anap Foundation, a COVID-19 response-advocacy group, has raised concerns over the violation of social distancing, a major COVID-19 safety protocol, at the burial of late Emir of Zazzau, Shehu Idris.
The monarch who passed on Sunday, was buried same day in Zaria according to the Islamic rites. He spent 45 years on the throne having ascended to the throne in 1975. He died at age 84.
President Muhammadu Buhari, state governors and other prominent Nigerians had condoled with the government and people of Kaduna State and the royal family on the emir’s passing.
However, Snap foundation said it witnessed with deep concern the reports of the events surrounding the death and burial of the emir, particularly regarding the breach of public health rules.
“While the outpouring of emotion as evidenced by the huge crowds that spontaneously assembled around the palace is very understandable, given the high esteem in which the Emir was held, it was evident that all public health rules were forgotten.
“This leaves room to ask what the government could have done to anticipate and mitigate the risks such an assembly must raise in this period of pandemic.
“This, however, makes the question more pertinent. If in a state where genuine efforts have been made to limit the spread of the disease in the community this dangerous event nevertheless occurred, then it highlights further the key importance of the authorities’ preparedness.”
The group, in a statement signed by its chairman and vice-chairman, Atedo Peterside and Abubakar Mohammed respectively, flagged the issue as one that the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 (PTF) should urgently address and put in place clear strategies to prevent such a recurrence.
“The country is increasingly witnessing numerous incidences of social events where COVID-19 protocols are not being followed and a renewed clarification by the PTF would not be amiss at this time.”
It also urged the Kaduna State Government, and all concerned especially civic, political and religious leaders to take active steps in managing the crowds that troop in daily to the palace for condolence visits.
“As we watch the world slip in varying degrees into a steep second wave of infection, this is not the time for Nigeria to relax in her efforts at controlling disease spread.
“Behaviour Change Communication (BCC) is still our best remedy. Radio jingles, posters, cartoons, information in the lorry parks, village squares, markets, schools, churches and mosques must be disseminated. The effort to achieve change in social and individual behaviour will need to be long-term and sustained. Security and law enforcement personnel should also have regular re-training and clear guidelines on how best to anticipate and manage large social gatherings.
“Nigeria is beginning to relax its lockdown further as schools resume, and public places of entertainment and worship have reopened to different extents. This is the time to ensure that in those places and in those gatherings appropriate protocols are strictly adhered to.”
Not the first, second, third
PREMIUM TIMES had reported how COVID-19 guidelines had been violated at different funerals including that of Abba Kyari, the former Chief of Staff to President Muhammadu Buhari.
Also, at the burial ceremonies of Ondo State health commissioner, Wahab Adegbenro; former Oyo State Governor, Abiola Ajimobi; former Lagos Senator, Bayo Osinowo and former Ogun Senator, Buruji Kasham; social distancing rules and the use of face masks were jettisoned.
These were met with backslashes and heavy criticisms from many Nigerians who called on the PTF to look into the violations.
Meanwhile, the task force has not acted on these concerns, instead, the Chairman of the PTF, Boss Mustapha, asked state governments to ensure compliance.
Although the number of new infections recorded in the past five weeks has waned, experts have predicted a rise if Nigerians fail to comply with the safety protocols.
As of the time of filing this report, the country has recorded over 55,000 cases and 1,000 deaths from the pandemic.