The Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) has officially announced the death of its acting director of finance and administration, Ibanga Etang.
Mr Etang died on Thursday in a Port Harcourt hospital, Rivers State.
The NDDC said in a statement on Friday that it delayed the announcement of Mr Etang’s passing because it needed to inform the family first.
The statement was signed by the NDDC spokesperson, Charles Odili.
Hours after Mr Etang’s death, the NDDC management hurriedly shut down operations at its headquarters in Port Harcourt.
It then directed its workers to go into self-qarantine for two weeks, and the decontamination of its offices and premises, thereby fueling speculations that the director may have died of COVID-19.
“In line with fears of the current time, the Commission took the precautionary measure,” Mr Odili said. “This action does not presuppose the cause of death.”
“The commission is not aware of the cause of his death as at the time of this release.”
Mr Odili added, “An autopsy report is being expected and when this is ready, it would be released with the consent of the family.
“The NDDC is, therefore, miffed by spurious and uncharitable coloration being championed by mischief makers on the occasion of the demise of Chief Ibanga Bassey Etang, whose untimely death occurred at the early hours of Thursday the 28th of May 2020.
“The Commission is on course to issuing a comprehensive fact-based statement in consonance with the bereaved family, but for the unwarranted and unsubstantiated reportage which is flying in devilish propensities.”
Mr Etang hailed from Akwa Ibom State.
He had served as the chairman of Esit Eket local government area, Akwa Ibom State, and later as a special assistant to Governor Udom Emmanuel before he defected from the Peoples Democratic Party to the All Progressives Congress.
It was from there he was appointed into the Interim Management Committee of the NDDC.
The Akwa Ibom governor, Mr Udom Emmanuel, said on Friday that the government and people of the state would require answers to certain questions on the death of Mr Etang.
“There will be a time we’ll start asking questions. I am just waiting,” Mr Emmanuel said during the inauguration of a 300-bed isolation centre built in Uruan, Akwa Ibom State, by his administration.
“They rushed to social media and published even the internal memo that they have shut down the (NDDC) office for two weeks, and that he died of COVID-19.”
Mr Emmanuel did not mention the late NDDC director by name in his remarks, but it was apparent he was referring to Mr Etang.
“I know I am not supposed to say this, but I am the governor of the state and every life of my citizen is important to me,” he said before he started talking about the passing of Mr Etang.
Mr Emmanuel said the Akwa Ibom government called the commissioner for health in Rivers State to find out if a COVID-19 test has been conducted on the body and whether the result was out, immediately he read postings on social media that suggested that Mr Etang died of COVID-19.
“The result is not out yet, so I don’t know how people came by the information that he died of COVID-19.
“I am not saying he died or he didn’t die of COVID-19. I am waiting for the result. When the result comes out, we will ask questions, certainly. How did they immediately come up with the information when the result of the test was not yet out? Why did they grant interviews everywhere saying it was COVID-19?
“There are a lot of questions that are left unanswered in this matter. And I want to say here that we stand for our brother, we stand for the lives of our citizens.
“We are monitoring, we are waiting for the result. Once the result comes out, I will let the ‘elders’ of the state know and then we will decide on what to do. We can’t just be keeping quiet. We have told the commissioner if the COVID-19 result comes out negative, they must do autopsy on that body, let’s know what happened.”