The Chief of Army Staff, Lt. Gen. Tukur Buratai and many senior officers of the Nigerian Army have proceeded on 14-day isolation following Thursday’s death of Maj. Gen. Johnson Olu Irefin, the General Officer Commanding (GOC), 6 Division, Bori Camp, Port-Harcourt, Rivers State.
General Irefin reportedly died of COVID-19 complications, heightening fears that many senior officers who had contact with him might have contracted the disease.
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The Army had earlier Thursday announced that a top officer had contracted the virus with credible sources in the military saying Gen. Irefin was the victim who later died in hospital.
There was no official confirmation on his death.
“One of our officers, the GOC 6 Division is dead,” a source in the army said.
“He died in Abuja after developing complications caused by the coronavirus pandemic,” he said.
Prior to assuming the command of the 6 Division and Land Component Commander Operation, Delta Safe, Port Harcourt Barracks, Irefin was the immediate-past GOC 81 Division Nigerian Army, Lagos.
Late Irefin was among the top military officers comprising principal staff officers, GOCs, commandants of army schools, commanders of army operations and the Minister of Defence, Bashir Magashi that participated in the Chief of Army Staff Annual Conference 2020, in Abuja, which was abruptly cancelled when it was discovered that one of those in attendance had contracted COVID-19.
Besides cancelling the major event, Buratai had also asked all the guests invited for the wedding of his son not to attend, indicating that the event will be low key.
There has been a sharp rise in COVID-19 infections across the states with experts attributing the development to the nonchalant attitude of Nigerians.
Cancellation of army conference
Announcing the cancellation of the army conference in a statement on Thursday, the Acting Director, Army Public Relations, Brig. Gen. Sagir Musa, explained that the remaining activities of the conference were immediately cancelled when an officer participating in the programme tested positive for COVID-19.
Musa said: “The Nigerian Army wishes to inform members of the public that due to resurgence of COVID- 19 pandemic in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) Abuja, in what appears to be a second wave of the infection cycle and the unfortunate incident of Tuesday, December 8, 2020, where an officer participating in the ongoing Chief of Army Staff’s Annual Conference 2020 here in Abuja tested positive to COVID 19, the remaining activities of the conference have been cancelled.
“All the participants have been mandated to immediately proceed on self-isolation in line with the federal government’s protocol for COVID 19 and to prevent any further spread of the disease.
“All inconveniences hereby regretted please,” he said.
One of our correspondents, who visited the Army Headquarters in Abuja, on Thursday, observed that the car parks designated for top military officials were empty.
A source, who spoke to Daily Trust in confidence, explained that General Irefin died in an undisclosed location in Abuja after developing complications caused by the coronavirus.
Meanwhile, it was unclear whether Defence Minister, Magashi had proceeded for isolation because he was enlisted as the person that would decorate newly promoted senior officers of the Nigerian Air Force.
I won’t attend my son’s wedding – COAS
Following the recent development, General Buratai has announced that he will not be physically present at the wedding of his son, Hamisu Tukur Buratai, billed to hold on Friday.
The army chief, who announced in a statement issued by General Musa, noted that the wedding would proceed as scheduled but with the exclusion of those who attended the botched conference.
“The Chief of Army Staff, on behalf of his family, feels honoured to sincerely appreciate, thank and welcome all dignitaries and guests to his son’s wedding,” the statement said.
‘Religious leaders responsible for spike in infection’
The federal government has accused some religious organisations of sabotaging the national response in containing the spread of the COVID-19 in the country by holding large gatherings.
The Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF) and Chairman of the Presidential Task Force (PTF) on COVID-19 (PTF), Boss Mustapha, said this during the joint national briefing of the taskforce.
“We have observed, rather sadly, that Nigerians, particularly some faith-based organisations have continued to hold events of large gatherings capable of spreading the virus.
“The PTF urges all sub-national entities that signed the protocols with these organisations and have primary responsibility for enforcing the protocols and NPIs to step up their roles of enforcement,” Mustapha said.
According to him, the PTF would continue engaging with relevant stakeholders on the issues arising from the impact of COVID-19, including mental health, drug use and gender-based violence.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has persisted in the disruption of human activities.
“We have just received a report that one of the annual events of a critical security agency has ended abruptly out of the abundance of caution due to the detection of infected personnel.
“The significance of this occurrence is that testing is critical to the success of our national response.
“We, therefore, urge Nigerians and organisers of events to vigorously pursue the path of testing especially for delegates attending events,” Mustapha said.
He said that while the government works towards rolling out a safe and effective vaccine, citizens must carry on with essential public health actions to suppress transmission and reduce mortality.
He also said that the PTF will in the next two weeks submit its final report to Mr President.
Mustapha, however, said that this was not the end of the assignment as the virus had not been suppressed.
On his part, the Minister of Health, Dr Osagie Ehanire, who warned that Nigeria was on the verge of a second wave of COVID-19 pandemic, said they were planning to procure at least 20 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines as part of the process of inoculating citizens against the deadly virus.
According to him, the vaccination would be administered to those working in the health sector and the vulnerable groups who are at more risk of contracting the disease.
El-Rufai threatens lockdown
Governor Nasir El-Rufai has said that if the people of Kaduna State refuse to wear face masks and observe the social distancing, he will have no option but to lock down the state again.
Daily Trust reports that El-Rufai was one of the state governors that completely locked up his state for weeks in the wake of the COVID-19 spread.
El- Rufai said on Thursday that the state was experiencing a rising rate of infections, warning that government was considering several options to manage the situation.
A statement issued by his Special Adviser on Media and Communication, Mr Muyiwa Adekeye, said El-Rufai conveyed his concern during the signing of the 2021 budget at the government house.
The statement quoted the governor as saying “Between August and September, we were down to 1%, 2%, 3% infection rates from samples we tested but now we are hovering between 20% and 35%.”
‘Nigerians flout safety protocols’
Daily Trust reports apart from Kaduna, many states are now recording increased cases of COVID- 19 infections as the situation took a dramatic turn from November.
Experts attributed the increasing cases to the continued violation of protective measures against the disease by the public.
Findings by our reporters revealed that many Nigerians no longer observe the preventive measure instituted by the federal government to protect them against the virus.
A lot of people flout wearing of face masks, physical and social distancing, as well as hygiene measures such as hand washing and use of hand sanitizers among others.
Daily Trust reports that 10 months into the pandemic, disbelief and misinformation about the virus remain high among the populace.
Health experts and relevant government organisations such as the presidential task force, the Federal Ministry of Health and the NCDC have in the last two months been warning that Nigeria may experience a second wave of the pandemic if people continued to violate the safety protocols.
On Tuesday alone, Nigeria recorded 550 new cases across the country with Lagos and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) recording 219 and 168 cases respectively.
Lagos recorded a total of 694 confirmed COVID-19 cases between December 1 and 7.
So far, the country has recorded 70,669 confirmed cases, 65,242 cases have been discharged and 1,184 deaths recorded in 36 states and the FCT.
Data obtained from the Nigerian Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) showed that there was also an increase in the cases recorded between November 23 and December 6.
The agency’s weekly epidemiological reports showed that 1,029 confirmed cases were recorded between November 23 and 29 while 1, 843 confirmed cases were recorded between November 30 and December 6.
The Chairman, Medical Sub-Committee, FCT Ministerial Expert Advisory Committee on COVID-19, Dr Ejike Orji said a spike in cases occur when people violate preventive measures against the virus.
He said there was the need for Nigerians to understand the philosophy of the disease and not be tired of adhering to the safety measures.
A medical expert with Wuse District Hospital, Dr Kwaifa Ibrahim, said the reasons behind the increasing cases of COVID-19 were multifaceted.
According to him, people had already down-played the cardinal principle of protection of COVID-19 believing that the disease was no longer serious enough to kill the black man.
He said another reason for the increase in cases is the violation of measures in public places and religious gatherings because they believe that the virus was gone.
Dr Kwaifa Ibrahim said other reasons for the increasing cases was the government’s relaxation of awareness campaigns on observing the safety protocol and the harmattan season, which favours transmission as wind and dust harbours the virus.
The Lagos State former Commissioner for Health, Dr Jide Idris enjoined Nigerians to take precautions during the festive season as all indications point to a second wave of the disease.