‘I honestly thought things couldn’t get worse than what we heard last week. I mean I believed that was the lowest we could stoop, in this trying times, but I was wrong, apparently.’ I said to Maryam as soon as our phone greetings were over.
‘What are you lamenting about Bint? These days you are never short of something to complain about.’ She observed, humour obvious in her voice.
‘Do you really find this funny Maryam? I was expecting you to be fuming with anger by now, but there you are making jest of the whole thing?’ I queried.
‘I don’t even know what I should be angry about, so how would I know how to react?’ She asked.
‘You mean you haven’t seen the WhatsApp message I forwarded to you? No wonder you sounded so unperturbed. I sent you the story of an incident in one of our states, where a boy with a head injury was given a card that said he was a COVID-19 patient who had just been cured. Apparently just to raise the figure of the so-called Corona virus cases in that particular state.’ I explained.
‘But what for? Why would they want to make the cases seem more than they actually are?’ Maryam asked, suddenly sounding serious.
‘Maybe to get a sizeable chunk of Federal government’s palliatives to states or to grab a big bite of the money contributed by big corporations and captains of industry to fight the disease. But what got me so disgusted is that more people are turning out to be as bad as the local government councilor in Niger state, who ran away with the lockdown palliative grains given to him to share among his people.’ I declared.
‘Someone actually did that?’ Maryam enquired, in total shock.
‘Yes, a local government councilor too, for that matter. He was entrusted with the distribution but he chose to run away with it. The State government has declared him wanted. And I honestly thought that’s the lowest we could get, but look at a government hospital issuing Corona virus identification card to a child who has no such infection. The only explanation the nurse could give to his mother was that she was only following instructions from above, which said she should register new patients as victims of the pandemic.’ I answered.
‘This means that there is truth in the CNN report about fake COVID-19 figures in Nigeria.’ Maryam said. ‘I recently saw a CNN report alleging that some state officials are announcing bogus figures of infected persons everyday. But I really didn’t pay much attention to the report because I didn’t think it was possible to do that.’ She added.
‘You mean this fraud has already been reported by CNN? It’s so unfortunate that we keep making news for all the wrong reasons. Once upon a time, we made global news as the happiest people on earth, according to a survey. Another year we made news as the most religious people in the world because we had the highest number of mosque and church-goers globally. Now we just make news in matters of corruption and fraud. Imagine using a deadly pandemic like COVID-19 to make money. What good will the money do if one ends up catching the infection. Why don’t they consider this?’ I asked, rhetorically.
‘I think the dishonesty is even worse than that Bint dear. Just before your call came in, I saw a breaking news alert that the Commissioner for health in Cross River State is accusing the National Centre for Disease Control of putting pressure on the state to declare a COVID-19 case. Apparently the state hasn’t had their index patient yet and for some reasons the NCDC desperately wants them to have one. Hence the intense pressure on the officials, which made the commissioner furious. In fact what was more shocking to me was when she said that some people told her that they were being offered money in millions, just to declare that they were Corona virus positive. Can you believe that?’ Maryam demanded.
‘Really, did she say who was offering the money?’ I asked, totally incredulous.
‘No, Dr Betta Edu, the commissioner, didn’t name names but she did say any NCDC officials that steps foot into Cross River State will be quarantined for 14 days. I think this is enough to show you where her finger is pointing.’ Maryam opined.
‘Yes, and now I know why David Cameron once said that some of us were fantastically corrupt. Whoever can seek to make personal gains from this deadly disease, by falsifying figures, is truly and totally heartless and corrupt. My only prayer is he or she gets infected with the COVID-19. It might give him or her a little fear of God in their hearts.’ I concluded.