By Auwal Garba Tarauni.
Ordinarily and in an ideal situation, the health sector should not be toyed with a bit due to its criticality to the lives and wellbeing of the people of any society. In fact, the survival, progress, tranquility and sustainability of any society depend squarely on how sound in mind and body the people are. That is why, in almost all societies, the health sector is accorded top priority through the provision of human, financial and material resources for effective and efficient healthcare services to all and sundry without any primordial consideration.
Equally worth-noting is that health professionals are expected to exhibit the highest level of professionalism, expertise and other ethical values on and off duty and any aberration or violation of the ethics of the medical profession is met with stern sanctions and penalties.
With the current outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic, the whole world is now thrown into a chasm resulting in many socio-economic quagmires because this is one of the greatest health challenges facing countries; social life has been disrupted and economic activities brought to a grinding halt. In fact, the scale of the problem cannot be easily quantified and it will take some time before life returns to normal and many years before national and global economies fully recover.
Kano State, by virtue of its large population and being the commercial nerve centre in the west African sub-region, has now become an epicenter of the Covid-19 pandemic in northern Nigeria and it is the second state in the federation with the highest number of confirmed Covid-19 cases now approaching the 1,000 mark. This is despite the huge resources committed by the state government and other public-spirited individuals and corporate bodies to the fight against the spread of the dreaded virus in addition to the numerous containment measures equally put in place.
At present, there are three Covid-19 testing centres in full operation in Kano State at Aminu Kano Teaching Hospital that can handle about 90 samples a day and the 180-capacity centre at Bayero University, Kano. In addition, the President of Dangote Group of Companies, Alhaji Aliko Dangote has donated a 400-capacity testing centre at Muhammad Buhari Specialist Hospital and has began running tests though it is currently being upgraded from 400 samples per day to a thousand samples per day, while the Chairman of BUA Group, Alhaji Abdusamad Isyaku Rabi’u has also donated huge material and financial resources worth billions of Naira to the state government. These two centres handle the testing of suspected cases from Kano and two other neighbouring states and this is the crux of this piece as the testing exercise is now mired in controversies over alleged corruption in the guise of incentivization by officials from the two neighbouring states so that the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) can wade into the issue and probe the allegations of corruption and other unethical practices being levelled against the management of Bayero University, Kano Covid-19 testing centre.
There is no doubt that the management of Bayero University, Kano deserve a tap on the back for establishing the centre and fabricating a ventilator as part of the institution’s valuable contributions to the current fight against the pandemic. Actually, I do not have enough words to commend the Vice Chancellor of BUK, Prof. Yahuza Bello who heads the Kano State Taskforce Committee on Covid-19 for complementing the efforts of the state and federal governments toward curtailing the spread of the debilitating disease. Bravo to you and your management team, Sir.
However, the problem lies with how the BUK Covid-19 testing centre is being run as it is alleged that the person heading it nurses some grievances against the state government to the extent that samples from Kano State are not tested in good time while the ones from our two neighbouring states are tested with despatch. The allegation is that officials from the two other states bribe their way and their samples are promptly tested while the ones from the epicenter are not given equal treatment thus shrouding the whole exercise in controversy. This unethical incentivization of the testing exercise is manifest corruption which will not augur well to the current fight against the pandemic. To say it mildly, this is a sabotage!
It seems the grudges nursed by Prof. Isa Abubakar, the Director, Centre for Infectious Diseases and Research, Bayero University, Kano stems from the refusal of Kano State government to acquiesce to his request to be appointed the head of the Risk Communications Committee under the Kano State Taskforce Committee on Covid-19 which his principal, the BUK Vice Chancellor, Prof. Yahuza Bello is heading the palliatives Committee to the admiration of all stakeholders.
The state government’s decision not to appoint him was not informed by ill-feelings, sentiments or bias against the person of Prof. Isa Abubakar. Rather, the state government, in its wisdom, decided to appoint the District Head of Ajingi and Sarkin Yakin Kano, Alhaji Wada Aliyu Gaya because he has been acting creditably well in a similar capacity in the State’s successful efforts on the Eradication of Polio and his experiences garnered over the years have proved valuable to the operations of the current Risk Communications Committee on Covid-19 in the state.
So, if these allegations are true, which I believe to be, an independent body should be established to come up with all the facts behind them so that appropriate measures should be taken because this is an issue of life and death. To resort to taking bribe at this trying period is a great disservice to the state and humanity at large. Particularly more so, is that this is a serious disservice to the hundreds of health workers on the frontline who sacrifice their lives, health and wellbeing toward saving the lives of others.
Ir is indeed pivotal to the response in terms of both containment of spread and case management to have a timely laboratory result available. At present, many patients quarantined in isolation centres in Kano State are having traumatic experiences due to this unwarranted delay in the release of their results by the BUK Covid-19 centre as the confirmation of their Covid-19 status takes many days sometimes upto a week because of these alleged underhand dealings. Lack of getting test results in time is frustrating to both health care workers and patients as well. It also slows down the mapping of where cases are and responders by way of contact tracing.
It is, therefore, of utmost necessity for the NCDC that shoulders the financial burden of Covid-19 testing including training of personnel and payment of their allowances throughout the country, to institute an independent panel of investigation in order to unravel the controversies surrounding the conduct of the Covid-19 testing exercise at the BUK centre. This will not only nip in the mud the allegation of corruption through incentivization by officials from the two neighbouring states that patronize the BUK centre, but will go a long way in serving as a deterrent to others. If the true issue is unearthed and the allegation established, appropriate sanctions or punishments should be meted against any culprits.
April 22, 2021
April 22, 2021
April 22, 2021
April 22, 2021
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