COVID-19: In Kwara, govt, residents sustain fight against a mounting pandemic

Date: 2020-04-24

On February 27, 2020 when the index case of the dreaded coronavirus was reported in Nigeria, many residents of Kwara had assumed they had immunity because of their strong faith in their religious beliefs. As it stands, however, the state has nine persons already tested positive to the coronavirus disease.

Some other people in the state also believe that the infection could not have been recorded in the state if not for the alleged unethical conduct of a now suspended top medical personnel at the University of Ilorin Teaching Hospital (UITH), who was said to have secretly treated a suspected COVID-19 patient and brought same patient to the teaching hospital where he later died.

Some family members of the deceased, four medical doctors and a nurse have also tested positive to the virus. The family members have since been discharged after testing negative twice to the virus while in isolation.

The ancient Offa town was where the deceased, suspected to have died of the coronavirus, was buried with many sympathisers visiting the family during the burial to condole with them.

Troubled by the occurrence, the state government scaled up its efforts at curtailing the spread of the virus with the fear that community spread of the disease could consume a lot of government resources.

Thus, the state government, through the technical committee on the COVID-19, ordered a total lockdown for an initial 14 days on the ancient town of Offa, in Offa Local Government Area, while the partial lockdown of all other parts of the state was made total later on. There were just exemptions of Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays for people to go to neighbourhood markets to restock their food items.

Many neighbourhood traders who spoke with the Nigerian Tribune also complained that they needed to visit major markets to transact businesses, despite vehicular restriction order by the state government.

Interestingly, there were also instances of disobedience of the stay-at-home order as people grumbled that what they described as ‘hunger virus’ could kill them even before the devastation of the coronavirus. Thus, there were pockets of instances where people flouted the order by going to markets, or opening their businesses.

On Wednesday, April 15, 2020, a state magistrates’ court sentenced three people to one month community service for flouting the stay-at-home directive given by the state government.

The offenders: Amos Phillip, Babangida Dontatin, Baroye Abel, who are sawmill operators at the popular Sawmill area of Ilorin metropolis, were arrested while engaging in commercial activities in flagrant disobedience of the stay-at-home directive. They were ordered to sweep the premises of the Kwara State High Court between 9:00 am and 1:00 pm starting from Thursday, April 16, 2020.

The magistrate, in his ruling, told the convicts that failure to comply with the judgment was another offence, saying that the community service would be supervised by officers of the Correctional Services.

The magistrate also said that the punishment would serve as deterrence to others who were still disobeying government's directive designed to curb the spread of the virus which has killed thousands of people across the world. Some youths in the state, under the aegis of the Nigerian Youth Workers Association (NYWA), said they were willing to obey the stay-at-home order, but urged government at all levels and the National Assembly to reduce rates on rent, Value Added Tax (VAT) to cushion the effect of the coronavirus pandemic on the private sector and youths in the country.

Speaking with journalists in Ilorin, the national chairman of the association, Ben Duntoye, a former information commissioner in the state, said that the measure would make tenants and landlords negotiate rent payments during this period.

"We call for a legislation that will make Nigerians who have been hard hit by COVID-19, most especially the youths, to be exempted from paying rent, company taxes; servicing bank loans and utility bills during this period. The youths should not be laid off or coerced to take a pay cut by their employers.

"The importance of youths to the socioeconomic development of the country cannot be overemphasized and the only way to assist them is to remove all bottlenecks that can impede their commitment to the growth of the nation," he said.

Speaking on the need for people to obey government's order, a prominent traditional chief in the Ilorin emirate, the Magaji Nda of Ilorin, Alhaji Salihu Woru Muhammed, reminded the people of Kwara State that the Spanish Influenza, similar to the coronavirus, claimed about 85,000 lives in Ilorin province in 1918. Muhammed urged the people to observe all safety measures on COVID-19 in order not to have a repeat of that prevalence rate in the area.

Muhammad, who said that there are good lessons the people of the state should learn from the 1918 Spanish influenza, otherwise known as the Spanish flu, added that, "The Spanish flu hit the whole world suddenly and spread like wide fire. It killed about 50 million people across the globe. Again, like the coronavirus, there was no cure. The only remedy to the virus was isolation, quarantine, good personal hygiene, use of disinfectants and ban on public gatherings.

"Today, over 100 years after, the world is faced with similar threat from a similar virus. Again, without any cure, nations and leaders are resorting to the same remedies: isolation, good personal hygiene, use of disinfectants, ban on public gatherings and so on. This historical experience invites us to take these preventive and control measures against COVID-19 most seriously," Muhammad said.

The traditional chief said that the gains of adherence to the safety measures far outweigh the current hardship such measures have inflicted on the people.

"The truth is that the hard and painful decisions the Kwara State government had taken to prevent and contain the incursion of the virus into our community were forced on the government purely by circumstance beyond its control. Moreover, these measures have been applied with good results by other countries that have suffered the scourge.

"I appeal to you once again to cooperate with government in its efforts to curb the spread of COVID-19 in our state", he said.



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