Former Executive Secretary of National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS), Prof Usman Yusuf has accused the Kano State government of not doing enough to slow down the spread of COVID-19 in Kano.
In this interview with VINCENT KALU, the professor of haematology-oncology and bone marrow transplantation, warns of dire consequences if urgent steps are not taken.
You have written two articles about Kano in respect of COVID-19, what necessitated the writeups?
People are dying in Kano, it is no more news that COVID-19 is killing people in that ancient city.
But the governor is downplaying it, or is he trying to cover it up?
The governor is lying, that is what we are saying. People are dying, in just a space of two days, three professors have died and other eminent citizens of Kano.
Again, why is the governor downplaying such a monumental tragedy?
I don’ know, but journalists are supposed to ask, to find out from him. My own part was to tell the world the tragedy happening in Kano. We are in trouble in Nigeria because if Kano goes down, the whole of Nigeria goes with it, as well as Africa. Kano is already going down, hundreds are dying every day; hundreds are dying every day and there is no solution.
But the governor stood his ground to say nothing like that was going on, and at the same time requesting for N15 billion from the Federal Government, what was he up to?
I don’t know. He is the only one that can answer that question. I have done my own work, which is to let the world know that Kano was going down; that COVID-19 is killing people in their hundreds in that state.
It was reported on Tuesday, that about 70 per cent of doctors in Kano have fled their duty posts, how true is this?
If you have a child who is a medical doctor, and he or she doesn’t have protection equipment, will you allow him or her to go to work? At Aminu Kano Teaching Hospital, we lost two doctors to Lassa fever. The doctors are dying, nurses are dying. It is like sending a soldier to Sambisa forest without a gun, will he go? No soldier will ever attempt going into Sambisa forest without a gun to fight insurgents, he will run away.
Kano is in deep problem; you people should go and find out. Nigeria is in trouble; Kano is in trouble, if care is not taken, Kano will kill all of us. Nigeria and Nigerians need to wake up to the reality that Kano will bring the whole of Africa down.
People are dying, the cemeteries are filling up; in every household there is somebody that is sick right now. Four persons, three professors in the university and my friend, who is a former vicar died yesterday (Monday). Hospitals are shutting down, and the only teaching hospital, there is no capacity, not even hand gloves. They are just telling the president lies.
You said Nigeria needs to wake up and rise to the challenge, what is the country supposed to do in this direction?
I had warned that Kano was going to be the epicenter of the pandemic in Africa, and recently I also said that Kano is now the killing field of COVID-19 in Africa.
These recommendations I made are: firstly, there should be an immediate and forceful federal presence in Kano. Secondly, the Presidential Task Force should relocate to Kano and make it its new theatre of operation reporting to the President. Thirdly, people should immediately be provided with food supplies to enable humane but strict enforcement of total lockdown, which remains the only way of breaking the spread of the virus. Again, the president should address the nation on these deaths with specific plans on what the FGN will do. NCDC lab in Kano should immediately be opened with increased testing capacity. Healthcare workers should immediately be provided with PPE. Hospitals need drugs, consumables, ICU spaces, and ventilators. All deaths and infections from COVID-19 should be properly recorded. Swabs should be taken for the COVID-19 test from all corpses to enable proper mapping of the spread of the virus and the protection of contacts. Recruit an Army of contact tracers from local nurses and community health extension workers (CHEWS) to help in tracing contacts. Engage traditional, religious, and community leaders. Lastly, mount an aggressive public education campaign.
I see the president speech last night picked some of these recommendations, like, locking the state down, but you cannot lockdown a city without giving food to the people. Over 90 per cent of our people come out every day to look for food; you can’t lock them without food.
What are your fears for the future of the country?
I have said it, Nigeria is in trouble and the whole world needs to hear. I’m worried; very worried. Nigeria as a nation needs to wake up to the ever-present danger of the cascading domino effect of COVID-19 infection in Kano spreading to the Northwest zone, the Northwest zone infects the rest of the North, the North infects the whole nation, Nigeria infects the West African sub region, which then infects the rest of Africa, thereby destabilising the whole continent.
Like you mentioned the four prominent citizens of the state, who died within a week, do you see it as a coincidence or what?
No. It is COVID-19. It is killing people in hundreds. It is ravaging the city, just as it did in Wuham, China; in New York, Italy.
But the NCDC said there has not been any postmortem test to determine the cause of the deaths?
Do you know how many years I have been a medical doctor? I have been a doctor for 38 years. I have practiced in Nigeria, America, England; I’m a professor of Medicine, so nobody will deceive me, maybe, they can deceive other people, but not me. So they should carry their Wayo go somewhere else, but not where I am. We are in trouble, pray for Kano and pray for Nigeria.
Don’t you think that the deportation of the Almajiri to other states portends another danger?
As a result of his negligence, Gov. Ganduje is also exporting COVID-19 to the neighboring states of Katsina and Jigawa by repatriating hundreds of Almajiris who are most likely infected by COVID-19 to their states of origin. This was a very thoughtless and dangerous action.
Oh yes. The Kano governor is planting corona virus all across the Northwest and the Northeast. Already, the ones he deported to Kastina, Kaduna, Gombe are all positive.
I have friends, who went to the school with me, some of them are practicing in Umuahia, Port Harcourt, Onitsha, etc, and don’t think that because you are in Port Harcourt that you are safe. There are people from Kano who go to buy goods in Onitsha and if they drop it there, we are in trouble.
The governor must bear full responsibility before man and God Almighty for the chaos that is costing the lives of so many souls which is simply a reflection of his poor leadership, incompetence, and lack of compassion for his people.
I’m very much worried, virus will come and maybe kill millions in Nigeria, from Kano to Onitsha, to Lagos, and other places, but what worries me most is the socio-economic consequences that will follow after this. People are dying, people are hungry, people have no money, but they hear government talking about billions, billions of money, there will be unrest.
The recommendations you put down, did they get to the presidency?
They will see it; they will do what they want to do, but I have a responsibility, and you too have a responsibility , then God Almighty will ask you on the Day of Judgment, ‘what did you do when I sent this plague to your people?’ You are now doing it, you are talking to me, getting information and educating people, and then you have done your part. Me, I’m a doctor, I have the knowledge, which I’m trying to disseminate, so, I have done my part. Every human, from the secuirty man to your driver, God will ask you, ‘what did you do?’