The Presidential Task Force, PTF, on Covid-19, has formally reported Governor Yahaya Bello of Kogi State to President Muhammadu Buhari, for what it termed as the Governor’s hostile attitude towards the body.
The PTF is also displeased with Governors Nyesom Wike of Rivers State and Ben Ayade of Cross River State, for allegedly not cooperating with the Committee in the fight against Covid-19.
Similarly unimpressed by the attitudes of the Kogi and Cross River States Governments, is the Nigerian Medical Association, NMA, particularly on claims by the two States that they are coronavirus free.
The Association said that the two States must follow the testing guidelines issued by the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control, NCDC, before having such bragging rights.
Sources said that the Kogi State Governor, who is generally perceived as a core Buharist, stands the risk of losing the favour he currently enjoys from the Presidential Villa, Abuja.
The PTF, according to sources, is angry at the “very poor” attitude of Governor Bello to the management of the coronavirus pandemic, which has led to the conduct of only two tests so far in his State.
The Committee suspects that the State may be suppressing information about the coronavirus infections in its territory, going by the Governor’s alleged maltreatment of the NCDC Officials sent to the State, on Thursday.
The 4-man NCDC team sent to the State, was allegedly hounded and escorted out of Lokoja, the State capital, by some Policemen and Security Agents up to the Airport Road in Abuja, on the order of the Governor.
The development and reports of some cases at the Federal Medical Centre, FMC, in Lokoja, were said to have fuelled suspicion by the PTF, that the State has more to hide on the Covid-19 pandemic.
Consequently, the PTF has met with all the Security Agencies, to “keep them abreast of the breach of the Quarantine Act by the State Government”.
A top level source said: “The facts at our disposal have shown that Kogi is at the risk of Covid-19, because it is a melting point for inter-State travellers, and it shares borders with 12 States (about one-third of the States in the Federation), which had recorded infections. The border States are Ondo, Ekiti, Edo, Kwara, Niger, Anambra, Niger, Enugu, Osun, FCT, Plateau, and Benue.
“Kogi has only conducted two tests, despite the increasing rate of community spread. We were shocked that the State Government has refused to fulfil its obligations as enshrined in the Quarantine Act 1990 CAP 384 LFN.
“Yet, the PTF has been very polite in relating with Bello. For instance, the Minister of Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire, on Tuesday, called the Governor, and it was agreed that a 4-man team of NCDC would be sent to the State.
“But while receiving the 4-man team on Thursday, he said they should handover the letter they brought to the State Commissioner for Health. In the process, the Commissioner had contact with the Head of the Team, and the Governor sparked by ordering his immediate quarantine.
“Following refusal to be quarantined, the Governor humiliated the team by ensuring that they were escorted by armed Police out of Lokoja to the Airport road in Abuja.”
Another reliable source said: “The PTF was briefed by the team which went to Kogi State, and the Committee in turn held a meeting with Security Agencies, where the Governor’s unbecoming attitude was formally reported.
“The PTF members also unanimously decided to report the Governor to President Muhammadu Buhari, since he has always boasted that he has the ears of the President.
“The position of the Committee, is for the President to invoke his powers in the 1999 Constitution, to declare a state of emergency in Kogi State, or use his inherent authority in the Quarantine Act, to impose a lockdown on the State.
“The PTF believes that any of these steps should be taken, if the Governor remains recalcitrant. It is left to the President to decide the fate of Kogi State.
“Although, the Governor is a favourite of the Presidential Villa, it is doubtful if he can have his way. He is overstretching his luck.”
Investigation also showed that the PTF is equally angry with Governors Nyesom Wike and Ben Ayade, for “not cooperating with the Committee on the containment of Covid-19”.
A member of the Task Force said: “These 2 Governors are not doing enough to contain the coronavirus; they are playing politics with it. They have not paid serious attention to the campaign against Covid-19.
“These 2 Governors are also under watch, because we will not allow them to derail our efforts at containing the epidemic. What we are demanding from the Governors, are concrete steps to stop community spread, not playing to the gallery. Enough of politics with Covid-19.
“Ayade sees the entire Covid-19 epidemic as not real, but an attempt to make money.”
It could not be immediately ascertained whether the President may impose lockdown in Rivers and Cross River States.
A highly-placed source noted: “We will not allow the situation in those two States to deteriorate, we are monitoring them closely.”
The Attorney-General of the Federation, AGF, and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, SAN, in a recent statement, said that the President has the power to deal with the situation reports in Kogi, Rivers, and Cross River States, having taken similar measures in the Federal Capital Territory, FCT, Lagos and Ogun States.
Malami said: “Section 3 of the Act enables the President to declare any part of Nigeria as an infected area. Section 4 of the Act further empowers the President to make regulations to prevent the introduction, spread, and transmission of any dangerous infectious disease.
“Section 6 of the Act requires the President and State Governors to provide sanitary stations, buildings, and equipment. Thus, in recognition of the critical roles being played by the State Governors in these trying times, the Federal Government has been working with the States, in line with the dictates of Section 6 of the Act.
“It is important to inform the discerning members of the public, that the President did not make a declaration of a state of emergency under Section 305 (1) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended), which would have required the concurrence of both houses of the National Assembly.
“Even at that, Section 305 (6) (b) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) permits a proclamation of a state of emergency to run for a period of 10 days, without the approval of the National Assembly, when the Parliament is not in session, as in the present situation, wherein the National Assembly has shut down.”