Tuesday, March 31, 2020

25 year old Nigerian student dies of coronavirus weeks before graduation

Weeks before he was set to graduate at the Western Michigan University, a Nigerian-America student, Bassey Offiong, died from coronavirus after being refused a test several times in Michigan.

The PUNCH gathered that the deceased is a 25-year-old college student studying Chemical Engineering at the Michigan-based university.

A relative to the deceased told The PUNCH that he tested positive for coronavirus on Friday.

Offiong’s cousin, Rosalyn Afiong, added that the student died on Sunday, describing the deceased as a “shining light.”

“My dear sweet cousin, this is unreal. I don’t even know where to begin. May your soul rest in eternal peace. You did everything and more with your time here on Earth, and although you weren’t anywhere near done in your purpose, you’ve been called for a higher purpose bigger than us all.

“I love you so much and I pray you to keep that same light shining on us from above,” Afiong said while paying a tribute on Facebook.

According to his sister, Offiong was refused testing several times despite showing symptoms of the deadly virus.

She said the victim had shortness of breath, fatigue and fever before his death.

“I told him to ask them to test him. He said they refused to test him,” she told Detroit News.

Confirming his death, WMU president, Edward Montgomery, said, “On behalf of the entire Bronco community, I want to extend my deepest condolences to his entire family, including his sister Asari, who has been generous in communicating with us regularly.”

One of his friends, Koko Adiaha, said it was “extremely hard” to believe Offiong’s death,

Adiaha said, “My mother called me frantic and told me we lost Bassey Offiong due to COVID-19. I just can’t wrap my head around the why and how.

“This one is extremely hard to process. Beloved by everyone who knew him. Bassey deserved much more than what was offered to him.”

A representative of Michigan’s Sixth Congressional District, Fred Upton, added, “I woke up this Sunday morning to the sad news of a WMU Engineering student who passed away with coronavirus.

“He had a ventilator and, likely, other members of his immediate family are also impacted along with perhaps his roommates at WMU. Our condolences are with them.”


Monday, March 30, 2020

President Buhari full Address on COVID-19

From the first signs that Coronavirus, or COVID-19 was turning into an epidemic and was officially declared a world-wide emergency, the Federal Government started planning preventive, containment and curative measures in the event the disease hits Nigeria. President Buhari addresses Nigerians, says his administration is doing everything to contain the outbreak of Coronavirus in the country. The president made the assurance in a broadcast on Sunday.

Lagos on Lockdown to Curb Virus in Nigeria

Nigeria will restrict all movement of people and ordered businesses and offices closed in its two main cities, Lagos and Abuja, as well as Ogun state -- the three areas in Africa’s most populous nation that have been hit hardest by the coronavirus.

The lockdown will take effect Monday at 11 p.m. and last for an initial period of two weeks, President Muhammadu Buhari said in a speech on state TV Sunday. The first country in sub-Saharan Africa to identify a person who tested positive for the disease, Nigeria now has 97 cases. It’s already closed its borders and halted domestic flights.

Lagos, Africa’s biggest city, is a sprawling metropolis of about 20 million people, and Abuja, the capital, has several million. Ogun state neighbors Lagos and is an industrial hub.

“We are fully aware that such measures will cause much hardship and inconvenience to many citizens,” Buhari said. “But this is a matter of life and death.”

While travel to or from other states must be restricted, the seaports will remain open for cargo. Private jets will also be grounded and all federal government stadia will be converted into isolation centers and makeshift hospitals, he said.

Among other measures announced by Buhari are the suspension of repayments for credit given to low-income traders and farmers, as well as for manufacturers and agribusinesses that have received funding as part of Buhari’s policy to reduce Nigeria’s dependence on oil.

By Ruth Olurounbi and Elisha Bala-Gbogbo


Thursday, March 26, 2020

Kidnapped Nigerian footballers freed

Two Nigerian footballers - one a Super Eagles international - have been released after being kidnapped on Sunday.

Enyimba FC, for whom midfielder Ekundayo Ojo plays, said that both he and Abia Comet's Benjamin Iluyomade had "regained their freedom."

The pair were taken on Sunday when a vehicle they were travelling in from Akure was attacked. Another player from Enyimba, Emmanuel James, was also in the car, but escaped.

"Our midfielder man, Dayo Ojo has regained freedom from his kidnappers," the club tweeted.

Ojo represented Nigeria at senior level at the 2018 African Nations Championship, and at youth level with the U-17 in 2010.

The news of the kidnapping had come just hours after the death in a car crash of two footballers from Rangers International - Emmanuel Ogbu and Ifeanyi George, who was also a Super Eagles player.
Enyimba statement in full

"Enyimba midfielder Ekundayo Ojo and Abia Comets' Benjamin Iluyomade, who were kidnapped on Sunday have regained their freedom.

The footballers were released on Wednesday night following efforts of the Nigeria Police Force, with support from Enyimba Football Club, the National Association of Nigeria Professional Footballers and families of the players.

It would be recalled that the footballers were kidnapped along the Benin-Owo expressway as they journeyed to Akure following the suspension of the Nigeria Professional Football League amid concerns over the global pandemic, Covid-19.

The players have since reunited with their families."


Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Video - Nigeria imposes restrictions amid sharp increase in COVID-19 cases

There are concerns there is too much indifference towards the pandemic in Africa's most populous nation. Nigeria has imposed restrictions in its administrative and commercial capitals following a sharp rise in cases, and its first death. But the streets are still packed with people.

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Video - Churches in Nigeria shut their gates to worshippers

Most churches in the commercial city of Lagos have shut their gates to worshippers. This follows a government directive asking religious institutions to limit their gatherings to not more than 20 persons. It's part of measures by the government to curb the spread of COVID-19, which has seen a spike in the number of confirmed cases in recent days. Here is CGTN's Deji Badmus with more on that story.

Monday, March 23, 2020

Two Nigerian players killed in car crash

Two Nigerian footballers - international striker Ifeanyi George and Emmanuel Ogbu - have been killed in a car crash in Abudu that also claimed the life of a third person.

The pair, who played for Nigerian league side Enugu Rangers, were involved in a crash on the Benin-Agbor road whilst travelling to Lagos on Sunday morning.

Super Eagles forward George, who won two caps for his country in 2017, was 26.

Ogbu was a member of the club's youth team.

The car had another passenger - Eteka Gabriel, a friend of George's - who also died.

The players were returning to Lagos from Enugu following a break in the Nigeria league due to the coronavirus pandemic.

"The management of Rangers International FC shall, in conjunction with the families of Ifeanyi George and Emmanuel Ogbu, pay a befitting last respect to both players," a club statement read.

"We mourn their sudden demise. It's indeed shocking that we are talking of Ifeanyi and Emmanuel in the past tense."


Nigeria reports its first coronavirus-related death

Nigeria reported its first coronavirus-related death on Monday, Nigeria's Centre for Disease Control said.

The patient was a 67-year-old man who came back to Nigeria in March after undergoing medical treatment in the UK, the NCDC said in a tweet.

He had multiple underlying health conditions including including cancer, diabetes and had been undergoing chemotherapy treatments, the statement from the agency said.

Two people, including an Italian who was the first case of coronavirus diagnosed in the country, have recovered and been discharged from the hospital, authorities said.

The country is locked in a race against time to control the spread of the novel coronavirus in Africa's most populous nation as cases have increased to 36 across six states as of Monday morning.
Universities are shut nationwide while some states have closed schools in the West African country to prevent local transmission of the virus.

All civil servants in non-essential roles have been ordered to work from home for at least two weeks in Lagos State, a megacity of around 20 million people.

Airports closed

The Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority announced a ban on all international flights except essential or emergency flights on Saturday.

The majority of new coronavirus cases have been detected in Nigerians who returned from countries in Europe, Canada, and the United States prompting authorities to impose a travel ban on citizens from countries with more than 1,000 cases last week.


Nigeria records chloroquine poisoning after Trump endorses it for coronavirus treatment

Health officials in Nigeria have issued a warning over chloroquine after they said three people in the country overdosed on the drug, in the wake of President Trump's comments about using it to treat coronavirus.

A Lagos state official told CNN that three people were hospitalized in the city after taking the drug. Officials later issued a statement cautioning against using chloroquine for Covid-19 treatment.
US President Donald Trump claimed at a White House briefing last week that the Food and Drug Administration had approved the "very powerful" drug chloroquine to treat coronavirus.

"It's shown very encouraging -- very, very encouraging early results. And we're going to be able to make that drug available almost immediately. And that's where the FDA has been so great. They -- they've gone through the approval process; it's been approved. And they did it -- they took it down from many, many months to immediate. So we're going to be able to make that drug available by prescription or states," Trump said.

He added: "Normally the FDA would take a long time to approve something like that, and it's -- it was approved very, very quickly and it's now approved, by prescription."

However, the FDA after the briefing issued a statement saying it had not approved the drug for use against Covid-19 and is still studying its effectiveness against the disease.

Price hikes

Trump's endorsement of the drug led to a surge of interest among Nigerians keen to stock up on the medication, which has led to inevitable price hikes in the megacity of around 20 million inhabitants.
One man told CNN that in a pharmacy near his home on the Lagos mainland, he witnessed the price rise by more than 400% in a matter of minutes.

Kayode Fabunmi, a Lagos-based lawyer, said: "The pharmacist knew the market and was saying to every incoming customer, 'You know Donald Trump has said this thing cures coronavirus,' and the price kept changing.

"The original price was 200 naira (around 50 cents), then it became 500 naira ($1.38) then it became 1,000 naira ($2.77) while I was there," he said.

The Lagos State Health Ministry issued a brief statement saying there was no "hard evidence that chloroquine is effective in prevention or management of coronavirus infection."
Chloroquine is used to treat malaria, lupus and rheumatoid arthritis.

Malaria is an endemic disease in Nigeria and other parts of Africa and for many years, it was common to treat it with chloroquine. However, at least 40 African countries, including Nigeria, have phased it out as a frontline antimalarial drug and replaced it with other drugs following widespread resistance to it.

Lack of clinical evidence

While doctors in China, the United States and other countries have used the drug experimentally in Covid-19 patients, there is not yet enough clinical evidence that it's effective in humans or the management of the disease.

Dr. Michel Yao, Africa emergency response program manager for the World Health Organization, told CNN there are 20 drugs and the same number of vaccines under clinical trial, and it is too early to make recommendations about the efficacy of any for the treatment of the virus.

"The WHO's position is clear. Any medication should be based on evidence. We don't have yet any evidence from any of these trials that would allow WHO to do a formal recommendation. All these are in progress, so it is difficult for us to recommend at this stage that any of the medicine can be of use for the treatment of coronavirus," Yao said.

"It is too early to rush to the decision that chloroquine ... at least for WHO to recommend it for the treatment of coronavirus," he added.

Side effects 

Fabunmi, 44, told CNN he had used chloroquine before to treat malaria and recalled that severe itching was one of the side effects.

"For two, three days you will be itching," he said. "You dread having a bath, you will scratch and scratch and you would have to take piriton (an antihistamine) alongside it.

"It's also very bitter. If you make the mistake of letting it drop in your mouth, you will feel the taste for a long time."

Nigeria as of Sunday has reported 30 cases of Covid-19 and Fabunmi said he feels better having his batch of chloroquine.

"I didn't mind paying as I just wanted to get some in case it will become necessary. ... I didn't want a situation where I will regret not buying it. Better to be safe than sorry," he said.

By Stephanie Busari and Bukola Adebayo


Friday, March 20, 2020

Nigeria Says Virus May Trigger Foreign-Exchange Realignment

We’re tracking the latest on the coronavirus outbreak and the global response. Sign up here for our daily newsletter on what you need to know.

The Nigerian government warned the coronavirus pandemic could set off an exchange rate “realignment,” in a rare acknowledgment by an administration that has made a stable currency a key economic pillar.

After meeting with his new Economic Advisory Council, President Muhammadu Buhari said the country needed to prepare to take “tough economic decisions.”

A global recession “could slow down Nigeria’s fragile growth and trigger exchange rate re-alignment,” the presidency said in a statement summarizing discussions.

Last week the central bank denied it had plans to devalue the naira at this time, amid speculation of a mark down. The currency has remained largely stable over the last two years under the management of the central bank.

Crashing oil prices have increased pressure on the naira as foreign reserves in Africa’s top oil producer falls rapidly. Nigeria relies on crude sales as its main source of hard currency.

“These lines make me hopeful that they are coming around to considering a devaluation in the near term, instead of prevaricating,” said Yvonne Mhango, a sub-Saharan Africa economist at Renaissance Capital.

The advisory group, headed by a former central bank board member, Doyin Salami, recommended the securitization of government debt, a new revenue stabilization program and cutting costs. The council voiced concerns over worsening economic fundamentals reflected by quickening inflation and weak external sector, the statement said.
By Alonso Soto


Nigeria confirms four new positive cases of COVID-19

Nigeria recorded four new cases of the coronavirus in Lagos state bringing the total number of confirmed positive cases in the country to 12, the Ministry of Health said on Thursday.

A statement from the ministry said that the cases were confirmed by the Lagos University Teaching Hospital adding that the patients were in stable condition.

According to the statement, the four are all Nigerians, two of whom recently returned from the United Kingdom and France.

One of the patients is a contact of a case who tested positive Monday while the fourth case has no history of travelling to any of the high-risk countries.

“They are all being treated and clinically stable, including our youngest patient. The government is committed to providing optimal care for all confirmed COVID-19 cases who are currently hospitalized in Lagos and Ekiti state,” the statement read in part.

The ministry added that it is tracing all the people who may have come into contact with the new cases.

Meanwhile, Nigerian Minister of Health Dr Osagie Ehanire called for calm and collective responsibility, rather than panic, to contain the pandemic.

“Nigeria is experiencing an influx of imported COVID-19 cases by returning Nigerians, emphasising the importance of self-isolation for a minimum of 14 days even if you feel well,” Dr Ehanire tweeted.

On Wednesday, Nigeria’s federal government announced a ban on travelers from 13 countries as a measure of controlling the coronavirus pandemic.

The affected countries include China, the United States, the United Kingdom, Italy, Iran, South Korea, Spain, Japan, France, Germany, Norway, the Netherlands and Switzerland.

The measure will take effect on Saturday, March 21.


Lagos is trying to shut down to beat coronavirus - that’s easier said than done

Some of the most striking imagery of the impact of the coronavirus outbreak have been photos of empty streets and tourist hotspots in the world’s biggest cities.

As part of attempts to limit the spread of Covid-19, governments have instituted lock-down measures and banned public gatherings. Lagos, Africa’s largest city with 21 million people, is attempting to do the same. With 11 confirmed cases, by far the most in Nigeria, the state government has asked schools to shut down and banned public gatherings of more than 50 people, particularly religious congregations.

In the event of more cases, tougher measures will likely follow. Given Lagos’ standing as Nigeria’s economic nerve center, the threat of a highly contagious viral outbreak in a state where 20 million people are squeezed into land mass that’s about the size of Indianapolis (population: 870,000), is grim.

But shutting down Lagos on any scale will likely be an uphill task for the government.

The city is defined by non-stop activity and a hustle and bustle spirit that perennially draws thousands of Nigerians from other states in search of better economic opportunities. It’s a city of ingenuity and chutzpah which most people need to be able to survive in an overwhelmed urban system. This means Lagos is often defined by lawlessness as people seek solutions for their daily life.

For example, it’s not an uncommon to see Lagosians drive on the wrong side of the road to beat the city’s notorious traffic jams. Neither is having roads blocked by tents for parties with hundreds of partygoers. Rather than being seen as breaking the law, in Lagos, these are thought of as being smart.

One long-standing government policy illustrates this point. For more than two decades, Thursday mornings have been set aside for “environmental” clean-ups. But for the last five years at least, the policy has existed only on paper and is now being enforced sparingly by rent-seeking government officials who punish shop owners for opening for businesses before the prescribed 10 am mark.

Beyond cultural and behavioral nuances, the government will also be up against the might of religion—Nigeria’s Christian population is the largest in Africa and is projected to double by 2060. Lagos itself is home to some of the countries most well-attended mega-churches with hundreds of branches that welcome millions in congregation every Sunday.

As such, attempting to enforce a ban on religious gatherings likely puts the state government at odds with powerful religious leaders whose co-operation is fundamental given their influence. Yet, there are already signs of potential conflict between the government and influential clergymen: the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) says a ban on religious gatherings is not necessary. “We believe we will never get to the point of having to ban all services and churches will be grounded,” CAN’s Lagos chairman has said.

These issues will also apply to Lagos’ vast Muslim population (Nigeria has the fifth largest Muslim population globally) when it comes to attending large mosques for customary prayer services on Friday.

One way governments across the globe have ensured that lockdowns are effective has been to assuage the effects of lost income on citizens with social benefits like suspending particular taxes and bills as well as offering cash payments. But even those measures are unlikely to work in Lagos.

Inefficient data capturing methods and agencies mean the Lagos government does not really know how many people live in its sprawling city as its suburbs keep growing out into neighboring states.

And there’s also the practical matter of being able to afford such palliative measures for 21 million people as recent events suggest otherwise: after a tragic gas explosion in the Lagos suburb of Abule Ado last week, the state government launched a relief fund asking citizens to donate to pay off medical bills and relocation costs of those affected.

By Yomi Kazeem


Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Video - Nigeria presses on with Tokyo 2020 Olympics preparations

Nigeria is still preparing its team to take part in the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, but with the coronavirus outbreak, there is an air of uncertainty over its full participation in the summer games. Deji Badmus reports.

Former Nigeria star John Obi Mikel leaves Trabzonspor over coronavirus fears

John Obi Mikel has left Turkish side Trabzonspor days after the former Chelsea midfielder said he did not feel comfortable with top-flight games in the country being played despite the coronavirus pandemic.

The Super Lig team confirmed in a statement that the Nigerian, who joined them last year and had a contract until May 2021, had left by mutual consent.

"There is more to life than football," he wrote on Instagram on Saturday. I do not feel comfortable and don't want to play football in this situation.

"Everyone should be home with their families and loved ones in this critical time. [The] season should be cancelled as the world is facing such turbulent times."

The big five leagues in Europe -- England, Spain, Germany, Italy and France -- as well as the Champions League and Europa League, have all been suspended, but Turkish league games are going ahead without fans present.

The outbreak, which has infected over 190,000 people and killed more than 7,500 around the world, has also forced the postponement of the European Championship and Copa America. It has also affected a host of other international events.


Nigeria announces five new cases of coronavirus

THE federal government has announced five new cases of coronavirus disease in the country, in addition to the existing three cases.
With the development, Nigeria now has eight confirmed cases of the disease.

The Minister of Health, Osagie Ehanire, in an ongoing press conference in Abuja, on the update of the disease in the country, said all the new five cases had a travel history to and from the United Kingdom, UK and the United States of America, USA.

“We urge Nigerians to remain calm as public health response activities are intensified across the country,” he said.
The centre also wrote on Twitter that “A Detailed travel history of each case is being compiled & contact tracing has begun Our National Emergency Operations Centre is supporting response in the states The Federal Government through @Fmohnigeria is conducting risk assessment to initiate other relevant measures “@Fmohnigeria through NCDC will continue to provide accurate updates & take the necessary measures to protect the health of Nigerians We ask that the public refrain from spreading false information while we all engage in proper hand & respiratory hygiene to #PreventCOVID19Spread

By Joseph Erunke and David Royal


Nigeria bans entry for travellers from 13 countries as it announces five new cases of coronavirus

Nigeria is restricting entry into the country for travelers from 13 countries including the US and UK, as it announced five new cases Wednesday.

The restriction will apply to travelers from countries with more than 1,000 cases. They include China, Italy, Iran, South Korea, Spain, Japan, France, Germany, the United States, Norway, UK, Netherlands and Switzerland, the country's National Centre for Disease Control said on its Twitter account.

"The Federal Government of Nigeria has also suspended the issuance of visa on arrival to travelers from these countries. All travelers returning from these countries prior to the restriction will be in supervised self-isolation, monitored by the NCDC and Port Health Services," - the tweet read.
The restriction will take effect starting on March 20 and will be in place until further notice.

Health officials also announced an additional five cases of the virus in the country, bringing the total number of confirmed cases to eight. One of them is a recovered patient who came in contact with the index case to Nigeria, an Italian man on a business trip to the country, authorities said.

In an earlier statement on Tuesday, the NCDC said a 30-year-old woman, who came into the country after a short visit to the UK tested positive to coronavirus after she developed symptoms including coughing and a fever on her return.

She had self-isolated in her home when she arrived in the country on March 13 and called the agency when she developed symptoms, the NCDC said, adding that it had begun tracing those who had come in contact with her.

"We expect the number to be small because of her sensible decision to go into self-isolation from the time of her arrival," the statement read.

Africa shutting its doors

Nigeria joins other African countries that are shutting their airports and land borders to keep out people from countries that have a high number of coronavirus cases.

Tunisia on Monday suspended all international flights and closed the country's land borders in an attempt to contain the outbreak. It also banned gathering in markets and other places and introduced a nighttime curfew from 6 p.m to 6 a.m from Wednesday.

Sudan also sealed off all sea ports, land crossings and airports, a spokesman for Sudan's Transitional Sovereign Council, Mohamed Al-Faki Suleiman, said in a press statement.

Hundreds of international flights have been canceled, schools have closed and travelers from coronavirus-hit countries have been restricted or, in some cases, banned from visiting some countries in Africa.

Egypt, with the highest number of coronavirus cases in Africa, announced it was suspending flights from all its airports starting Thursday to stop the spread of the virus, Ahram Online reported.

Some countries such as Djibouti are yet to record a single case, but it has suspended all international flights to the country, the US Embassy in Djibouti said in a statement.

There is widespread support on the continent for governments to impose travel bans. One Twitter user noted that Western countries would have acted swiftly to place travel sanctions on travelers if the outbreak originated in Africa.

"I hope African countries close up their borders to all these majorly affected countries because we all know the west would ban travel had Coronavirus started in Africa," they said.

Advice against restrictions

The travel bans and restrictions goes against the advice of the WHO, which has urged countries to not apply blind travel restrictions in a way that would impact trade and travel.

WHO Africa's Dr. Mary Stephen told CNN that many African countries, which were initially screening passengers from countries with outbreaks and also placing travelers from virus-hit countries on quarantine, may now be making travel ban decisions based on panic.

"The outbreak is evolving. It used to be China and now it is Italy and other countries are following after it. So we must be careful because we have seen an increasing number of countries imposing travel restrictions, and that means their perception of risks have changed. But have they done a risk assessment to their countries or are they just implementing those measures based on their perception?" she said.

Stephen, who is with the organization's emergencies team, said African countries need to enhance their capacities to detect early, isolate and track all patients' contacts and effectively manage the sick to curb the spread of coronavirus.

She added that airport screening and a robust surveillance system were effective ways to detect cases from travelers without symptoms.

"WHO continues to advise countries not to impose travel restrictions but countries also have their sovereignty," she said.

'A ban on foreign nationals'
South Africa has declared a "national state of disaster," and put in place a number of travel restrictions on foreign nationals in a bid to halt the spread of the virus.
"We are imposing a travel ban on foreign nationals from high-risk countries such as Italy, Iran, South Korea, Spain, Germany, the United States, the United Kingdom and China as from 18 March 2020,"

President Cyril Ramaphosa said in his address to the nation on Sunday.
Ramaphosa said the country was seeing an internal transmission of the virus that was first detected in a group that traveled to Italy.

He said the government will take "urgent and drastic measures'' to protect the citizens and its economy.

Visas issued to nationals from affected countries before the travel ban have also been revoked, the president said.

Ramaphosa said foreigners who have visited these countries in the last 20 days would also be denied a visa to travel to the country.

He announced the closure of half of the county's land ports and schools and banned public gatherings of more than 100 people across the nation.

In Kenya, the government raised the stakes by imposing a travel ban on foreigners from all countries that have reported any case of coronavirus.

The directive came into effect on Tuesday and will remain for a month, the government said in a statement on Sunday.

Morocco has suspended all international flights to and from its territory "until further notice" as part of measures to tackle the coronavirus, the country's foreign ministry said in a statement Sunday. It had previously banned flights to and from Germany, the Netherlands, Portugal and Belgium.

Schools shut down, social distancing

Ghana announced similar travel restrictions on Sunday and warned airlines not to board foreigners from countries that have recorded more than 200 cases of coronavirus in the last two weeks.
"All travel to Ghana is strongly discouraged at this point in time," Ghana's Information Minister Kojo Oppong Nkrumah said in a video posted on Facebook on Sunday.
Uganda imposed travel restrictions last week on 16 countries it said had high cases of coronavirus, including the US and the UK, becoming the first in the pack to enforce such stringent travel advisory for foreign nationals.

Health authorities in the East African nation warned foreign nationals and Ugandan citizens in the affected countries to stay away or pay for their self-quarantine.

Clamor for border closure

People in Cameroon are calling on the government to close airports and borders into the West African nation after the country confirmed its fifth case of coronavirus on Monday. A French citizen was the first to test positive for the virus in the country.

Health Minister Dr. Manaouda Malachie, who announced the case on Twitter, did not name the nationality of the infected patient but that has not stopped citizens demanding that a travel ban be imposed on foreigners coming into the country.

"Listen to the plea of the people of Cameroon and close the border and quarantine everyone coming into the country. Countries that heavily depend on tourism have done so," Chapafac Christwadle tweeted.


Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Nigeria announces $136M to help businesses during pandemic

Nigeria's central bank announced Monday a credit relief of $136.6M to businesses affected by the coronavirus pandemic.

Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) Governor Godwin Emefiele said households, small and medium-sized enterprises, airline service providers, hotels, health care merchants will benefit from the funds.

"The CBN hereby establishes a facility through for households and small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) that have been particularly hard hit by Covid-19," he said at a news conference.

He noted the pandemic has "significant adverse consequences" for the global and Nigerian economies, including crude oil supplies, stock, sporting events, financial markets, entertainment and hospitality industries.

Other interventions announced by the bank include reduction of interest rates for the loan from 9% to 5% retroactively to March 1.

Nigeria has recorded two cases of the virus known as COVID-19 including an index case of an Italian businessman.

But the national disease control center warned Monday against complacency.

It said the outbreak could be devastating in a country of 200 million people if it fails to take serious hygiene measures.


Monday, March 16, 2020

Nigeria gas explosion: 17 dead, rescue efforts under way

Rescue efforts are ongoing in Nigeria's commercial capital, Lagos, after a gas pipeline exploded on Sunday, resulting in the death of at least 17 people.

A spokesman for the National Emergency Management Agency, Ibrahim Farinloye, said more than 100 houses had caught fire and many people were wounded. Lorries, cars and motorbikes were also destroyed by the blast.

Farinloye said the explosion was triggered when a truck hit gas bottles stacked up in a gas processing plant near a pipeline in Abule-Ado area of Lagos.

"We are recovering dead bodies as we speak and putting them in bags," said local Red Cross official Adebola Kolawale. "We have a school here, and it's a residential area. And we have a trade fair here as well.

As a crowd looked on, rescue workers sought to remove rubble from a girls boarding school attended by more than 250 pupils.

The school headmaster was killed in the explosion, as were a couple and their two sons who lived nearby.

The explosion's impact was so strong it led to "the collapse of nearby houses and damage to a pipeline", according to the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation.

President Muhammadu Buhari, in a statement on Sunday, described the incident as a national tragedy. He sent condolences to the families of the victims and Lagos state.

Petrol tanker and pipeline blasts are common in Nigeria where, despite the country's multibillion-dollar oil and gas industry, most people live in poverty.

Fires and explosions often occur as people try to siphon fuel from pipelines and as a result of accidents involving fuel tankers on poorly maintained roads.

In July, at least 45 people were killed and more than 100 others injured in central Nigeria when a crashed petrol tanker exploded as people gathered around to siphon fuel from it.

The truck overturned close to shops as it was travelling through the village of Ahumbe in Benue state.

Al Jazeera

Friday, March 13, 2020

Video - Coronavirus outbreak may delay completion of major project in Nigeria

The Nigerian government says one of the most important rail projects in the country could suffer delays as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak. The project is being carried out by Chinese engineering firms. The head of the country's railway corporation says the completion date may be delayed.

Video - Doctor uses art to inspire people with skin conditions in Nigeria

Doctor by day and Artist by night, that is the story of one young Nigerian who is both a medical doctor and a visual artist. Adefemi Gbadamosi popularly known by his art signature, Fola David uses his art to instill self-love and self-confidence in people with different types of skin conditions making them see the beauty in what they may consider flaws.

Video - Nigerians raise awareness on preventing kidney failure

The World Health Organisation says an estimated 5 to 10 million people die annually from kidney disease across the world. In Nigeria, the country's Association of Nephrology said most people who suffer kidney failure cannot afford transplant or treatment. Health advocates are using this year's World Kidney Day to sensitize people on kidney disease and prevention.

Nigerian found dead in his Italy home after high fever

A 64-year-old Nigerian, Okunuga Olumide Saraju, has been found dead in his home in Modena, Italy, where he lived alone. Okunuga, a native of Ikenne in Ogun State and the president of Egbe Omo Yoruba in Emilia Romagna region, was found dead at about 11:00a.m. on Tuesday at his home. There are suspicions that he may have died of corona virus infection, a disease that has ravaged Italy in the past few weeks.

Saraju was well-known in the circles of associations and voluntary workers from Modena. He had lived in Modena for 30 years. A friend had raised the alarm. Upon entry, there were no signs of violence or break-ins in the house, nor traces of blood, according to Modena local media.

According to the information gathered, he had been suffering from high fever for some days but was not subjected to isolation because he had a previous complex health condition. He was being helped by friends. However, a friend raised the alarm when he was no longer answering his calls.

The city of Modena activated the antivirus procedure for the recovery of a body for the first time on Tuesday when removing his body from the apartment. As a precautionary measure, his body was brought to the street closed by a municipal police cordon, with the necrophores completely protected by overalls and masks, a gesture the neighborhood applauded.

The city said it is impossible to ascertain the cause of death for now because the deceased was suffering from a congenital disease, but the coroner will perform an autopsy and swab to check if he contracted Coronavirus. The last word belongs to the coroner who will perform the autopsy and the swab to check for any positivity to covid-19.

Saraju is an employee of an important Modena company, former vice president of the Foreigners Council of Modena, volunteer and former CGIL delegate. He was an Italian citizen in all respects and for 15 years he lived on the first floor of the building where he died. He lived alone since he separated from his wife.

And since he had been sick, his friends had decided to take the necessary things in turn, leaving him on the window at home; that windowsill became his last contact with the world outside the home. It happened in fact that last Thursday he started to feel bad. He suffered from exhaustion and a severe fever. He called the family doctor who went to his house to visit him. The doctor thought it was a normal flu: as friends reported yesterday, he took his leave advising him to stay indoors.

Mohamed Lasry, known as Il Sarto, his friend and neighbour, said: “The last phone call was on Monday evening. He told me he was very sick, he couldn’t take it anymore. Then I passed by yesterday morning. He didn’t answer. Then I raised the alarm. The municipal police arrived on the spot followed by the firefighters. After a few unsuccessful attempts at the intercom, the door was forced and the macabre discovery took place.

“The 64-year-old’s lifeless body was lying on the ground. He had evidently fallen suddenly without getting up again. Olumide was a citizen of the world open to others, to solidarity, always smiling and jovial. A man of the Fim, a man of the CISL as there are few. Never a word out of place and never a controversy.”

“Olumide was a friend, as well as our delegate of reference in Annovi Reverberi,”adds the secretary of the Fim Cisl Emilia Centrale, Giorgio Uriti. “He was one who certainly did not send her, a Fimmino doc of the old guard. He knew how to tame “comrades” well, so he called them those of Fiom.

“Always polite and every time I went to the company to hold meetings, he always brought me the bottle of water and gave me a smile, to show his happiness to see Fim there in the company with him. Fim loses a great person, a respectable delegate always on the front line and on the side of the weakest. All of us who have had the honor and fortune to know him, will always carry his smile and kindness in their hearts. We will miss you, rest in peace, brother Olumide,”concludes Uriti, announcing that, as soon as possible, the metalworkers CISL of Modena and Reggio will honor Okunuga as it deserves.

The Guardian

Nigeria likely to record more positive cases of COVID-19

Experts are worried that there could be more cases of COVID-19 in Nigeria in the next two weeks, insisting that it is inevitable because the country has been identified as one of the 13 countries in Africa at a high risk of being overwhelmed by the virus due to weak health sector.

Also, the index case of the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak in Nigeria, a 44-year-old Italian, yesterday completed the 14-day isolation recommended by the World Heath Organisation (WHO).

Although the viral load of the 44-year-old Italian citizen is reducing, he would not yet be discharged from the Infectious Disease Hospital (IDH) Yaba, Lagos, as he was not yet totally free from the virus.

The assertion was made by Director-General of the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), Dr. Chikwe Ihekweazu; WHO Consultant on COVID-19 in Nigeria and Team Leader, Expanded Programme on Immunisation, Dr. Fiona Braka and Director, Epidemiology, Biosecurity and Global Health and Incident Manager COVID-19 Outbreak Lagos State Emergency Operations Centre (EOC), Dr. Ismail Abdul-Salam, who spoke with journalists at a roundtable in Lagos yesterday.

They said contrary to some media reports, the Italian was visiting Nigeria for the first time as a consultant to a company in Ogun State, just as it was learnt that the Italian’s wife and brother have also tested positive to the virus in Italy.

“We are worried that we may have explosion of cases of coronavirus in our country. This is why we are given special attention on passengers coming from China, Italy, Iran, South Korea and Japan,” Ihekweazu said.

Braka said the WHO declaration that COVID-19 was now a pandemic meant that all countries, especially those at high risk such as Nigeria needed to redouble their efforts to prevent a situation where they would be overwhelmed by the virus.

Abdul-Salam pointed out that Lagos has prepared for the worst case scenario in which many people may be infected with the virus, adding, “At the beginning, even before the country confirmed the first case, with the help of the WHO we have prepared for the worst case scenario.”

Ihekweazu said as at March 11, 2020, there are two confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Nigeria and apart from the index case, a total of 40 people have been screened for COVID-19 (seven new) in five States (Edo, Lagos, Ogun, Federal Capital Territory, FCT/Abuja and Kano) of which 39 tested negative and have been ruled out, while one confirmed positive which is a contact of index case with no death.

The Guardian

Tuesday, March 10, 2020

Chineme Martins: Nigerian player dies after collapsing on pitch

Nigeria's Football Federation (NFF) says medical facilities at all clubs must be checked before matches can go ahead, following the death of a player on Sunday.

Nigerian footballer Chineme Martins, 22, died after collapsing during a game for his club Nasarawa United.

Martins fell unconscious, unopposed, during the second half of Nasarawa's league match against Katsina United.

"The player was attended to by medics of the two clubs ... and was later rushed to Dalhatu-Araf Specialist Hospital in Lafia where he was later pronounced dead," the Nigeria Professional Football League (NPFL) said in a statement.

An autopsy is now being carried out to determine the cause of death.

The NFF says no further matches should be played unless there is a full complement of medical equipment at the stadia and personnel "as provided in the NFF Club Licensing Regulations".

Furthermore, the NFF said all match commissioners and the host FA "are to ensure they inspect all the facilities including carrying out test runs before giving the go-ahead for any match to be played."

Eyewitnesses told BBC Sport there appeared to be a delay in getting Martins to the hospital because of a problem with the ambulance.

Nasarawa United are yet to make any (official) statement about the death of their player who had made four appearances for the northern club so far this season.

Nigeria's sports minister, Sunday Dare, described Martins' death as "regrettably avoidable" and said the "ministry will immediately work with the NPFL to role out mandatory conditions before any match is played".

It is the second time fans in Lafia have witnessed a tragedy. In December 2018, Kano Pillars star Dominic Dukudod collapsed while warming up in a friendly against Nasarawa United themselves.

Questions have previously been raised about the state of medical care and players' welfare in the NPFL, but Nigeria's League Management Company says it mandates the clubs to ensure all players present a medical passport - signed and authorised by a certified doctor - declaring them fit to play.


Oil Drop May Force Nigeria to Devalue Naira as Reserves Sink

The plunge in oil prices is piling pressure on Nigeria to devalue the naira as dwindling export revenue depletes foreign-exchange reserves, curbing the central bank’s ability to support the currency.

The central bank’s reserves have decreased by 20% in the past two years to the lowest since November 2017, and may soon reach the $30 billionthreshold set by Governor Godwin Emefiele for the country to consider a devaluation, Jason Daw and Phoenix Kalen, strategists at Paris-based Societe Generale SA, wrote in note on Monday. The central bank may start adjusting currency policy before it reaches that point, they said.

Naira fundamentals are on an unsustainable trajectory and under current external conditions, especially lower oil prices, the risk of a devaluation is “very elevated,” the SocGen strategists wrote. “The combination of a current-account deficit -- previously due to strong imports but now being compounded by weak exports -- portfolio outflows and lower oil prices will continue to deplete FX reserves and pressure the naira.”

The the naira extended a decline in offshore trading on Tuesday, slipping 0.4% to 366.99 per dollar, the weakest level on a closing basis in more than two years.Yields on Nigeria’s 2049 Eurobonds climbed 149 basis points to 10.24% on Monday, the highest on record. The country’s benchmark stock index slumped to the lowest level in almost three years.

Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari signed the country’s 10.6 trillion naira ($29 billion) spending plan into law this year based on a crude price projection of $57 a barrel and targeted oil earnings of 2.64 trillion naira. Brent crude prices have plummeted about 45% this year to around $36 a barrel.

Africa’s largest oil producer relies on earnings from the black commodity for more than 90% of its export revenues. The International Monetary Fund slashed the West African nation’s economic growth projection to 2% from 2.5% because of a decline in oil prices.

Under Emefiele, who was appointed in 2014, Nigeria has tightened capital controls and closely managed the naira’s value. The governor has consistently said this is the best way to curb inflation and boost manufacturing by discouraging imports.

“An initial attempt at a managed depreciation is more likely than a one-offlarge devaluation (like in the past), but it might be challenging to maintain over the medium term unless bolder policy action is taken,” Daw and Kalen wrote.

The central bank could also consider tightening liquidity in the interbank market or by tightening policy, while a planned Eurobond sale could help rebuild currency reserves, they said.


Nigeria's emir of Kano dethroned for 'disrespect'

 The Emir of Kano, Muhammadu Sanusi II, one of Nigeria's most influential Muslim traditional leaders, has been removed from his throne.

He was deposed for showing "insubordination'' to the authorities in the northern state of Kano.

Mr Sanusi, an ex-central bank chief, has had frosty relations with Kano Governor Abdullahi Ganduje since 2017.

His supporters believe he was sacked for opposing Mr Ganduje's re-election last year.

Traditional leaders in Nigeria hold few constitutional powers but are able to exert significant influence as they are seen as custodians of both religion and tradition.

Mr Sanusi was seen as a reformist and had been critical of some government policies - a stance that frequently put him at loggerheads with ruling politicians, reports the BBC's Nigeria reporter Ishaq Khalid.

The emir has been removed from the palace in the city of Kano by security forces. It is not clear where he has been taken, but by tradition he will be expected to live in exile outside the emirate for the rest of his life, our reporter says.

Aminu Ado Bayero, the son of Mr Sanusi's predecessor who ruled Kano for more than half a century until his death in 2014, has been chosen as the new emir by the local authorities.

Why was he sacked?

The government said he was removed "in order to safeguard the sanctity, culture, tradition, religion and prestige of the Kano emirate", accusing the emir of "total disrespect" of institutions and the governor's office.

Since the emir and governor fell out, Mr Sanusi has not attended state functions and official meetings, which the government said amounted to "total insubordination".

The emir's refusal to appear before a panel investigating allegations of corruption against him also did not go down well with the government.

He is accused of selling property and mismanaging emirati funds but he secured a court order stopping the probe.

After last year's election, Mr Ganduje, who is a powerful figure within Nigeria's governing All Progressives Congress (APC) party, split the Kano emirate into five and appointed four more emirs - to weaken Mr Sanusi's influence.

Mr Sanusi is not shy about voicing his opinions, which some say is a break with the tradition that an emir be seen and not heard.

Last month, he said fathers who sent their children out to beg for alms should be arrested.

In the past he criticised what he described as the "ultra-conservative interpretation of Islam" in some parts of northern Nigeria that has discouraged the education of girls, family planning and other progressive policies.

Who is Mr Sanusi?

Born into the Fulani royal family, Lamido Sanusi became the 14th Emir of Kano in 2014 after the death of Ado Bayero.

He described the post, which carries enormous weight among Nigeria's northern Muslims, as a life-long ambition.

In the mid-1990s he quit a well-paid job as banking risk manager to deepen his knowledge of Arabic and Islamic studies by going to study in Sudan.

Long before he became emir, he opposed the adoption of Islamic law in some northern states, arguing that there were more pressing issues that needed to be dealt with.

But it was as governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria that he gained notoriety.

His whistle-blowing over $20bn (£12bn) allegedly missing from the state oil company caused a storm that led to his suspension by then President Goodluck Jonathan. The government denied that any money was missing.

Mr Sanusi challenged the suspension in court but was still sacked from the role. He later withdrew the court case.

Critics say he has a holier-than-thou attitude and have wondered why he refused to appear before the panel investigating corruption allegations against him.


Related story: Former Nigeria Central Bank Governor Lamido Sanusi comments on audit that proves missing $18.5 billion

Video - Sanusi Lamido's TEDx speech - Overcoming the fear of vested interest

Monday, March 9, 2020

Nigeria is already dealing with a deadlier viral outbreak than the coronavirus epidemic

The detection of Covid-19 coronavirus in Nigeria raised early concerns about the country’s capacity to handle a major epidemic but so far local public health officials have been commended for handling the outbreak with aplomb.

But the coronavirus is not the only viral outbreak in Africa’s most populous country. Nigeria is currently dealing with what is turning out to be the world’s largest epidemic of Lassa fever, a viral disease deadlier than coronavirus.

Lassa fever is a severe viral hemorrhagic fever (VHF) like Ebola and Marburg that occurs throughout the year in Nigeria and was declared an “active outbreak” by the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) five weeks into 2020. The epidemic which occurs during the annual dry season (roughly November through March) has spread across half the country.

The Lassa fever virus is transmitted to humans through contact with food or household items contaminated with urine and feces of a rat. It’s also known to spreads from person-to-person through contact with the body fluids and organs of infected persons, which has resulted in healthcare workers easily getting infected, some have died.

The epidemic, whose rapid escalation started right from the second week of the year, had by the end of the ninth week seen 774 cases and 132 deaths spread across 26 of Nigeria’s 36 states and the federal capital territory.

Troubling trends

In the past five years, there have been four epidemics—all having over 59% of total cases—in the first quarter of the year. In just nine weeks into 2020 Lassa fever cases are already 96% of total cases in 2019, the year with the largest Lassa epidemic with 810 cases and 167 deaths. As recently as 2015, the total number of cases was 64. This trend does not only suggest that the current epidemic will likely surpass that of 2019, but it also suggests a longer lasting and more devastating epidemic.

Arenaviruses, which include the Lassa virus, are disproportionately prone to genetic mutations and have a propensity for spread if not adequately controlled, says Dr Olubusuyi Moses Adewumi, a specialist in Arenaviruses and Virologist at the College of Medicine, University of Ibadan in southwest Nigeria.

Dr. Adewumi blames the rapid increase of the epidemic each year on the lack of an effective surveillance system in place to identify and monitor the circulation of the virus in the country via rodents and other animals. “In our environment, the vectors continue to have the opportunity to interact with the human population and consequently spread the virus unchecked”, he explains.

Lassa fever is known to have a high mortality rate with Case Fatality Ratio (CFR) as high as 23% recorded for the first quarter of 2019—far deadlier than the Covid-19 coronavirus which currently has an estimated CFR of 2%.

Before the emergence of the new coronavirus, the NCDC has been focused mainly on Lassa fever. However, tweets from the NCDC’s twitter handle suggests recent online publicity is focused more on the coronavirus epidemic despite the reports of an unprecedented Lassa fever epidemic in the country.

“The international health agency and media deserve to give more attention to coronavirus considering its propensity for a pandemic,” says Dr. Adewumi. “LFV is our local problem in this part of the continent, hence, it is our responsibility to ensure the epidemic is controlled,” he said.

By Uwagbale Edward-Ekpu


Nigeria has second confirmed coronavirus case - health minister

Nigeria has a second confirmed coronavirus case, the country's health minister said on Twitter on Monday.

The first case was an Italian man who flew in to southwestern commercial capital Lagos on Feb. 24 from Milan on a Turkish Airlines flight that had a connection in Istanbul. The following day he travelled to neighbouring Ogun state and was in the country for nearly two full days before being isolated.

The case, the first in sub-Saharan Africa, prompted fears of an outbreak in Lagos, a city of 20 million people in a country of some 200 million inhabitants. But until Monday it was the only confirmed case in a country that won plaudits for preventing a major outbreak of the deadly Ebola virus in 2014.

Health Minister Osagie Ehanire said the second case had been in contact with the Italian man, who is a vendor working for cement company Lafarge Africa PLC and is being treated at a hospital in the Yaba dristict of Lagos.

The Lagos state health commissioner, Akin Abayomi, said on Saturday Nigerian officials were experiencing "some challenges" in tracking down people who were on the flight with the Italian.

(Reporting by Alexis Akwagyiram; Additional reporting by Libby George; Editing by Alison Williams)


Thursday, March 5, 2020

Nigeria releases 223 children cleared of suspected ties with armed groups

At least 223 children, including 10 girls, have recently been cleared of suspected ties with armed groups in Nigeria, the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) said on Wednesday.

The children were released late Tuesday from the Nigerian army administrative custody and Maiduguri Maximum Security Prison in the northeastern part of Nigeria, said Peter Hawkins, the UNICEF Representative in Nigeria.

Some of the children had been missing for up to four to five years, with many presumed dead by their families, according to Hawkins.

"The release of these children is a huge step forward and one to be welcomed and celebrated," the UNICEF official said.

The children will now immediately enter a program that will help them reintegrate into their communities, re-engage with families, and take the first steps toward creating a new life and means of livelihood, he said.

"These children deserve to have a normal childhood and now require our full care and support to re-enter the lives that were so brutally interrupted by this devastating conflict," he added.

Since 2016, about 3,559 people associated with armed groups had been released from administrative custody, including 1,743 children, or 1,125 boys and 618 girls, according to official data by the UNICEF.

UNICEF is working closely with Nigerian state authorities to help with reintegration programs for all children formerly associated with non-state armed groups, and others affected by the ongoing conflict in Nigeria's northeast region, said Hawkins.


Six killed in attack on Nigeria military base

Armed assailants killed four police officers and two civilian militiamen in an attack on a military base in northeast Nigeria's Borno state on Wednesday.

Suspected Boko Haram fighters in trucks fitted with machine guns launched the dawn raid on the army base in the town of Damboa, sparking intense fighting.

"We lost four mobile policemen and two civilian militia fighting alongside soldiers during the fight with the terrorists," said a military officer, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Anti-armed group leader Ibrahim Liman confirmed the death toll, after supporting soldiers during the attack.

Local resident Modu Malari said the assailants attacked with assault weapons and rocket-propelled grenades, but were forced out from the town by troops after a fierce two-hour battle.

More than 50 residents were wounded by shrapnel from grenades fired by the rebels, he said.

Damboa lies on the fringe of Boko Haram's Sambisa Forest stronghold, from where the group has launched repeated attacks on villages and military posts.

In November last year, at least 10 Nigerian soldiers were killed and nine injured in a Boko Haram ambush in Muchima village, outside Damboa.

Boko Haram's campaign began in 2009 and has displaced more than 2.2 million people across Nigeria, Chad, Niger and Cameroon since, with no signs of slowing down despite counterattacks by a joint multinational force across borders.

Islamic State of West Africa Province (ISWAP), a Boko Haram faction, has also gone on a spree of violence, attacking military formations in those countries.

In Mali and Burkina Faso, groups such as the al-Qaeda-affiliated Jama'at Nasr al-Islam wal Muslimin have followed suit, killing thousands of people in recent years.

Al Jazeera

Tuesday, March 3, 2020

At least 50 killed in northern Nigeria 'bandit' attacks

At least 50 people were killed in multiple attacks by armed bandits on villages in an area of northern Nigeria rife with cattle theft and kidnappings, local officials said on Monday.

Sources said about 100 armed assailants stormed into the villages of Kerawa, Zareyawa and Minda in Kaduna state at dawn on Sunday, gunning down worshippers as they left a mosque for morning prayers before killing residents and burning and looting homes.

"So far 50 bodies have been recovered but the figure is not conclusive and is very likely to rise as rescue efforts are still under way," said Zayyad Ibrahim, a legislator in the Nigerian parliament.

Several people were wounded in the attacks and taken to nearby hospitals, Ibrahim said.

The assault was in retaliation for villagers allegedly assisting recent army operations against the so-called bandits in their forest hideouts, local counsellor Dayyabu Kerawa said.

"The bandits accused residents from the targeted villages of providing information about their hideouts to the military," said Kerawa. "We buried 51 victims yesterday."

Kaduna police spokesman Mohammed Jalige said authorities were investigating the attacks.

Escalation in violence

Violence has soared in northwest Nigeria in recent years as criminal gangs involved in cattle rustling and kidnapping have carried out bloody raids on villages.

Armed groups attack from hideouts in nearby forests, exploiting a lack of security across the region.

The Birnin Gwari and Giwa districts of Kaduna state have been hit by violence and repeated reprisal attacks between bandits and local vigilante groups.

Security forces in February announced a sweeping operation aimed at armed gangs in the area.

Last month 21 people, including 16 members of one family, were killed when bandits attacked a village in a reprisal attack.

Authorities in several states in northwest Nigeria have sought peace deals with the bandits to stop the bloodshed but these have failed to end the instability.

Al Jazeera

Monday, March 2, 2020

Nigeria Finds Over 100 People Exposed to First Coronavirus Case

Nigerian health authorities have reached out to over 100 people who had contact with the Italian man who tested positive for the coronavirus and asked them to remain in self-isolation.

The Italian citizen arrived in Lagos earlier this week on a commercial flight from Milan and traveled to neighboring Ogun state for business. He’s the first confirmed case in sub-Saharan Africa.

Lafarge Africa Plc said it has quarantined 39 people who were in contact with him, a vendor for the company. It added in a statement that its cement factory in Ogun state remains open.

Authorities traced people who traveled with the patient and stayed at the same hotel and asked for them to remain isolated for 14 days while undergoing daily temperature checks, said Akin Abayomi, the Lagos state commissioner for health.

“The numbers keep changing -- they are going up gradually,” said Abayomi, adding that he calculates authorities have identified more than 100 people across the country. He said none of those in isolation in Lagos have presented any symptoms yet.

Nigerians have complained on social media about shortages of face masks and hand sanitizer in Lagos and the capital Abuja, with some saying prices have tripled.

The Catholic Archdiocese of Lagos, the country’s biggest city with about 20 million people, suspended shaking hands during Mass and called on congregations to reduce gatherings over Lent.

The Italian man who tested positive for the virus is in stable condition and showing signs of improvement, Abayomi said. He denied local media reports that the patient had tried to escape isolation due to poor conditions in the hospital, but said he was moved to another facility because the ward was undergoing renovation.

By Alonso Soto, With assistance by Tope Alake, and Anthony Osae-Brown


'Nigeria will deal with this': High alert after coronavirus case

 Health authorities in Nigeria are ramping up efforts to detect and contain the new coronavirus after Africa's most populous country confirmed its first case, calling on citizens to avoid panicking or spreading unverified information about the disease.

An Italian citizen working in Nigeria tested positive for the virus on Thursday after falling ill following his arrival in the commercial hub of Lagos from Milan in northern Italy, an area that has emerged as Europe's coronavirus hotspot.

The man, who has since been isolated at a hospital in Yaba, is "clinically stable" and has not developed serious symptoms, according to health officials.

"We have already started working to identify all the contacts of the patient since he entered Nigeria," Osagie Ehanire, Nigeria's health minister, told reporters in the capital, Abuja. "We have continued to beef our own security. The level of preparedness continues to improve of Nigeria every day."

Public health professionals who spoke to Al Jazeera expressed confidence in the West African country's ability to contain the spread of the virus. They pointed to key lessons from its successful response to an Ebola outbreak more than five years ago, as well as a series of measures already put in place before the arrival of the coronavirus.

Along with heightening screening at points of entry, particularly at airports, authorities have established testing capacity in four laboratories and expanded surveillance to follow up with travellers from countries affected by the infectious disease - officially known as COVID-19 - within 14 days of arriving in Nigeria.

The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) has also supported the activation of emergency operation centres to serve as coordination platforms, while its Coronavirus Preparedness Group meets daily to review the situation and manage the response efforts.

The agency has meanwhile issued a public health advisory to inform Nigerians about symptoms and preventive measures, and has provided a toll-free number for guidance.

May Ubeku, a public health practitioner and epidemiologist, said Nigerian health authorities were "fully prepared" to contain the spread of the coronavirus, citing the series of measures introduced since January.

First sub-Saharan African case

Nigeria is sub-Saharan Africa's first country to register a case of the virus, which has killed some 2,900 people and infected more than 86,000 worldwide, the vast majority in China where it originated late last year.

Medical experts had long expected the arrival of the deadly virus in sub-Saharan Africa, pointing to the deep trade and travel ties between China and a number of countries on the continent.

In mid-February, health ministers of the 15-member Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) converged in Mali's capital, Bamako, to develop a regional preparedness plan and boost cross-border collaboration to promote rapid diagnosis and containment.

Parts of West Africa already share a painful experience of trying to tackle the major Ebola outbreak that ravaged the region between 2013 and 2016 and killed more than 11,000 people.

In Nigeria, the first case of Ebola was detected in July 2014 following the arrival of an infected Liberian man at the Lagos international airport. The man, who died in hospital, set off a chain of transmission that killed seven people out of a total of 19 infections. But months later, the country was declared Ebola-free, with the World Health Organization (WHO) hailing a "spectacular success story" and commending authorities for their "effective coordination of the response".

'Nigeria will deal with it'

Ifeanyi Nsofor, who graduated from Atlantic Fellows for Health Equity programme at George Washington University in 2019, cited Nigeria's experience in stamping out Ebola, as well as polio, as promising signs in the fight to contain the spread of the new coronavirus.

In August last year, Nigeria went three years without a case of wild poliovirus and is due to receive a wild polio-free status in June 2020 - a gigantic shift from 2012 when it accounted for more than half of all polio cases worldwide.

The country adopted various measures to achieve this milestone, notably establishing emergency operations centres to respond to polio outbreaks and enhancing collaboration among health agencies and international partners. It also conducted a large-scale polio vaccination campaign that involved volunteers, community groups and religious and traditional institutions amid efforts to raise awareness.

"The structures are still in place," Nsofor said, adding that Nigeria can count on the "massive" network of health workers who were deployed to tackle polio and Ebola.

"Nigeria will deal with this [coronavirus]."

Still, Nsofor, CEO of EpiAFRIC, an Abuja-based public health consultancy, expressed concern that much of the coronavirus containment effort seems to be concentrated on airports in big cities.

"Our weakest link is our land borders, [which] are porous," he explained, urging health authorities to intensify surveillance.

Social media warning

The confirmation of the first case of COVID-19 comes at a time when Nigeria is still battling an outbreak of Lassa fever, which has caused 118 deaths since the beginning of the year.

Lassa fever is endemic in Nigeria and some parts of West Africa and is predominantly transmitted via food or household items contaminated by rodent urine or faeces.

Ukam Edadi, programme coordinator of Lagos-based Citizens Health Initiative Nigeria, a group campaigning for citizens' right to accessible and quality healthcare, called for continuous training of the health workforce involved in tackling epidemics alongside an "aggressive and intensive health education on respiratory hygiene in the media, schools, hospitals, churches and mosques" to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Meanwhile, the arrival of coronavirus in Lagos, an overcrowded megacity of some 20 million people, has sparked fears among residents amid reports of people scrambling to buy hygiene products. On Saturday, two locals told Al Jazeera that they visited pharmacies and stores but did not find any protective masks and hand sanitisers to buy.

"People are scared, people are panicking but the most important thing that people will do is to get appropriate and credible information" from credible organisations and authorities such as the NCDC, the health ministry and the WHO, explained Nsofor.

Health officials and public health professionals have also expressed concerns that online platforms could trigger the rise of myths and misinformation about the disease.

"Citizens must not abuse social media and indulge in spreading misinformation that causes fear and panic," Nigeria's health ministry said in a statement earlier this week.

By Linus Unah
Al Jazeera