By The Nation Newspaper
Sir: Mallam Abba Kyari died on Friday, April 17. He was buried the next day in accord with Islamic rites. Participants at the funeral, however, breached several protocols on handling of issues in the coronavirus pandemic.
The PTF Covid-19 team led with sincerity and humility in its response. It acknowledged the errors, apologised and defined a new path away from the infraction.
Chairman of the Presidential Task Force and Secretary to the Government of the Federation, (SGF), Boss Mustapha admitted that: “The PTF recognizes, regrettably, the unintentional violation of the principles and protocols that form the core of our messaging to Nigerians at the funeral of the late Chief of Staff. These principles, for emphasis, include the guidance provided on mass gatherings, social distancing, personal hygiene, and restriction of movements.”
He said further: “Lessons have been learnt and appropriate measures have been taken to close all gaps. We assure all Nigerians of their safety and the determination of the PTF to combat the pandemic.”
Leaders emerge or affirm their credentials in the crucible of fire. They do so with accountability, responsiveness and responsibility. On Monday, members of the task force showed their mettle at the national press briefing on Covid-19, confirming their pledge to serve citizens with forthrightness during this dreadful pandemic.
More significant is the pledge to abide with the protocol in the days ahead. Indeed, the National Coordinator of the PTF on Covid-19, Dr. Sani Aliyu was poignant in pledging to ensure that future events are adequately regulated in line with agreed protocols. His apology on live national television must have won the admiration of Nigerians.
To assuage social media warriors, he disclosed that the Gudu cemetery, Abuja, where Kyari was buried, has since been decontaminated while the personal protective gear discarded at the site was promptly decontaminated, burnt and discarded according to the guidelines of the Nigerian Centre for Disease Control, NCDC.
He explained that bodies of persons with Covid-19, as stated clearly by the World Health Organisation guidelines, do not constitute any danger to those who may have contact with it, as seen at the burial of late Kyari.
Quoting the guidelines, he said “except in cases of viral haemorrhagic fevers and cholera, dead bodies are generally not infectious.”
The World Health Organisation says that except in cases of haemorrhagic fevers such as Ebola, Marburg and cholera, corpses are generally not infectious. The organisation, in its interim guidance on ‘Infection prevention and control for safe management of a dead body in the context of COVID-19’, said that only the lungs of patients with pandemic influenza, if handled improperly during an autopsy, could be infectious.
“Otherwise, cadavers do not transmit disease. It is a common myth that persons who have died of a communicable disease should be cremated, but this is not true. Cremation is a matter of cultural choice and available resources,” it said.
WHO in the guidelines noted that to date, there is no evidence of persons having become infected from exposure to the bodies of persons who died from Covid-19.
Aliu who had previously served as the director general at the National Agency for the Control of AIDS, gave further assurance that the task force “will continue to follow the guidelines and protocols that we have produced” as the NCDC guidelines are very much reflective of the WHO guidelines.
“We will also like to assure the general public that the taskforce takes its presidential mandate seriously and is committed in executing it to the best of its ability. We ask for the public to continue to hold us accountable for our actions, we read your comments in the social media, we listen to you and we acknowledge the issues that might arise,” he further told Nigerians.
That, to me is leadership.
Tajudeen Kareem, Abuja