Bauchi State has reported the mysterious death of 300 people who they said died from a ‘strange ailment’ in Azare, headquarters of Katagum Local Government Area of the state. The number brought the total death in the area to 301 in the last two weeks, according to residents.
Residents of the area are linking the deaths to the deadly coronavirus pandemic, while the Deputy Governor Baba Tela told reporters that the situation in the Azare was being blown out of proportion by those who live outside the state.
A former member of the House of Representatives, Alhaji Ibrahim Baba, in a May 8, 2020 letter to President Muhammadu Buhari spoke of a “massive outbreak of coronavirus” in Azare. He said the town recorded over 100 COVID-19 deaths in one week alone, sparking panic among residents.
He said: “Sir, I write to draw your kind attention to the massive outbreak of coronavirus in Azare town and environs in Bauchi State, which has already resulted in over 100 in the last one week, and this has thrown the entire area into great mourning, panic, and confusion,” he wrote.
“The centrality and proximity of Azare to Bauchi, Kano and some major cities of Jigawa State make the town’s large population susceptible to the virus due to the already existing large cases of the disease in those areas.
“And because media coverage is always largely skewed toward states capital and other more prominent cities, the ongoing horrific situation in Azare has not gotten the attention it deserves, and that’s why I want to use this privilege to appeal to you for urgent action to arrest the unpalatable situations.
“Consequently, therefore, I wish to appeal to your Excellency to direct the National Centre for Diseases Control (NCDC) and the presidential Taskforce on COVID-19 to urgently reach out to Azare town with all the necessary facilities and palliatives to assist the communities there.”
“And to help in this expected effort, may I draw your attention to the fact that at the Ophthalmology unit and laboratory have already been built and equipped by the Central Bank of Nigeria at the Azare Federal Medical Centre Since 2013 but have not been commissioned and put to use up till now. This facility can be repurposed to a COVID-19 test and treatment center providing the right equipment that is added, including ventilators.
“As a matter of life death, I have the utmost trust in your sense of patriotism and commitment to the well-being of Nigerians that you will assist the beleaguered people of Azare town and environs to overcome this harrowing situation. And while I look forward to your kind response, please, accept the assurance of my high esteem and loyalty.”
In a similar letter to Governor Bala Mohammed of Bauchi State, the Deputy Public Relations Officer (P.R.O) of the State Asset and Recovery Committee, Musa Azare claimed that 301 fresh graves were dug at the Azare cemetery in the “last 14 days.”
The Azare’s letter which was posted on Facebook reads ‘’ Dear Kauran Bauchi, Information reaching me from Azare says that as at yesterday there were 301 fresh graves in the Azare cemetery, dug in the last 14 days. I have verified this information from multiple sources.’
‘’Equally of serious concern is the way people escort their dead ones to the cemetery. No observance of any counter-measure against the Covid-19 pandemic. There is a need to intensify awareness campaigns.
‘’And to our people, you better wake up and accept the reality of what the whole world is going through. This deliberate ignorance and reckless skepticism will not do anyone any good. In fact, it is part of the reasons why we’re witnessing more and more deaths. And truly, it amounts to we killing ourselves!”
Sen. Baba Tela said the government would not hesitate to impose a total lockdown in the affected LGA if the figure of fatalities continued to rise, while the Deputy Governor of the state also confirmed that about seven medical health personnel -five doctors and two nurses -tested positive for coronavirus in Azare.
The Executive Chairman of the Bauchi State Primary Health Care Development Agency (BASPHCDA), Dr. Rilwan Mohammed has debunked the alleged high death rate in Azare.
According to The Nation report, Dr. Rilwan Mohammed asked, “Where are the three hundred? We know many are dying in the area but we are yet to link it with COVID-19. We are yet to get back their sample which has been taken to the testing center in Jos, the Plateau state capital.
‘’Besides, we don’t have mass graves dug like the ones in Kano and Jigawa States. It’s not true that there are massive deaths in Azare. These are just rumors. I know there are deaths here and there but the figure people are giving is exaggerated.”
Similar mysterious deaths in Yobe State
Yobe State is currently experiencing similar mysterious deaths which Health Commissioner Muhammed Gana said the government is currently looking into.
Gana, who is also the Vice-Chairman, Committee on COVID-19 Prevention and Control, spoke in Damaturu, the state capital, told the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) that the state was not only battling with Coronavirus but other diseases, especially in the hot season when meningitis and measles strike.
Gana has also declared that the mysterious death could not be easily attributed to the Coronavirus pandemic while stating that he had already started an investigation to very the real cause of the deaths, which includes carrying out autopsies to establish the cause(s) of deaths.
“You cannot conclude to say that when somebody died, the person died as a result of the epidemic. No, you have to establish the real cause of the death and the related items. This is why we have always taken our time to investigate the causes before we reveal our findings,” he said.