The rampaging Covid-19 pandemic has hit the Presidential Villa, Abuja, as many aides of President Muhammadu Buhari and top officials of government are said to have contracted the virus.
But the government is keeping a sealed lip on the matter, even as newspapers correspondents are advised against reporting the surge in infections at the villa.
Investigations by PREMIUM TIMES revealed that apart from the Permanent Secretary in the State House, Tijani Umar; the President’s Aide-de-camp (ADC), Yusuf Dodo; his Chief Security Officer (CSO), Aliyu Musa, and his Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, whose results were confirmed positive during the week, the Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, is also down with the virus.
Some of the infected officials including Mr Garba, sources disclosed, were taken out of the cabinet meeting on Wednesday when the result of their polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests came back positive.
Mr Shehu, who confirmed that he was “afflicted by the mild variant of the COVID-19,” in a text message shared with our reporter on Saturday, said he has “no confirmation” of other cases mentioned to him.
He added that he was already fit, claiming he just completed his physical exercises when our reporter called, but that it would require scientific evidence to claim that he no longer had the virus.
His message reads in part; “I have no confirmation of the cases you mentioned, but yes I have been afflicted by the mild variant of the COVID-19. I felt okay from the beginning, maybe because one had received all three jabs, and right now, I feel 100 per cent. I just finished my hour-long running exercise.
“But the strange thing about this ailment is that it is the scientists, not you, that will say you are okay. Right now, I’m taking my prescriptions and isolating, and would go back for a test to ascertain if the virus is still here or it has left me. Thanks for your goodwill.”
Efforts to get the reaction of Mr Garba’s colleague and Special Adviser on Media and Publicity to the President, Femi Adesina, on the matter, were unsuccessful as his phone always indicated “busy” when called many times, and he also did not reply to a short message sent to him, many hours after.
On his part, the Special Assistant to the President on Digital and New Media, Tolu Ogunlesi, said he could not comment on the matter, as he referred our reporter to those he described as the government’s spokespersons.
Efforts to reach the Information Minister, Mr Mohammed, also yielded no positive result as his phone line was not available for more than 24 hours while his aide, Segun Adeyemi, neither picked his calls nor replied to a short message sent to him.
However, reliable sources confirmed that Mr Mohammed and other affected officials are currently in isolation and are receiving medical attention.
This newspaper understands that due to the high number of officials affected by the pandemic, governance may have been affected at the centre.
Sources, who do not want to be quoted for fear of sanctions, said that the decision to shut down the office of the wife of the President, Aisha Buhari, earlier in the week, was not unconnected to the huge number of officials at the State House that were already confirmed positive for the virus.
The Special Adviser on Media to Mrs Buhari, Aliyu Abdullahi, said though the situation was not part of the reason advanced for the early closure in the statement issued, it could also not “be unconnected to it.”
He, however, declined to either confirm or decline, saying the president’s wife may have taken the decision to avoid the spread of the virus.
Asked if the virus scare was part of the reasons for the early closure of the president’s wife’s office, Mr Abdullahi, after much hesitation, said; “Well, I think that is part of the reasons, though it wasn’t stated in the release announcing the closure. But that would be part of the reasons. But this is also a holiday time and so the First Lady might have felt that the office should close early to avoid a widespread.”
However, Mr Abdullahi said his statement never meant that he confirmed that anyone had contracted the virus, saying he didn’t have such information.
“But you know it could be just a caution,” he said.
The Federal Government on Thursday, 23 December, 2021 threatened it might be forced to impose fresh restriction measures to curb the spread of the virus as the nation on Wednesday, 22 December, 2021 recorded 4,035 new cases.
Wednesday’s figure has remained the highest daily number of cases recorded in Nigeria since the outbreak in the country in February 2020.
While appearing as a guest on “Kaakaki,” a morning programme on the Africa Independent Television (AIT) on Thursday, the Director General of the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), Ifedayo Adetifa, said in spite of the efforts by the government to sensitise Nigerians on the virus, many still doubt its existence.
He said the disbelief is quite a phenomenon that is making the war against the spread of the pandemic a difficult fight for the government.