Mystery deaths in Jigawa: Fasting, malaria, heat killing my people, not COVID-19 – Senator Hadejia

Senator Ibrahim Hassan Hadejia represents Jigawa North in the Senate has dismissed reports that coronavirus was responsible for the death of over 100 people in his senatorial district.

While speaking in an interview with Vanguard, the senator also spoke about the ‘deportation’ of 400 almajirai from Kano by Governor Ganduje to Jigawa.

Coronavirus appears to have visited Jigawa, Hadejia to be specific, taking away about 100 lives with it. What happened?

When they said 100 deaths, you will think it happened in Hadejia; that is not true. That number doesn’t even exist. A five-man committee which has a World Health Organisation, WHO, member found only 46 deaths throughout Jigawa. That committee was set up by the governor when he heard the news. The committee went to Hadejia, looking for the veracity of the so-called 100 deaths.

They did verbal post-mortem. You know once somebody dies, our people bury him immediately. So, the team asked questions from the relatives of the dead and if there was strong suspicion, they had them tested as well.  For now, all the tests done of everybody around the dead, including children and wives, that is over 70% tests done, have all come back negative.

That says a lot. Now there is malaria problem in Hadejia, also the temperature around there has been unusually high, 241 degrees, and our people are all fasting. All the people reported dead were elderly with health challenges. Even when you tell them not to fast, they bluntly refused. The fasting, the heat, coupled with the health status, affected the elders and they died.

So the deaths are not entirely coronavirus related…

Yeah, not at all. It is not coronavirus related although we are still conducting tests. Meanwhile, majority of the infected persons in my zone were imported. Those infected came in from Lagos and Rivers states. There is what we called Shirani.

For those who cannot do all-year farming, once the farm season is over, they troop to Lagos, Port Harcourt to do menial jobs and, as soon the raining season comes, they return to their villages to start farming. Many of them pay exorbitant fees to return to the villages for farming. They paid as much as N30,000 to the drivers who went through the bush since the borders were closed. One boy who smuggled himself into the state infected about 27 people.

You said the figures reported are exaggerated…

Reports that there were about 100 deaths in Hadejia are not true. There is no such figure.  We have less than that figure throughout Jigawa. And when you look at the population of the state, more than five million people, and you have less than 100 deaths, you will see that the figure is minor. They just sensationalized the story. The worst case scenario in Hadejia was eight people that died in a day. And as I said, all of them were elderly, sick.

And they were even known to me. If indeed you died of coronavirus, it is expected that your immediate family members would have contracted it as well. So far, from all the tests conducted, none is infected. There is only one place so far that we had a case of coronavirus in Hadejia, and that is Auyo Local Government Area.

And the infection came from one returned from Lagos. They are doing contact tracing now. Wherever one is found, the place is shut down. Like it happened in Kazaure where they found one, it was locked down.  After weeks of testing, they relaxed the lock down. With the way Kano is, there is no way we won’t have one or more cases of the virus in Jigawa. So, the governor has ordered all his aides, together with the police, to watch the border towns with Kano, just as Kaduna State governor did.

The boys coming all the way from Lagos, encountering over eight locked down states on their way and still arriving Jigawa, it then means they are bribing their way from Lagos to Jigawa. So, because of that, the governor is not leaving anything to chance. The surveillance is in conjunction with the police.

Would the steps taken by the state government contain the spread of the virus?

Yes, it will, I believe. Without a single case, the governor had earlier set up 286-bed-capacity isolation centre in the NYSC camp and a three-star hotel in the state converted to isolation centre. All this was in anticipation of cases like this. The problems we had was Kano. Kano State government apprehended two people from Jigawa and tested them; they were in Kano for 48 hours and one tested positive.

The next thing the governor (Ganduje) did was to send him to Jigawa, saying he did not want him in his state. Governor Badaru called to appeal to him, telling him that the general understanding is that whoever is “infected in your state, attend to him until he or she is okay before releasing him to the public, just as Lagos and every other states are doing”.

Because releasing an infected person to Jigawa would only complicate and increase the chances of other people to be infected. But the Kano governor said the only way he could accept the infected person was if Governor Badaru would accept to put Jigawa by the name of the infected person. Governor Badaru was annoyed.

He told him that he would get an ambulance to pick him up. Three days later, the Kano governor sent about 400 almajiris boys back to Jigawa. So, Kano must be taken care first, because it is now the epicentre for the virus in the North.

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