Following the outbreak of coronavirus pandemic at the Presidential Villa, the Nigerian government has put in place new conditions and preventive measures visitors must fulfil before gaining access to the seat of power.
PREMIUM TIMES had on December 25 exclusively reported the pandemic outbreak at the villa and how the government kept a sealed lip over the matter. Though the senior special assistant to President Muhammadu Buhari on media and publicity, Garba Shehu, confirmed in a text message shared with our reporter that he contracted the virus, he declined to either confirm or deny other aides of the President had.
The government’s decision to keep the development under wraps has only further exposed the secrecy of governance in Nigeria. Such practice has gradually grown to become a culture among public officials in Nigeria, particularly at the centre, as they conceal the health conditions of public officeholders. From the years of the late President Umar Yar’Adua to the incumbent Mr Buhari, the public has always been in the dark over the nature of ailments their leaders are being treated for whenever they fall sick.
But Mr Shehu’s colleague, Femi Adesina, appeared on Channels Television’s programme “Politics Today,” more than 24 hours after he had failed to confirm or deny the development to our reporter who reached out to him, confirmed the outbreak. Meanwhile, Mr Shehu has since released an update on his Facebook page, saying he has been confirmed fit by the doctors.
Addressing journalists on Sunday, Mr Shehu said new protective measures had been put in place at the statehouse to ward off a resurgence of the infection in and around the President. Mr Shehu, who said the new measures are not targeted at the governors willing to see Mr Buhari or any other guest of the President alone, noted that any visitor to the villa must pass through the same process. He said: “Yes, a new regime of COVID-19 regulation has been put in place for all visitors to the Villa, not for governors alone. “Every visitor to the Villa, not just those seeing the President, is now required to do a rapid test at the gate. The kits are freely issued, so no one must make payment. This is purely temporary because of the recent spike in cases and will be removed any moment the situation decreases. It’s a growing practice in government offices in many countries.”
Though Mr Shehu did not mention those to benefit from the exceptions to the new rule, he confirmed that specific categories of people may be visiting the villa but are to be exempted from the new conditions. “Although some exceptions have been made for a few leaders in government coming from outside the Villa, they too are encouraged to do those tests. This policy has rightfully been justified following the discovery of COVID-19 positivity in some of those tested since the last few days of the practice,” the presidential aide added.
COVID-19 in Nigeria
Since the pandemic outbreak in Nigeria in February 2020, the spike in infections, recorded at the twilight of 2021, had been unprecedented. The President had also never been that endangered with many of his aides, including the Permanent Secretary in the State House, Tijani Umar; the aide-de-camp (ADC), Yusuf Dodo and Mr Buhari’s chief security officer (CSO), Aliyu Musa, all reportedly down with the virus. As of Monday, the country’s fatality toll from the pandemic stands at 3,039, while the infection toll has increased to 243,450.
According to the latest update by the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), the number of people who are currently down with COVID-19 infections has increased to 25,111. In contrast, 215,352 have successfully been treated and discharged nationwide. The government has continued to emphasise vaccination against the virus as the only antidote while also appealing to the people to celebrate the yuletide season with moderation by observing relevant protocols already put in place to guide against further spread of infections.