A former member of the House of Representatives, Ibrahim Mohammed Baba, has alerted the nation over the death of about 110 persons in Azare town, headquarters of Katagum Local Government Area of Bauchi State, within the past two weeks.
In a letter to president Muhammadu Buhari last week, Baba said the deaths are COVID-19 related.
The former lawmaker, who served between 2015 and 2019, said about 286 persons were buried at the Azare cemetery in the last two weeks, adding that anyone in doubt should visit the cemetery to verify his claim.
Baba, confirmed to the press that he wrote the letter, saying that the deaths were due to the outbreak of coronavirus in the town. The outbreak, he claimed, resulted in over 100 fatalities.
The entire area has been thrown into great mourning, panic and confusion, he said.
Baba urged the President to intervene urgently.
He said, “If you go to the graveyard, they have a register there and you would see it yourself. In the last two weeks, they registered more than 286 bodies at the Azare graveyard. The normal death rate in the town was about one to two per day, so you have to raise the alarm when you are burying 200 to 300 persons in two weeks and over 100 per week. Our people are dying, do we have to keep quiet?
“We are not blaming anybody; this is a pandemic, we are just asking the government to take further action. The Federal Medical Centre there is doing well; they have over 20 people in isolation there. It’s a case of community transmission like the one in Kano.
“Go to the Federal Medical Centre isolation centre and ask them how many people they have there within two weeks. When Justice Dahiru Saleh died, the record was around 236. If you go to the Azare cemetery, the register is there. What we are trying to do is to inform the government to do the needful. We are asking for a testing centre and other measures the government can deploy to give palliatives to people.”
The letter partly read, “The centrality and proximity of Azare to Bauchi, Kano and some major cities of Jigawa State makes 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 towards states capitals and other more prominent cities, the ongoing horrific situation in Azare has not got the attention it deserves, and that is why I want to use this privilege to appeal to you for urgent action to arrest the unpalatable situation.
“Consequently therefore, I wish to appeal to Your Excellency to direct the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control and the Presidential Task Force 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 an Opthalmology 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 inaugurated and put to use till now.”
The total number of cases in Bauchi State rose to 161 after the addition of the 44 new cases detected on Saturday.
However, a Peoples Democratic Party candidate from Azare/Madangala constituency for the House of Assembly election in the last general elections, Musa Azare, in an open letter to Governor Bala Mohammed claimed that as of Thursday, there were over 301 fresh graves dug at the Azare cemetery in the last 14 days, the Punch reports
He said what was more troubling was the way people accompanied the corpses for burial, pointing out that it was in violation of government’s directives and protocols.
“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,” he said.
Azare said that there was the need to intensify awareness among the people, advising the indigenes to be more cautious in the face of the pandemic.
He added, “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 scepticism will not do anyone any good. In fact, it is part of the reasons why we are witnessing more and more deaths. And truly, it amounts to us killing ourselves.”
Also an indigene of Azare and Secretary of the Muhammad Dankauwa Horse Riders Association in the town, Mr Umar Farouq, said over 300 people had died in the community.
It is sad that no tests were being carried out to determine the cause of the deaths, he told he newspaper.
He said, “Most of the people who have died were aged 60 and above. Since April 24 when Fatima Adamu, the mother of the Minister of Education, Adamu Adamu, died in Azare, we have been seeing more deaths.
“About 300 persons have died in Azare now. No autopsy has been carried out to determine what killed them and we have been living as if nothing is going on.
“We are scared because most people living in Azare are like a family. We need a COVID-19 testing centre to determine what’s going on.”
Meanwhile, the Bauchi State government says a panel to investigate the ailment responsible for the deaths of some people in Azare, Katagum local government area of the state has been set up.
At a press briefing on Saturday, Baba Tela, chairman of the task force on COVID-19 in the state, said the commissioner of health had been asked to find out the cause of the deaths.
Tela denied that there were multiple deaths in the town, saying only one COVID-19 death had been recorded at the Federal Medical Centre in Azare.
The deputy governor said other deaths in the town were not unusual as he had found out from the people at Azare.