Bauchi State residents are alleging massive deaths from a ‘strange ailment’ in Azare, headquarters of Katagum Local Government Area of the state.
About 301 people are feared dead in the last two weeks in the area, according to residents.
Some suspect the strange ailment to be COVID-19
The State Government on Saturday alleged exaggeration of the matter.
Deputy Governor Baba Tela told reporters that the situation in the Azare was being blown out of proportion by those who don’t reside in 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 Task force on COVID-19 to urgently reach out to Azare town with all the necessary facilities and palliatives to assist the communities there.”
He also appealed to the president to allow a facility the Central Bank of Nigeria built at a Federal Medical Centre in the town to be used for the treatment of COVID-19 patients.
“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,” he said.
“This facility can be repurposed to a COVID-19 test and treatment center provided the right equipment are 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.”
Azare who posted the letter on his Facebook wall said: ‘’ 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 need to intensify awareness campaign.
‘’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!”
An Azare resident, Muhammad Muktar, however told The Nation the 310 said to have died were “aged” people.
Another resident, Salisu Azare said: “of course, what you heard is true. The figure may be even be more than that and most of them are within the range of 60 years and above.
“But no one would tell you what killed them. I think only scientific examinations could prove the ailment that killed them. But we are really scared.”