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ASO ROCK WATCH: Coronavirus takes seat in the Presidency. 2 other talking points

ASO ROCK WATCH: Do calls for Buhari to address Nigerians over COVID-19 amount to cheap politics? 2 other talking points

The Nigerian media space was awash, last week, with news that President Muhammadu Buhari’s Chief of Staff, Abba Kyari, had tested positive for coronavirus after being screened by the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC).

Reports had it that Kyari, on March 7, traveled to Germany – which currently has over 67,000 cases of the coronavirus – to represent the President in meetings with Siemens Group on the Nigeria electricity expansion programme. He had also traveled to Egypt which now has over 600 cases of the global pandemic.

He returned to the country on March 14. A week after, based on medical advice, he went for a test which, unfortunately, turned out positive.

Before he got to know his status, Kyari, who is widely reported to be President Buhari’s right-hand man, had attended Fidau prayer where he had contact with people. He also allegedly had contacts with several prominent persons in meetings and visits.

Kyari’s health challenge triggered a massive test of people in Aso Rock villa for the coronavirus. Results which came in showed that three persons in Kyari’s work unit tested positive.

Kyari has since relocated to Lagos, claiming in a publicized statement that he had made private arrangements for management of his health challenge. By his admittance, Kyari has unwittingly exposed the underbelly of the Buhari presidency, especially in the mismanagement of the Aso Villa medical infrastructure.

Read also: ASO ROCK WATCH: Do calls for Buhari to address Nigerians over COVID-19 amount to cheap politics? 2 other talking points

Questions being asked include why the State House Medical Centre, in Aso Rock Villa, is not well-equipped to take care of him despite years of heavy budgetary allocations running into several billions.

For instance, in the 2020 budget that Buhari presented to the National Assembly, N723,003,927 was budgeted for the State House Medical Centre while the Federal Government will spend N203,350,424 to purchase drugs for the clinic.

In 2017, it was reported that the clinic had gulped budgetary allocations in excess of N3billion in the years: 2015, 2016 and 2017. Arguably, therefore, the clinic was deemed to have all it takes to treat his Chief-of-Staff instead of the private arrangements made to treat him to Lagos.

Indeed, the Kyari situation exposes everything that is wrong with the Presidency’s unpreparedness to fight the coronavirus pandemic. And, more importantly, Kyari’s refusal to self-isolate calls to question the level of his appreciation or, indeed, degree of knowledge of the pandemic touted by the highest ranking officers of the country.

2 other talking points

Buhari, Osinbajo here for good!

A cheery side to Aso Rock Watch, last week, was Buhari and Vice President Yemi Osinbajo coming off negative for coronavirus. Abba Kyari’s indisposition had raised sufficient alarm for these helmsmen to be tested for the virus.

The President’s coronavirus status was a pleasant surprise given the much speculated special relationship between him and Kyari. The fears were doused when the test result conducted by the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) proved negative.

Even more cheering was Buhari’s physical appearance at the Villa, after weeks of unfounded rumour that he had been smuggled out of the country for treatment of deadly coronavirus. The video clip and pictures of the President receiving a briefing from the Minister of Health, Osagie Ehanire and the Director-General of the NCDC, Chikwe Ihekweazu, at the Presidential villa put an end to the rumours.

Osinbajo’s status was cleared by his media aide, Laolu Akande.

From frying pan to fire?

President Buhari, last week, ordered the decongestion of the Correctional Service formations in the country due to fears of the spread of the coronavirus. This was revealed in a statement by the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, who affirmed that the President was concerned that around 70% of the inmates were awaiting trial amid the outbreak of the pandemic.

According to Malami, the categories of inmates that will be considered are those that had stayed in the Correctional Service Centres for a period above ten years and those that had stayed as inmates for a longer period without any documentation relating to their detention.

“Others are those that have the option of fine, those that have been in the centres on holding charges in respect of offences that the Magistrate that sent them to Correctional Service Formations do not have the jurisdiction to try the cases,” he added.

As laudable as it may be, it must be said that the initiative amounts to a fire brigade approach. Critics are quick to add that the sordid state of Correctional Service Centres across the federation clearly suggests that the institution lacks the adequate support for reformation of inmates.

It would seem, from the perspectives of critics, therefore, that government’s sole objective at this time was to decongest the prisons for the singular aim of buttressing the social-distancing policy and not to pursue a long term response to prison congestion in the country.

It would be interesting to know what the numbers are, in terms of released detainees, and the post-release report on how this set of Nigerians are reintegrating into the larger society.

By John Chukwu…

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