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What Manner of COVID-19 Does ‘Benue Index Case’, Susan Okpe Has?

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By Eric Elezuo

On March 28, 2020, the Benue State government announced its first case of Coronavirus, mentioning in a well attended press conference that one Mrs Susan Okpe, a returnee from England, had tested positive for the dreaded disease. The announcement was made by the state’s number one citizen, Mr. Samuel Otorm, in total adherence to Section 26 (2) (e) of the National Health Act, 2014, according his Chief Press Secretary during a much later statement.

“It is the constitutional duty of the governor to ensure the safety and wellbeing of his people. Section 26 (2) (e) of the National Health Act, 2014 gives the government the powers to disclose information relating to a person if ‘non-disclosure of the information represents a serious threat to public health,” he said.

However, storms started to brew shortly afterwards with Mrs Okpe, who admitted that he returned from England to attend her mother’s funeral, saying she was not sick, and could not in anyway with COVID-19 positive. She stated that she had sought medical attention on arrival as a result of pains occasioned by jet lag; the same according to her was promptly attended to, and she was alright.

But the last was not heard of it as the Benue State government insisted that she was positive and therefore a threat to public health. The woman maintained otherwise, and followed it up with refusal to take any form of treatment. But how did the drama started? The governor’s CPS said in part:

“After the Deputy Governor, Benson Abounu led a team of medical experts to counsel Mrs. Okpe and explained to her why she had to be moved to the Benue State University Teaching Hospital, BSUTH, it was only proper that the people were informed that there was an index case in the state. This is precisely what the Governor did.”

Mrs. Okpe, who insisted she was not sick, was moved to the isolation and treatment centre at Benue State University Teaching Hospital, BSUTH, after much persuasion by the chairman of the committee and Benue State Deputy Governor, Mr. Benson Abounu. But refusing to accept any drugs, it was reported that the Nigeria centre for Disease Control (NCDC) ordered that she be moved to Abuja. She was moved to Abuja on April 4, 2020, about seven days after she was isolated.

Okpe blatantly refused to cooperated with the medical team, maintaining that she was neither sick nor COVID-19 positive and was being unjustly been held. This led her to making a two and half minutes video recording asking the federal government to release her from “incarceration.” Below is the transcription of the video:

“Hi, everybody, this is Susan Idoko Okpe, née Lawani. I am pleading with everybody to please tell Nigerian government to let me go. This is my 16th day of incarceration. What have I done, what have I done? Benue state lied on me that I have COVID-19. I just got the result yesterday after 15 days and the result is a stage play with different date birthdays, different recordings which they themselves know and trying to put right.”

As if that wasn’t enough, another of Okpe’s video emerged a few days ago where she maintained that she was still being held against her will. And reiterating Okpe’s story, the House of Representatives has urged the NCDC to intervene in the matter to hasten the discharge of the woman, whose stay in isolation has exceeded 50 gays.

The House reasoned that “The details of this Mrs. Susan ldoko-Okpe Nee Lawani is not consistent with that of the lady who was referred from Benue State Teaching Hospital, Makurdi, to Gwagwalada Specialist Hospital, Abuja.

“The personal information on the laboratory result from the NCDC did not also tally with her personal details.”

So is this a case of mistaken identity? When would the mistake be realised and the needful be done? Again, is the Coronairus no longer on 14 days gestation period as the woman has spent almost four times the number.

While not only the NCDC should wade into the matter, the Federal Government must as a matter of urgency set up a panel of enquiry to report back within a time not more than two days to find out certain mysteries including why Okpe’s name had to be announced in the public domain even as her status was still being ascertained. It is on record that no COVID-19 patient’s name has ever been made public without their consent. Why was Okpe’s case different?

Time is now to unravel the intricacies behind the 56 year-old woman’s dilemma, and have discharged and bring to book whoever may be involved in her predicament no matter how highly placed.

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Peace Building: Ikeja, Emmaus Rotary Clubs Partner to Train West African Women

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Rotary Club of Ikeja, District 9110 , Lagos , Nigeria is teaming up with Emmaus Rotary Club, District 7430, Pennsylvania, USA and the Mediators Beyond Borders International, (MBBI) to organize the MBBI  International Peace  Training Institute  (MBBI- IPTI) in Lagos, Nigeria.

The training will involve 30 women- participants in peace building, conflict prevention and transformation skills to serve as peacebuilders in their own communities in some countries in West Africa.

According to a statement signed by the President of Rotary Club of Ikeja, Rotarian Dotun Lampejo, the training session which is themed, ‘Women in Peacebuilding: Enhancing Skills and Practice’, the participants for the two-week training are drawn from the host country, Nigeria as well as Sierra Leone, Ghana , Liberia and Cameroon and it would run between January 25th till February, 5th, 2021.

Rotarian Lampejo added that the training which would be virtual would help the women to learn with other peace builders from West Africa, develop their skills in restorative practices, mediation, trauma-informed conflict resolution, leadership and group facilitation as well as help them to connect with organizational and political leaders.

According to Lampejo, ‘’Our objective during the Peace and Conflict Resolution Month is to help build vibrant and more inclusive societies and we know that, that can only be possible in a society devoid of crisis. We are therefore collaborating with the Emmaus Rotary Club to organize the Rotary-MBBI International Peace Training Institute to make this possible.’’

While lending his voice, the Rotary Foundation Director of Emmaus Rotary  Club, Jim Palmquist said the club joined forces with Rotary Club of Ikeja to organise the Peacebuilding training session to make the world a more peaceful one.

Palmquist added that, ‘’Clearly the whole world desperately needs many more peacebuilders.  I believe we are building the experience within Rotary to spread peacebuilding skills and successes everywhere.  I see Rotary becoming one of the premier peace building NGOs.  Though Rotary has been leading in peace work since its beginning, we are going to expand its peace-making markedly and bring peace to the world.’’

While commenting on the choice of women as participants, the Managing Director of MBBI, Prabha Sankaranaraan said that, ” When you ask people about mediators people know, often the names mentioned are recognized globally and usually men. And yet some of the most complicated agreements in the world such as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action commonly known as the Iran Nuclear Deal, or the Philippines Peace process have had women at the center of the process.

‘The reality is that  women comprise only 2% of mediators of armed conflict in the whole world.

” The participation of civil society groups, including women’s organizations, makes a peace agreement 64% less likely to fail.

” When women participate in peace processes, the resulting agreement is 35% more likely to last at least 15 years. Higher levels of gender equality are associated with a lower propensity for conflict, both between and within states. All this points to the clear need for increasing the capacity of women.’’

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Accept COVID-19 Vaccines, TB Joshua Tells Nigerians

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The founder of the Synagogue Church Of All Nations (SCOAN), Temitope Joshua, has appealed to Nigerians to accept the approved COVID-19 vaccines as a way of ending the pandemic.

Mr Joshua, in a video made available to PREMIUM TIMES on Wednesday, said he has received thousands of emails concerning the safety of the vaccines expected in the country by the end of January.

“Concerning the ongoing situation in the world, I have received thousands of emails on the COVID-19 vaccine,” Mr Joshua said in the message broadcast on his Christian channel on Emmanuel TV.

The video and its content was sent to PREMIUM TIMES by a freelance journalist, Ihechukwu Njoku.

Mr Joshua noted that many conspiracy theories are surrounding the safety of the COVID-19 vaccines.

He, however, said federal authorities are only making efforts to put an end to the pandemic which has claimed millions of lives worldwide.

“No doubt, there are many conspiracy theories surrounding this vaccine. However, my belief is that our governments are only trying to look for a way out of this very challenging situation, although there may be bad faith in certain quarters,” he said.

“Many people have complained of some negative reactions but this is always the case with vaccines of this nature. I remember I used to have such reactions whenever I took chloroquine,” he continued, citing his personal experiences.

“That does not mean chloroquine is bad. It works positively for many. At this time, our governments need our support and our cooperation – because the world is in a dilemma,” he said.

The Nigerian government said it is expecting at least 100,000 doses of the Pfizer and BioNTech approved COVID-19 vaccines by the end of January through the COVAX co-financing public-private facility.

Evidence on ground at the country’s vaccine facility showed that there are three Ultra-cold freezers needed to store the vaccines when they finally arrive the country.

But health authorities have expressed fears over growing vaccines hesitancy caused by misinformation which leads to doubt of the efficacy of the vaccine.

One of such was recently demonstrated by a Nigerian governor discouraging people from taking the vaccines.

“…They want to use the (COVID-19) vaccines to introduce the disease that will kill you and us. God forbid!” Governor Yahaya Bello of Kogi State said in a video circulating on social media.

Aso Rock officials said both President Muhammadu Buhari and Vice President Yemi Osinbajo will take the COVID-19 vaccines live on TV to allay the growing vaccine hesitancy among Nigerians.

Governor Kayode Fayemi of Ekiti, who addressed journalists in Abuja after meeting with President Buhari recently said he and his colleagues will also take the vaccines on live television. “We too will like to demonstrate to our citizens that we believe that vaccines would work,” he said.

“Don’t forget, we have a lot of experience on this. Governors Forum managed the polio vaccines administration in the country and we have garnered a lot of experience,” said Mr Fayemi, the chairman of the Nigeria Governors Forum

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Police Arrest Killers of Immigration Officer, Six-Year Old, Others

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Operatives of the Nigeria Police Force Intelligence Response Team IRT have arrested one Friday Domozu, 23 years native of Jarkama Village, Bassa LGA of Kogi State, the leader of the kidnap gang responsible for the abduction and killing of a six year old, Farida Yahaya ‘m’ at the Gabije Area of Kogi State on 2nd November, 2020.

The victim was abducted alongside one Abdulraheem, ‘m’ 14years old who narrowly escaped from the kidnappers den.

Investigations by the Police team revealed that the kidnappers demanded a huge sum as ransom from the family of the little girl before she could be released, but eventually killed her owing to the inability of the family to meet up with their demands. Efforts by the Police team to rescue the little girl led to the arrest of the principal suspect, Friday Domozu who led the Police Team to a deep forest at Gabije area of Kogi State where the remains of the little girl were recovered. The Police Team also exhumed the decomposing body of another victim later found to be that of one 40years Ibrahim Madaki earlier declared missing. The remains of the victims have been deposited for autopsy. Friday Domozu also revealed to the Police team that he is an ex-military trainee who was declared unfit and subsequently withdrawn 5-months into training based on medical grounds. Efforts are being intensified to arrest his gang members still at large.

Similarly, the Police Team arrested one Halidu Usman ‘m’ of Akwanga, Nasarawa State, the gang leader of the group responsible for the killing of an Assistant Comptroller of Immigration, Late ACI Salisu Usman at Gudi area in Akwanga LGA, Nasarawa State on 15th June, 2020. The suspects stormed the house of the victim, killed him and his younger sister, Sa’adatu Usman, a final year medical student of the Usman Danfodio University, Sokoto State. The killers also abducted the wife of the victim, Asmau Salisu and collected ransom from the family before her release. The suspect is assisting the police team in the investigations and arrest of other members of the group still at large.

Police operatives also arrested four (4) kidnap/armed robbery gang members responsible for the recent series of kidnapping of some staff of the Ahmadu Bello University (ABU), Zaria and their families. The gang members; Abubakar Aliyu a.k.a Maigiwa, ‘m’ 27years, Aliyu Bello ‘m’ 18years, Ishaku Kabiru ‘m’ 30years and Abubakar Yakubu a.k.a Dogo ‘m’ 23years, were arrested following police investigations and rescue operations for the kidnap victims. The arrest of Abubakar Aliyu a.k.a Maigiwa led to the arrest of the other three (3) gang members. Abubakar Aliyu is a security staff of ABU Zaria who provides information to the gang on the movement and lifestyle of the victims. Some of the victims were rescued during the operation and reunited with their families.

Also, in a follow-up on investigations and information provided by a kidnap victim who identified and raised alarm on citing one Ibrahim Idris a.k.a Naira as a member of the gang responsible for his kidnap and collection of ransom before his release, the Police Team on 7th January, 2020 arrested the suspect which led to the arrest of two other gang members; Abubakar Yusuf a.k.a Ndalati ‘m’ 42years and Abubakar Ahmodu ‘m’ 20years. Investigations reveal that Abubakar Ahmodu is responsible for spying on and identifying potential victims of kidnap for the gang. As a matter of fact, he provided intimate details about his father which led to the kidnap and eventual extortion of a ransom of Two Million naira from his biological father.

All the suspects will be charged to court on conclusion of investigations.

Meanwhile, the Inspector General of Police, IGP M.A Adamu, NPM, mni has reiterated the commitment of the Force to cracking down on perpetrators of violent crimes in the country. The IGP expresses his sincere appreciation to the citizens for the useful information they avail the Police with which no doubt have continued to yield positive outcomes as seen in the arrest of the twenty-five suspects. He seeks further cooperation and assures that the Force will remain resolute to ensuring a safe and more secure country for all.

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