COVID-19: Myths Could Stifle Kano’s Control Measures
…concerned authorities take measures to curb spread
AREWA AGENDA – Among Kano’s crowded markets, roaming child-beggars and crammed up transport system are people who carry with them beliefs that could jeopardise the state government’s efforts to curb local transmission of the continuing COVID-19 pandemic.
COVID-19 which is caused by a new strain of viruses called severe acute respiratory syndrome 2 (SARS-CoV-2), is ravaging the world with the World Health Organization confirming 2,078,277 cases, 525,316 recoveries and 138,101 global deaths as of Thursday.
With a population of about 15 million, Kano is rife with apprehensions that the pandemic could devastate the commercial nerve centre of the North should the virus not be nipped in the bud after its first index case was reported on April 12th.
Already, cases in Nigeria are seeing linear increase with over 400 confirmed cases, 128 concurrent recoveries and 12 deaths as of the time of this report.
Kano cases shot through the roof on Thursday to 21 infected persons and one death barely a day after it reported just about nine confirmed cases.
To curb spread and stem devastating consequence, Governor Abdullahi Umar Ganduji had earlier announced a week long total lockdown of the State moments after addressing clerics and top members of his cabinet at Africa House.
The Governor said, “from Thursday, April 16 2020, no going to Jumat Mosque as all Muslims are mandated to pray in their homes. All markets will be shut as well as marriage ceremonies.’ The lockdown will be total. I, therefore appeal to all the good people of Kano to cooperate with the lockdown directive as it is for their own good.”
Before Kano’s index case, the government has announced restrictive measures such as schools and land border closure but reports emerged that the borders linking in and out of the state remained largely porous as vehicles continued to defy the order.
Some residents who spoke anonymously, said COVID-19 cannot penetrate Kano because we have “big clerics who are continuously praying” against its influx.
With a sizeable number of residents carrying this or any other form of belief about COVID-19 in mind, one can observe that markets and ATM outlets are crowded, transport systems are crammed while keeping to basic preventive measures such as social distancing, coughing into the elbow or tissue and putting on face masks are very uncommon.
Difference of Opinion
A trip around Fagge – the hub of Kano’s main markets, Kumbotso, and Ungogo Local Government Areas of Kano State indicates that while some believe that hot weather, prayers or hot water and lime are enough to supress the virus, others believe that the issue of COVID-19 itself is an absolute farce.
Arewa Agenda sighted a petty trader who deals in soap and detergent at the Yankura Market beside Fagge Local Government Secretariat and accosted him to inquire if he is in the habit of washing his hands with soap, he said he does, although the hands indicated otherwise.
When probed further if he believes COVID-19 is real he simply responded, “I believe COVID-19 is real abroad but it doesn’t exist in Nigeria” While decrying the effect of restrictive measures on the poor masses, he noted that demand for his wares are in the decline especially with the border closure, an indication that not many takes washing hands seriously.
“Definitely, COVID-19 exists because I listen to radio a lot and I have been following developments on the matter.” Says Another trader who deals in grains in the same market. He prayed for God’s healing on those who are already infected and protection from the virus from those who are not infected.
While admitting full awareness to the preventive measures, he said, “Government should have pity on the poor because food prices are soaring and people don’t even have money to buy food so stopping people from movements or going to the market is definitely not good, prayer is the only way out. We should stop copying foreign countries.”
Another trader who identified himself as Ibrahim Labaran Kanwa said, “I have heard talks about the virus but I don’t believe it because for us as Muslims the only way out of this pandemic is prayers and recitation of the Holy Qur’an contrary to what our leaders impose ban on praying in mosques and recitations. This is not the way out. It is God that enjoined us to pray and ask for his intervention in trying times so what then is the logic behind banning prayers. God cannot help us this way”
“COVID-19 is nothing but western propaganda because such a thing can never have effect on Muslims and their beliefs” says another trader who sells grains close to Mallam Labaran.
When countered that Saudi Arabia, the birth place of Islam is a major casualty of the virus, he quipped, “these issues are not for sure, radio and internet lie a lot as opposed to reality.”
Another rice seller who identified herself as Salamatu said, “Yes, we have heard about it, but we have not seen it.”
Salamatu however expressed a good level of awareness about preventive measures to curb spread of the virus. She opined that if one is destined to be infected, there is no way out. “we can only pray for Allah’s intervention.” She concluded.
Another trader who deals in textile told Arewa Agenda that, “I believe it exist, its destiny from Allah but I don’t observe any preventive habit, it is only God that can protect me from it.”
An elderly woman who sells roasted corn under the bridge said she doesn’t have business with Coronavirus, her Only business is selling roasted maze but she prayed that the virus doesn’t affect “anybody.”
Other traders, commuters and buyers continued to express variance of opinion and beliefs about the virus but most indicates negligence to measures required to curb its spread.
Interestingly, Arewa Agenda observed that residents in rural areas believe more in the virus and its effect than those in the urban areas of Kano.
In Kera, a Fulani settlement (Rugan Alhaji Abu) in Panisau, Ungogo Local Government, Alhaji Mahmuda Sani the Ardo (head) of the area expressed delight on sighting the team of reporters, appreciating them for the good work they are doing in sensitising people especially via “radio.” He revealed that “This thing is from Allah, so who will say they don’t believe it? We are definitely aware of the virus. We are upto date with the devastation it is causing across the globe and even Nigeria, so who will say he doesn’t believe?”
While praying for God to bless the reporters and strengthen the bond of togetherness, Alhaji Mahmuda beseeched Allah to bring an end to the pandemic and called on government to endeavour to include them in ongoing palliatives.
Another resident of Ungogo said, “We are well aware of the measures to curb spread of the virus and we are keeping strictly to it. We stay at home, but when it becomes necessary for us to go out we wash our hands when we return, we maintain social distance and cough into our elbows.”
Concerned authorities take measures to curb spread
Despite measures taken by federal and state government to check prevalence, the Kano State Emirate council is not leaving anything to chance.
The Emir of Kano, Alhaji Aminu Ado Bayero, had three weeks ago, instructed all District Heads to debrief at his palace every Wednesday concerning situation of things in their respective domains. In turn, the District Heads informed all village heads to monitor and report all movements in their respective villages including suspected cases, cases of visitors from Lagos, Kaduna, Abuja or any other state with reported cases and report back every Tuesday.
One of the text messages sighted by this reporter appraising the District Head of Ungogo of the latest situation Karo Village states, “Long live your highness, May Allah grant you sufficient health. So far, Karo is fine with no suspected case, we beseech Allah to continue to protect us from this pandemic. From the Village head of Karo.”
Another message from the village head of Katsinawa reads, “Long live your highness, with regards to situation report in my village of Katsinawa, we are all fine and there is no cause for alarm. May Allah continue to protect us.”
Speaking to this reporter, his highness Alhaji Abdulkadir Muhammad Chedi, District Head of Ungogo said, “about 90% of our people are traders who always commute between here and Kano City and on the instance of his highness the Emir of Kano, we have since sensitized them on the issue of COVID-19 and we are always summoning village heads and imams on the need to ensure people stick to preventive measures including total hygiene and social distancing. We are also not allowing visitors in and so far our Village heads have ensured compliance. We continue to pray for Allah’s protection on us and Nigeria as a whole.”
Alhaji Abdulkadir Shehu Ahmad, the Wakili (representative) of the District Head on his part, said, in addition to monitoring efforts, all village heads have been instructed to constitute a committee with various ward councillors as Chairman of such committees with the mandate to continuously sensitize people and create needed awareness on COVID-19.
“In addition there, is a committee set up by state government in all 42 Local Government Areas of the State where I advised on behalf of my principal that all Mosque should keep hand sanitizers for worshipers and so far it has been in effect especially on Fridays.”
He noted that they also made efforts to decongest markets and car parks. He also revealed that they had made copies of the hotlines for Kano State response team and National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) and distributed to all village heads.
While praying for Allah’s protection, he said it is wrong for some Muslim not to believe in this crisis because pandemic itself has been as old as man.
At the Yar Lemu fruit market in Kumbotso Local Government Area of Kano State, a fruit seller who identified himself as Dahiru Abdullahi said, “Yes we have been hearing of the virus and we keep on praying for Allah to bring it to an end in Nigeria and the world in general.”
The Public Relations Officer II of the market, Ashiru Bayero revealed that in collaboration with the State’s Health Ministry, market leaders have placed sanitizers and other protection materials in strategic areas of the market.
National Orientation Agency (NOA) Steps Up
On its part, the National Orientation Agency (NOA) at Local Government level have embarked on massive sensitization of locals about the pandemic including government and programs to check spread.
The NOA officer, Ungogo LGA, Ahmed Hamau Mufti said,“We have been working effectively with the Local Government Task Force on COVID-19 and as far as sensitization and awareness is concerned we have achieved tremendous level of progress.” He noted that they are not leaving even Fulani settlements behind in this collective fight.
Jamila Atiku Mohammed, NOA officer for Fagge Local Government Area corroborated Mr. Hamau. She stated that NOA has been making these efforts even before the outbreak of COVID-19 in the State.
“Fagge is an abode for most of the Markets in the State. So we are constantly meeting their leaders also and those of transport union to ensure that they sensitize their people adequately and so far we have seen a good level of mindset shift from the people with regards to the beliefs they use to hold about the virus that it only affects rich people and so forth.” She stressed.
On his part, the NOA officer for Kumbotso, Tukur Abba confirmed that Agency has been up and doing in the collective effort against spread of the virus, “We even distributed hand sanitizers across key areas of Kumbotso.” He said.
COVID-19 Doesn’t Discriminate – Medical Expert
According to Dr. Usman Bashir of the Department of Public Health, Aminu Kano Teaching Hospital, Bayero University Kano, the best way to stay safe is for the general public to ensure strict adherence to preventive guidelines as the virus does not discriminate between social class, weather or skin colour.
In debunking the myths, Dr. Bashir pointed out that countries with hotter weather than Nigeria like the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia are already battling with high level of prevalence of the virus. He also observed that black communities are the most affected in the United States hence coronavirus has nothing to do with race.
“People need to caution themselves seriously because look at most of the countries that we are always running to for help are currently helpless themselves so the sooner people realise the enormity of the situation we are in and take preventive measures, the better for all of us. Look at countries who took the outbreak for granted just like some people are doing now, countries like Spain, Slovakia, Czech Republic, Italy among others, look at what they are going through right now.”
He emphasised that continuous human interaction where coughing and surface contact is inevitable fast tracks the spread of COVID-19, hence the need to ban social gatherings in the interim.
Far from over
Although the war against COVID-19 is still raging on with no end in sight, it is obvious that difference of opinion and grandstanding by people across divides especially about myths associated with the pandemic will definitely threaten progress in curbing spread, Government should therefore not rely only on arbitrary orders and enforcement, but increased sensitization and awareness while also enacting laws that stipulate penalties for deliberate negligence.