By Omeiza Ajayi
•Warns patients against attacking health workers
•To subject ‘Madagascar’s cure’ to analysis; over 27,000 tests conducted so far
•We’re not aware, but clinical trial is a normal process — NMA President
The Federal Government has enrolled the Federal Capital Territory, FCT as well as Lagos, Ogun, Kano, Kaduna and Sokoto states in the “solidarity trials”, an international clinical trial to help find a cure for COVID-19 being spearheaded by the World Health Organization, WHO.
The government also warned COVID-19 patients in its isolation and treatment centres against attacking doctors and other healthcare workers who are catering for their medical needs, describing such actions as inhuman, unacceptable and reprehensible.
It also said it has conducted over 27,000 tests so far, while about 600 Nigerians in diaspora had been evacuated and are now in isolation.
The government equally confirmed that it has reached out to Madagascar for its elixir named “Covid Organic,” but said the product will be subjected to scientific analysis to ascertain its genuineness and perhaps begin its local production.
This is even as the National Human Rights Commission, NHRC, announced yesterday that it received a total of 104 complaints on rights violations from 27 states across the country.
WHO solidarity trials
Speaking at yesterday’s briefing of the Presidential Task Force, PTF, on COVID-19, Minister of Health, Dr Osagie Ehanire, listed the states that would be participating in the trials.
The solidarity trial, which is an international clinical trial to help find an effective treatment for COVID-19, was launched by the WHO and partners.
More than 100 countries have joined the solidarity trial and to date, over 1,200 patients have been randomized from the first five countries to evaluate the safety and efficacy of full drug and drug combinations.
WHO had announced that Nigeria had recently indicated its readiness to join the trials.
Giving an update on the trials, the minister said: “The Federal Government is cooperating with WHO on treatment regimen solidarity trial, with the following states enrolled: Lagos, FCT, Ogun, Kaduna, Sokoto and Kano.”
We are not aware but it is a normal scientific process — NMA
Contacted on the issue, President of the Nigerian Medical Association, NMA, Dr Francis Faduyile said although the NMA was not aware of the trial, the process was a scientific procedure to get drugs and vaccines approved.
“We have been involved in other clinical trials not only on COVID-19 but in drug formulations. It is a normal thing in science and it does not mean that the Federal Government wants to use Nigerians as guinea pigs. They must have passed through a lot of processes before they want to do trials.
“It is a normal scientific process of getting drugs approved as well as getting vaccines approved. We are not aware of this one the Federal government is planning but it is a normal process.”
Attack on health workers
Chairman of the PTF and Secretary to the Government of the Federation SGF, Mr Boss Mustapha, said most of the demands made by patients are such that health workers are not in a position to meet.
There had been reports of COVID-19 patients attacking health workers and asking for improved welfare or be released.
He said: “The PTF has also continued to receive, rather sadly, reports about challenges facing the front-line health workers. They have received threat to lives, experienced detention by patients they are actually nursing to health and suffered other forms of harassment.
“Let me underscore the fact that these front-line workers constantly put their lives on the line to make sure persons infected are provided with the best care possible to enable them become healthy citizens again.
“It is, therefore, inhuman and unacceptable that patients engage in acts of locking them up and making demands that these front-line officers, most of the time do not have the capacity to address. The PTF views such behaviour as reprehensible and should be deprecated. We call on all state governments to take this up appropriately.”
He added that the PTF was identifying and assessing all low to medium and high burden areas, with a view to assessing and modifying its strategy to strengthen community ownership in the national response.
States to liaise with Catholic Bishops
The Federal Government also asked states to liaise with Catholic Bishops in their areas in order to access more spaces for isolation of COVID-19 cases.
He said it would soon be impossible for state capitals to contend with the number that would be thrown at them, hence the need to accept every offer of bed space from good-spirited individuals and organizations.
“We wish to confirm that states have been encouraged strongly to set up isolation centres, wards (including ICU) with a minimum of 300 beds each. This will help accommodate levels 1 & 2 cases. “However, with the increase in numbers, we are beginning to experience a shortage of bed spaces in the isolation centres, especially in the high burden areas.
“We are conscious of the need to take care of different categories of persons e.g. people living with disabilities, terminal conditions and other underlying factors/co-morbidities.
“As part of efforts to support states in the establishment of isolation and treatment centres, I wish to remind our governors that the Catholic Bishops Conference has volunteered all the 425 hospitals and clinics nationwide for adaptation and use as isolation centres.
“Governors are encouraged to please approach Catholic Bishops in their states to access these facilities,” the SGF said.
Madagascar’s cure to be tested
The SGF said the product which is currently in Guinea-Bissau, would soon be freighted to Nigeria and subjected to all necessary validations before usage.
He said: “With respect to the Madagascar syrup, it has been freighted to Guinea-Bissau by the President of Madagascar. Certain allocations have been made to different countries. We have an indication of the quantity that has been allocated to Nigeria and we are supposed to make arrangements to freight it out of Guinea-Bissau to Nigeria.
“I have received instructions from Mr President to make arrangements to freight it home with a clear instruction that I should subject it to the validation process similar to what would happen to any other medicine or syrup or vaccine that is discovered or created internally.
“So, it will be subjected to the same process before it is put into any form of use. There will be no exception on that.’’
Speaking in the same vein, the Minister of Health, Dr Osagie Ehanire, said Nigeria would analyze the syrup to see if it could be reproduced here.
He said: “We have a promise of being able to get samples of the herb or botanical product for analysis and also probably use that opportunity to speak with the health authorities there, particularly the scientific community on how they use it.
“But obviously, to also give back to the research community here to examine and see what they can do with it.
“We understand that it is something called ‘Artemisia Annua’ which also grows here but we will like to, if we get that sample, compare it with the strain here, whether they are exactly identical or whether they are two different strains and see what properties it has and subjected to further analysis to find out what works there, how it works and the use in getting a cure.
“Obviously, countries in the world are interested in finding a cure and we are not different. So, we are looking at all possibilities, all options, all promises that are made, we examine them, and before we give them to our people, we make sure they are actually safe and that they work.”
On the number of tests conducted so far, the minister said: “At the end of yesterday (Sunday), Nigeria has ramped up testing by 1,127 to a total of 27,078 tests, which yielded 4,399 cases in 35 states, with a gender ratio of 70 to 30 percent for men and women.
“778 persons have been discharged home and we have sadly recorded 143 fatalities, giving a case fatality rate of 3%.
“Senior management of the Federal Ministry of Health and clinical case managers in our hospitals this morning participated in a multinational teleconference with Chinese medical and academic experts in Beijing, where much insight was gained into the treatment strategy of China and other matters of common interest were discussed. The learning from this intervention is invaluable in reexamining our methods,” he added.
New 500-bed space in Abuja
The Federal Capital Territory Administration on its part, has unveiled a 500-bed capacity isolation centre in the Idu district of the territory.
FCT Minister, Malam Muhammad Musa Bello, while commissioning the isolation centre, appealed to residents to take responsibility and follow all the laid down protocols by health experts to halt the spread of coronavirus.
The SGF also announced that it had received a letter from the National Human Rights Commission, NHRC, detailing incidences of rights violation by security operatives enforcing the COVID-19 restrictions.
Executive Secretary of the commission, Tony Ojukwu, had in a report, documented the various thematic areas in which the violations occurred, the nature of the violations, the disaggregated data on state reported violations, the agencies of government responsible for the violations as well as the response/action taken to remedy the violations.
The violations occurred between April 13 and May 4, 2020.
Ojukwu listed the states as Abia, Adamawa; Akwa Ibom; Kano; Jigawa; Cross Rivers; Ebonyi; Edo; Enugu; Ekiti; Delta; Imo; Lagos; Nasarawa; Niger; Ogun; Osun; Borno; Bayelsa; Kogi; Benue; Anambra; Kaduna; Gombe; Zamfara and Rivers.
According to the NHRC report, Enugu State has the highest recorded cases with 13 incidents, followed by Imo State with 12 incidents; Akwa Ibom and Nasarawa states recorded 10 incidents each, while Delta and Abia states recorded nine and seven incidents respectively.
“Lagos State recorded five cases, while FCT and Benue state recorded four cases each, followed by Niger, Zamfara, Osun and Rivers states with three incidents each. Anambra, Jigawa, Bayelsa and Edo States recorded two incidents each; while Ogun, Kogi, Borno, Gombe, Kaduna, Adamawa, Ebonyi, Kano, Cross River and Ekiti states recorded one incident each.
“The complaints of human rights violations were received and documented in the areas of extra-judicial killings, violation of right to freedom of movement, unlawful arrest and detention, seizure/confiscation of properties, sexual and gender based violence, SGBV, torture, inhumane and degrading treatment and extortion.
“There were 11 documented incidents of extra-judicial killing leading to 11 deaths. Out of this number, four deaths were recorded in Abia state alone. Delta state recorded two deaths, while Niger, Jigawa, Lagos, Anambra and Rivers states recorded one death each.
“The report further shows that out of the 11 deaths, the Nigeria Police Force was responsible for seven deaths, while the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC), non-state actors and the Abia State Task Force on COVID-19 were responsible for one death each.
“Investigation is still on-going as at the time of the report to unravel the perpetrator of the extra-judicial killing that occurred in Jigawa State,’’ Ojukwu said.
The report also showed other types of violations recorded within the period to include 34 incidents of torture, inhumane and degrading treatment, 14 incidents of violation of right to freedom of movement, unlawful arrest and detention, 11 incidents of seizure/confiscation of properties, 19 incidents of extortion and 15 incidents of Sexual and Gender Based Violence, SGBV.
He added: “The report finds that the Nigeria Police Force accounted for 59.6 per cent of the total cases of violations, followed by non-state actors that is mostly private individuals in SGBV related cases which accounted for 18.3 per cent of the total cases.
“The various task forces on enforcement of COVID-19 regulations across the states accounted for 10.5 percent of the total cases, while the Nigeria Army and the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps, NSCDC, accounted for 7.7 per cent and 1.9 per cent respectively.
“The Department of State Services, DSS, also accounted for one percent of the total cases, while a perpetrator representing the other one percent is yet to be determined at the time of this report.”