By AYOOLA OLAOLUWA
A major worry among government officials and health authorities is the growing threat from Delta, a highly contagious Covid-19 virus strain, which was first identified in India in December 2020. It swept rapidly through that country, South Africa, Great Britain, U.S, before reaching Nigeria, where it is now the predominant variant and wrecking serious havoc.
Business Hallmark gathered that recent deaths especially of the high and mighty and hospitalizations across the country are traceable to the Delta strain of Covid19.
The deadly virus has no boundaries and has made its way across all levels of society and age, with the nation’s elite class, comprising top politicians, legal and medical professionals, traditional rulers, academics, media icons and Nollywood actors, being the group hit hardest by the plague.
Reliable sources in the Federal Ministry of Health confirmed to BH that while only few deaths have been attributed to complications from Covid 19 related ailments, majority of the deaths from undisclosed ailments in the last five months are in fact Covid19 related.
Most families and relations of the victims, the sources argued, decided to keep secret the actual cause of deaths because of the stigma associated with the virus in Nigeria. At the last count, over 250 prominent Nigerians have died from Covid 19 complications since the beginning of 2021, figures from several health and medical sources suggest.
In August alone, over 45 prominent Nigerians made up of lawyers, academics, politicians and doctors are reported to have lost their lives to the dreaded virus. For instance, on August 12, the wife of the first democratically elected president, Alhaji Shehu Shagari, Hadiza, died of Covid 19 complications.
Announcing the death on behalf of the family, the deceased son Muhammad Bala, said, “We regret to announce the demise of our beloved mother, Hajiya Hadiza Shehu Shagari, the wife of H.E late President Shehu Usman Aliyu Shagari, GCFR (Turakin Sokoto).
“We lost her in the early hours of today, 12th August 2021, at about 3.00am, after battling COVID-19 at the Gwagwalada Isolation Centre in Abuja”.
She was subsequently buried in Abuja after a prayer held at the National Mosque.
Barely twenty four hours later the nation awoke to the rude shock of the death of Mohammed, the son of late legal luminary and rights activist, Chief GaniFawehinmi, at age 52.
Mohammed was initially reported to have died after battling an ailment. However, rumours started spreading that he died of Covid19 complications.
Embarrassed by the reports, the family of late Fawehinmi called a press conference where they dismissed the reports. According to the younger sister of the deceased, Mrs. BasiratFawehinmi-Biobaku, and a friend of the family, Lanre Arogundade, the family was still waiting for a full medical report on the cause of his death.
“With the passage of Mohammed Fawehinmi, Saheed takes over as the head of the family. He is not in Nigeria now. He resides in the USA and he is taking the next available flight home.
“The statement by the family said he died after a brief illness at a Lagos hospital, and we should leave it at that for now”, Arogundade said.
However, the second son of Fawehinmi, Saheed, two days later, revealed the cause of Mohammed’s death as Covid19.
“The family could not immediately disclose the cause of our brother’s death because we wanted the information to be based on factual medical details especially as maybe contained in the death certificate.
“Today however, we are in a position to inform you that our dear brother died from COVID-19 related complications.
“Arising from this, we want to urge all Nigerians to take necessary precautions to avoid being infected by the deadly disease, including, but not limited to taking the required doses of COVID-19 vaccine.
“The public should ensure wearing of face masks, regular hand sanitising, hand washing with soap and maintaining social distancing amidst crowd,” Saheed admonished.
Hardly had the grief caused by the news of Fawehinmi’s son death passed that the nation recorded yet another loss. This time it was the person of former Deputy Senate President, Ibrahim Mantu.
Mantu, his family confirmed, died in a private hospital in Abuja after a few days of admission. The family, however, failed to disclose the cause of death despite reports that the late Mantuwas kept in isolation days prior to his death.
Despite the secrecy, the cause of death was blown to the public the next day when the late politician was buried at the Gudu Cemetery in accordance with Covid19 protocol. Mourners at the burial were seen wearing face masks, while burial attendants put on personal protective equipment (PPE).
Several notable figures also lost the battle to Covid19 during the year. In July 2021, the Acting Vice Chancellor of the University of Ibadan, Professor Adebola Ekanola, who disclosed this said that about 10 deaths were recorded from people in the university due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“There has been a lot of laxity on personal protective measures because many assumed that they are safe from the infection.
“Although the university so far is lucky not to have been badly affected by the pandemic, the students and staff of the institution need to take charge and be responsive in ensuring that no COVID-19 case is recorded in the university.”
The Head of UI Department of Virology, Professor Georgina Odaibo, stated that tests done at the University’s Department of Virology indicated that positivity rate had gone up from about 1.5 per cent in April, 2.8 per cent in May, 12 per cent by June ending and 16 per cent in July.
Odaibo warned that if protective measures were not in place, the infection could spread round the university.
Another prominent person who lost the battle to the virus was the immediate past national publicity secretary of Afenifere, Yinka Odumakin, who died of complications in April at the Lagos State University Teaching Hospital (LASUTH).
According to his wife, Joe Okei-Odumakin, the deceased tested negative after being treated for Covid19 for some time did not recover from the complications.
In January alone, the nation lost many prominent personalities due to Covid19 related illnesses. They include Professor Ebere Onwudiw, a professor of Political Science in the Central State University, Wilberforce, Ohio; Prince Bolu Akin-Olugbada, a lawyer and businessman whose interest included property development, construction, manufacturing, logistics, distribution, maritime and offshore services and investment banking.
Before his death, he was one of the world’s largest collectors of Rolls Royce automobiles.
Others are Folake Aremu, a Nollywood actress popularly known as Orisabunmi; Professor Duro, a former dean of the Faculty of Education at the Lagos State University and the pioneer registrar of the Joint Universities Preliminary Examination Board (JUPEB) and Wahab Adegbenro, Commissioner for Health in Ondo State.
The nation had earlier recorded deaths of prominent citizens at the start of the pandemic. Top on the list are the Chief of Staff to President Buhari, Abba Kyari; Senator Buruji Kashamu, Senator Abiola Ajimobi two-time governor of Oyo State, Senator Adebayo Sikiru Osinowo (APC, Lagos East); media guru, Mr. Sam Nda-Isaiah; NIPSS DG, Habu Galadima; Major Gen. Johnson OlubunmiIrefin, General Officer Commanding (GOC) 6 Division, Port Harcourt and others.
A wide range of public officials who tested positive for the coronavirus luckily recovered. They include Governors Okezie Ikpeazu of Abia; Bala Mohammed, Bauchi; KayodeFayemi, Ekiti and Nasir El-Rufai of Kaduna, among many others.
The death toll rose to over 2,260 across Nigeria on Saturday, August 21, 2021, 930 days after the first confirmed case of Covid 19 in the country was announced on February 27, 2020, when an Italian citizen in Lagos tested positive for the virus.
According to an update posted by the Nigerian Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) on its website on Sunday, 1,064 new confirmed cases and 13 deaths were recorded on Saturday, August 27, 2021.
The new cases are from 10 states of Lagos (776), Rivers (143), Ekiti (49), Kwara (33) Ogun (21), Benue (18), Oyo (13), FCT (5), Osun (4) and Yobe (2).
This brings total confirmed cases to 186,635, with168,320 discharged and 2,260 deaths recorded in 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).