Kogi disputes NCDC figures, says state remains COVID-19 free

Authorities in Kogi State have rejected the two index cases of coronavirus reported by the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) for the state late Wednesday.

“Kogi State till this very moment is COVID-19 free. We have developed full testing capacity and have conducted hundreds of tests so far which have returned negative,” Saka Audu, the state commissioner for health said in a statement Thursday.

This will once again reignite the controversy trailing the COVID-19 response in Kogi, a development that pitted state authorities against their federal counterparts.

Prior to the NCDC’s results of Wednesday, Kogi and Cross Rivers were the only states yet to confirm any case of the virus, a record widely disputed by health authorities and federal officials who believe governments in both states are discouraging tests for people with symptoms of COVID-19.

Authorities in Kogi and Cross Rivers believe there is a plot to compulsorily report COVID-19 cases in the states but medical experts and federal officials said the low number of test samples turned in from the states is making it difficult to ascertain if they are actually coronavirus-free.

Despite being surrounded by states with confirmed cases of the virus, the government in Kogi has at least once scuttled efforts by NCDC to coordinate COVID-19 testing.

The Nigerian Medical Association (NMA) had condemned the continued obstruction of the NCDC by the Kogi government, calling on the federal government to probe the state’s ‘free status’.

On Wednesday, the NCDC announced 389 new cases and two were from Kogi State. It meant Cross River State remained the sole uninfected state as of May 27.

According to the centre’s figures, the number of fatalities increased from 249 to 254, while recoveries increased from 2,385 to 2,501.

A total of 8,733 COVID-19 cases have now been confirmed in 35 states and the federal capital territory (FCT).

But in Thursday’s statement, Mr Audu, the Kogi health commissioner, said the government will not accept any test result “conducted outside the state.”

“We have also continued to insist that we will not be a party to any fictitious Covid-19 claims which is why we do not recognise any Covid-19 test conducted by any Kogite outside the boundaries of the State except those initiated by us. Any attempt to force us to announce a case of Covid-19 will be vehemently rejected.

“We continue to enjoin our people to take all necessary precautions to prevent the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic into the State and give no listening ears to rumour peddlers and mischief makers. We are more than prepared to secure the life of our people and have no interest in playing politics with their Health concerns”, the statement said.

Reacting in a phone conversation with PREMIUM TIMES Thursday afternoon, the NCDC Director Chikwe Ihekweazu said the agency stands by the results it made public despite kickbacks from the Kogi government.

“We stand by our results and it is as simple as that. We have no reaction for its acceptance or rejection”, he said.