A group of prominent natives of Cross River, says that there is evidence that the novel coronavirus exists in the state despite the fact that Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) has not announced any confirmed case of the viral infection in the South-South state.
The group said the Cross River government has barred the NCDC from conducting COVID-19 tests in the state.
“There is enough anecdotal evidence to support the belief that cases of the COVID-19 disease exist in the (Cross River) State,” said the Efik Leadership Foundation in an open letter addressed to Muhammadu Buhari and published in several national newspapers.
The letter dated April 30, 2020, was signed by the group’s Board of Trustees chairman, the former Minister of Tourism Richard Edem Duke and three other members of the group – Barbara James, the founder of Henshaw Capital, Eyo Ekpo, the former Attorney-General of Cross-River and former Director of the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC) and a certain Timothy Esu.
Thegroup also copied the governor of Cross River State, Ben Ayade, three past governors of the state – Clement Ebri, Donald Duke, and Liyel Imoke, the minister of health and Chikwe Ihekweazu, the head of the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control.
“As a matter of policy, the State Government has rejected even the smallest degree of testing which means that contact tracing is out of question.
“Cross River State is clearly not prepared to deal with the Coronavirus pandemic in any institutional manner or in accordance with known best practice. We are at the mercy of maverick behaviour by the Governor and his Commissioner for Health who between them are fully responsible for the extremely worrisome Covid-19 health situation in the state today.”
The group said the state government has not trained, equipped, and deployed health officials for the COVID-19 fights, but instead is more focused on making a public relations show of its food items distribution “amongst a few communities in the state”.
It accused Governor Ayade’s administration of “illegal” withdrawal of N900 million from the local government joint account funds in the state for COVID-19 intervention.
It also accused the government of withdrawing another N4 billion from the local government joint account for alleged investment in a state airline.
The group said Mr Buhari’s intervention is necessary in order to stop Mr Ayade’s administration from exposing the people of Cross River State to “avoidable death”.
It specifically appealed to the federal government to establish COVID-19 test stations in federal medical institutions in the state and get the people of Cross River to be tested of the virus.
Cross River governor Ben Ayade dismissed the group as comprising “disgruntled and disoriented elements”.
Mr Ayade’s spokesperson, Christian Ita, said in a statement released on Wednesday, “When disgruntled and disoriented elements congregate, they do nothing but babble and prattle, with inanities, propaganda and falsehood as their essential offerings. And as a bunch of puke, their pastime is to spew bitterness, hate and lies.”
Mr Ita added, “Efik nation is made up of refined, well-educated gentlemen and women who stand for truth and fairness. They are not this bunch of fossilized and expired politicians desperately clutching at straws for relevance.”
“From day one, it was obvious that the elements that signed the letter wished that Cross River under Ayade had a COVID-19 case. They are not happy that courtesy of Governor Ayade’s proactive leadership, Cross River has remained COVID-19 free.
“It is clear that if they had their way, they would import the virus into the state just to score a political point.
“It is, therefore, not a surprise that rather than applaud Governor Ayade’s effort at curtailing the spread of COVID-19 into Cross River or join hands with him in keeping the state free from the pandemic they are seeking to politicise it.”