Coronavirus: Abba Kyari’s Death And Nigeria’s Deplorable Health Facilities

By Ikenga Chronicles April 23, 2020

Coronavirus: Abba Kyari’s Death And Nigeria’s Deplorable Health Facilities

— By Muyiwa Olayinka

Friday April 17th 2020 will forever remain an unforgettable date in the lives of the Kyaris family of the Kanuri sect of Bornu state. It will be an indelible day as sadness struck and killed the patron and breadwinner, Alhaji Abba Kyari. What started like a joke on March 24th, 2020 with Abba Kyari’s infection to the deadly coronavirus eventually took his life.

Abba Kyari was not an ordinary Nigerian, he was a lawyer, a banker that graduated from Ivy League institutions both in UK and USA, a powerful man that belonged to the inner kitchen cabinet of President Buhari’s government and a member of the feared “cabal” (a coinage made popular by the wife of Nigerian President, Aisha Buhari.

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Kyari was the gatekeeper to the President, who ordered all cabinet requests must pass through him. He attended all President’s meetings, oversaw all memos in and out of his office. Abba Kyari was the Chief of Staff to Mr President but presumed to be the de facto President, the unseen hand that was behind the major policy formulations of Buhari’ s Presidency. A man of few words, taciturn in nature, hardly speaks in public; these are rare qualities that made his adversaries to tremble before him and were awed of the enormous power he wielded.

Abba Kyari led a delegation of top government functionaries to Germany, a follow up to the commitment made by the German conglomerate, Siemens, in fixing Nigeria’s intractable power problems. Unfortunately by the time he returned to the country, he had unknowingly contracted the deadly Coronavirus. He was going about his duty until he started coughing repeatedly, submitted for screening and the test result returned positive.

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He went into isolation but his treatment had to be done discreetly, as a result of Nigeria’s parlous health facilities. He could have been treated in Aso Rock clinic, located in the precinct seat of power but lack of facility discouraged its usage. This is the facility Aisha Buhari had complained in the past lacking basic facilities including non-availability of analgesic drugs like Paracetamol . The Gwagwalada Specialist Hospital isolation center in Abuja was considered too low for the caliber of patient “ Abba”, the Presidency was forced to look for alternatives. Unfortunately the well-equipped intensive care unit located in Aso Rock was specifically reserved for President Buhari, who had history of medical challenges.

The rumor mill went agog that Kyari was flown to England or Cuba while another report said he had been discreetly taken to Lagos. The where about of Abba Kyari was kept under wraps and unknown? One needs to understand Nigerian’s health architecture to be able to fully grasp the enormity of the situation

Nigeria’s health architecture

Nigeria operates a rigid democracy with prescribe set of rules laws and regulations expressly written in a document named the 1999 constitution. This document describes the powers of three layers of governance, namely federal, state and local governments. This document guides all organs of government, legislature, judiciary, government statutory agencies, describes rights and privileges of citizens. It also contains functions that are on exclusive and concurrent lists with residual powers.

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Nigerian health architecture is on the concurrent lists; it means the three layers of government are backed by the constitution in financing, provision and its administration. Federal government is in charge of tertiary health institutions, for example all the teaching hospitals, federal medical centers, National Orthopedic institutions to mention a few

The state government has sole responsibility of providing secondary health facilities through the general hospitals within its domain while the local government is in charge of primary health centers. There are more than 34,000 health institutions representing about 66% of health facilities that are owned by these three arms of governments. The tertiary and secondary are mostly found in urban areas, whereas rural areas are predominantly served by primary health care. The privately owned hospitals make up for the rest to fill the yawning gaps.

Despite all these proliferation of health institutions, governments at all levels pay lip service to this critical sector. Successive governments at all levels have not been able to meet and spend the established template by World Health Organization (WHO) of 5% of gross domestic product (GDP) on health. There is a toxic mix of problems including inaccessibility of quality health care, poor hygiene, corruption, poor health infrastructure, fake drugs, insufficient financial investment and lack of sufficient health personnel.

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Expectedly, these privately owned hospitals are very expensive with sophisticated and modern equipment and are, beyond the reach of the masses. The elites and the rich are patrons of these categories of hospitals, and if their medical needs are not met, they go on medical pilgrimages abroad. The masses are forced to patronize the public hospitals otherwise known as slaughter slabs or “mere consulting clinics”.

Treatment of Abba Kyari

In the face of a global lockdown with many countries with functional health systems closing their borders, Kyari would have been treated at the Lagos Infectious Diseases center, the same place where Lagos Italian index was successfully treated and discharged. But Buhari’s government that is in the habit of violating established protocols, laws and regulation, preferred to treat Kyari in a private treatment facility which is against the Quarantine Act.

However, the medical teams of National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) and the Presidential Task Force on Coronavirus were not involved in his treatment. They were kept in the dark, hence deprived himself of expert’s advice. This government violated the standard code that no private medical institutions should treat any Coronavirus patient

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In Nigeria, government officials do not show probity and accountability of public funds, huge amounts that should have been spent in reviving our comatose health facilities were sunk into Kyari’s treatment. This is not the first time public funds are wasted on privileged Nigerians. The amount spent on President Buhari’s undisclosed ailment for five months in United Kingdom in 2017 has not been disclosed and properly accounted for. It was revealed by the authority that Abba Kyari was treated in private facility (First Cardiology Hospital in Ikoyi Lagos) after he died.

Average Nigerians never thought a time like this could come in Nigeria where our heartless and peripatetic leaders will be forced to stay at home, and won’t be able to run to Europe and other western for first class medical care. Many of them are holed up in few private hospitals for treatments, making it difficult for others to have quality medical care.

Methinks this is the best opportunity to put our health facilities in order. Another golden opportunity beckons; will our leaders grab it with two hands?
Time will tell…

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