After about six months of the outbreak of the dreaded Coronavirus and despite efforts by the federal and state governments to curb its spread, quite a number of Nigerians are still labouring under the delusion that the disease does not exist.
Akelicious checks revealed that there is a widespread perception among people in major towns and cities across the country that the COVID-19 pandemic ravaging many parts of the world may be politically hyped. It was gathered that opinions about the reality of the disease vary even among the seemingly enlightened and educated people in spite of government’s awareness campaign on the virus.
While some believe it is a political/economic gimmick to receive money from charity organisations, others think it is an elitist illness, even as there are those in the rural areas who consider it as only limited to the cities. Some Nigerians who spoke to our correspondents brought religious dimension to the ravaging global pandemic.
The attitude of Nigerians, it was learnt, has contributed to the high rate of infections in the country, as some people deliberately do not observe non-pharmaceutical interventions because they do not believe that the disease exists.
National coordinator of the presidential task force (PTF) on COVID 19, Dr Sani Aliyu, who acknowledged that doubt about the existence of the disease could be part of the reasons for the surge in confirmed cases in the country, noted however that the doubting ‘Thomases’ were in the minority.
He said, “Certainly if you don’t believe in something, you’re not going to take steps to protect yourself. However, our regular polls indicate that the non-believers are in the minority.”
Also, the minister of Health, Dr Osagie Ehanire, urged those who are in doubt to take extra precaution as they go out on daily basis.
“As the number of deaths related to COVID-19 cases in Nigeria continue to rise, I am urging citizens especially those who are in doubt to take extra pre-caution in their daily activities”, he said.
The minister told Akelicious that the virus is a highly infectious disease that spreads easily among people, adding that “the more citizens obey preventive measures, the fewer the confirmed cases, and the less people obey, the more the cases; much depends on the people.”
Speaking with our correspondent, a middle-aged senior civil servant said, “We hear and are convinced that governments are using it to rake in money from international charity organizations such as the World Health Organization (WHO) and others.”
Thinking along the same line with the civil servant who pleaded anonymity, Mr Iheanyichukwu Amos, maintained that “as long as details of the so-called infected ones are never made public, the thing remains a scam.”
But Miss Ori Ukaegbu, a final year microbiology student, differed. She said, “Absolutely in the reality of the virus; I wish those who have been thinking otherwise change their opinion about it.”
A popular tailor in Aba, Hillary Obineche, who waxed spiritual, noted that the pandemic “is more of a spiritual attack”, even as Mallam Sani Maiminti, a confectionery hawker, said it was “a trial from Allah.
“I am very perplexed that even in the face of the toll the pandemic is taking humanly, economically, and perhaps politically, there are those who believe it is a hoax. Well, they are entitled to their opinion. May God help them”, he added.
Speaking to Akelicious, a member of the state Inter-ministerial COVID-19 Committee with medical background argued in favour of the reality of the virus, calling for vigorous creation of awareness.
In Plateau state, it was learnt that some Nigerians go about their daily businesses without putting on face mask or observing other COVID- 19 protocols.
Our correspondent gathered that a particular Church along Rukuba road in Jos North local government does not allow its members to put on face mask during worship.
A member of the Church who did not want his name in print argued that COVID-19 was not real, adding that they are encouraging their members not to put on face mask because of the Churche’s belief that as children of God the pandemic will not come near their dwelling place.
In lmo, former chairman of the Nigerian Medical Association in the state, Dr Jideuma Egwim, cautioned that COVID- 19 exists in the state, even as he enjoined people to adhere to all safety protocols, especially physical distancing.
The senior consultant at the Federal Medical Center, Owerri, said he personally treated coronavirus patients at the facility.
He said, “I once treated a patient who was on oxygen for eight straight days to stay alive and he survived it. Contrary to misconceptions, the virus affects Nigerians just like the whites. In extreme cases, the patient may die”.
He maintained that it was wrong to assume that the virus is a scam as alleged by some people, saying some develop complications because result of samples return late when much damage may have occurred.
A caregiver with one of the public health centres in Ado Ekiti, Ekiti State, who simply identified herself as Mrs Ojo disagreed with those saying COVID-19 is real.
She said, “Those who were infected and the number of the fatalities recorded in the state and the country at large attests to the fact that Coronavirus is here and everybody must cooperate with the government at all levels to halt the spread of the viral disease currently ravaging the world.
“We can make this happen by adhering strictly to the to the guidelines and protocols put in place by the World Health Organisation (WHO), Nigeria Centre For Disease Control (NCDC) and other health agencies”.
Also, a resident of Ado Ekiti, Mr Adeolu Adekunle, said happenings and the approach to the issues of the pandemic since it was announced that the first case has been recorded in the country did not give the people any reason to believe that the disease is in the country like others across the globe.
He said, “For instance, the names of the infected persons are not being disclosed and nobody knows when they are being discharged from the isolation centre except when you read or hear the news about them on television, radio and newspaper.
“Another thing is that you can never see anybody that will tell you that he knows one person who has been reported infected and later tested negative after treatment or those who have lost their relatives to the disease. But we always hear about the popular politicians and those in position of authorities who have contacted the disease and later tested negative and those who died as a result of the disease”.
Another healthcare worker who craved anonymity appealed to the populace not to handle the issue of Coronavirus with kid gloves.
He said the disease was already in the state and that anybody could contact it if necessary the hygiene is not observed.
For Mr Adelodun Ogunsakin, coronavirus is avenue for governments and relevant agencies to make money.
Ogunsakin who insisted that the disease is not as serious in Nigeria as other countries said it was being overblown to get financial assistance from the developed countries and other international organisations.
“All the governments, federal and states, know what they are doing. It is the money attached to emergency situations like this they are after. You will soon see what will come to them when the whole situation subsides,” he stated.
In Rivers State, several residents of Port Harcourt believe in the existence of coronavirus, while others are of the opinion that the virus is a scam. Speaking with our correspondent in Port Harcourt, an undergraduate, Blessing Harrison, said, “I believe coronavirus is real and it is not a scam because I have heard and read stories about it. I also know someone who died as a result of coronavirus.”
Another resident of Port Harcourt, Deborah Albert, insisted that coronavirus does not exist.
She said, “I believe that it is a scam because I have only heard that people tested positive for coronavirus, but I have not seen any victim of coronavirus or a relative who has it.”
However, a nurse attached to a private health facility in Port Harcourt, Barilee Dum, stressed the need for government and community leaders to embark on sensitisation of the people, saying a lot of them do not believe in the existence of coronavirus.
Dum said, “A lot of people have refused to believe that COVID-19 exists. While some say it does not exist at all, others see it as sickness for the privileged.
“I think the best thing to do is for government and community leaders to join hands and embark on massive sensitisation of the people on the existence of coronavirus.”
Some Nigerians said they were skeptical of the existence of COVID-19 because its symptoms are similar to that of malaria.
A Matron at a state hospital in Kwara, Mrs Ayo Bashar, noted that most people prefer to go for malaria treatment at chemist shops instead of presenting themselves for COVID-19 tests.
Another health worker at the University of Ilorin Teaching Hospital (UITH) who did not want his name in the print noted that people who exhibit COVID-19 symptoms prefer to apply herbal medicine.
He added that some Nigerians also believe that coronavirus is a rich people’s ailment.
In Kogi State, the position of the State governor, Yahaya Bello, on the existence of COVID-19 has been corroborated by a cross section of the polity.
They are of the opinion that the hot weather in Kogi could be the reason why the pandemic has avoided the state.
A medical officer in the state, Dr Abdullahi Hamza, stressed that the pandemic could be found in one or two persons due to varying degree of prevailing ailment.
Also, a Bauchi-based vulcanizer at Gwallamaji village in Bauchi metropolis, Nura Mohammed, said “I believe in the existence of the virus, but my opinion is that the virus had a global hype for possible global conspiracy.”
“Since the outbreak of the virus in China, I have been following the news and you realize that people dying from other ailments are more in number than the coronavirus pandemic. So why is the world’s attention more on COVID-19”.
Another resident of Bauchi, Adamu Gamawa, disagreed on the existence of the virus, saying “our leaders just created the virus to loot our resources; there is nothing like COVID-19”.
However, Fatima Abubakar, a frontline health worker handling the COVID-19 pandemic in Bauchi said such an opinion is very dangerous.
“I want to tell you that such kinds of opinions people hold are the reasons why many are not adhering to health protocols that would help curb the spread of the virus”, she noted..
Fatima said the exacerbating cases of the virus in many communities in Bauchi are as a result of neglect of personal safety measures.
Another health worker who pleaded anonymity said, “Our biggest concern is people’s attitude towards this virus. The virus is real; it has all the potentials of killing people, but I wonder why our people are so reckless and careless about this pandemic.” She warned that refusal to adhere to safety measures is detrimental.
Speaking with our correspondent in Kaduna State, a resident, John Mark, said he believes COVID-19 exists. “As you can see I always wear my facemask and wash my hands thoroughly before I eat. If Coronavirus is not real why are people dying? I and my family don’t joke with the protocols”, he stated.
But Ebru Sam, a welder in the state, doubted the existence of COVID-19 in Nigeria. He said, “I don’t believe in the existence of this COVID-19 because it may be real outside the country but the coronavirus in Nigeria has political undertone, especially among big men.
“You will hear that this person contracted the disease and after five to six days the person will declare that he or she has tested negative. There is a lot of suspicion over Nigeria’s coronavirus. Although I still wear facemask, it is for fear of fine and not because of the disease”.
In Benue State, the Sariki Hausawa Gboko, Alhaji Isa Mai Goro, reiterated the community’s readiness to comply with the COVID-19 measures to curtail its spread among members of the community.
The Sarkin Hausawa however appealed to the federal government to call to order the Chief Imam of JIBWIS Mosque, Gboko South, Malam Sani Badamasi, who he said was preaching negatively against government’s directives as well as the disease.
According to him, the said Imam is disabusing the minds of community members against the reality of the pandemic by telling them that COVID-19 is a gimmick and propaganda for government to make money at the detriment of the public.
The state commissioner for Health and secretary of COVID-19 Response Team, Dr Sunday Ongbabo, stated that many of the citizens appear to be stubborn, pointing out that it would be impossible for Benue State government to appoint persons that would put face masks on the people at their homes and places of work.
He said the action committee headed by the deputy governor, Engr Benson Abounu, would soon recommend the enforcement of the use of facemasks.
He noted that many have refused to observe social distancing in Mosques, Churches and markets, just as he asked those insisting on gathering in large numbers to choose between healthy living and sickness.
Ongbabo emphasised that every Benue citizens musty step up adherence to COVID-19 protocols, noting that any one that doubts the existence of COVID-19 runs the risk of contracting the disease.
He called on the people to continue to cooperate with members of the committees set up at different levels.
Speaking on the issue, Professor Ettete Peters, former chief medical director of University of Uyo Teaching Hospital (UUTH) and member, Akwa Ibom State COVID-19 team, said health misinformation was nothing new, especially during outbreak of epidemic such as coronavirus.
“For instance, at the height of the Ebola epidemic in 2014, despite the deadly nature of the disease some did not believe it existed after being fed with unsubstantiated information. This pattern re-emerged during the COVID-19 outbreak whereby rumour peddlers give out fake news to the uninformed”, he noted.