By Kola Omoniyi
Prior to the outbreak of COVID-19 in Kano, the State Government had, at several fora, regarded the isolation centre at Sani Abacha Stadium as the most reliable one should the pandemic surface in the city.
However, the reverse appears to be the case as the isolation centre bankrolled by a private sector-led Coalition Against COVID-19 (CACOVID) remains under construction and yet to be handed over to the State Government 6 months after.
The centre which could not meet the required time frame when most needed at the peak of COVID-19 cases in Kano is now becoming a source of concern to some of the State’s residents who expressed fears that it may soon be obstructing some social-economic activities in the pyramid city.
At its initial stage, the perception of the general public was that the 500-beds isolation centre is being constructed by the State Government before the straw of a viral video shot by an anonymous person broke the camel’s back.
According to the anonymous video showing empty uncompleted COVID-19 Isolation Center, “this is Sani Abacha Stadium, as you can see, this is the isolation centre of Kano, nobody is inside, today is 24th of May, 2020, they said we have over 600 people here, this Corona na lie lie o!”
Kano Govt Clarifies Ownership
Following the backlash of the video which aimed at discrediting the existence of COVID-19 in Kano, the State Government swiftly clarified that the construction of the isolation centre is being bankrolled by a private sector-led Coalition Against COVID-19 (CACOVID).
In a statement by Mohammad Garba, the State Commissioner for Information insisted that the content of the video was mischievous and misrepresentation of facts on the ongoing installation works at Sani Abacha Isolation Centre.
“Whoever is behind the filming does so to deliberately distort the datum considering that even in the clip, it shows that the project is still ongoing but calculatedly moves away from filming the exercise just to accomplish the task of garbling the fact,” Garba said.
Garba said the Sani Abacha Isolation Centre, which was initially billed to accommodate 500 beds, was later redesigned based on recommendation and standards set by the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 (PTF) and the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC).
The situation led to a strict restriction of strangers from gaining access to the project site, though despite the restriction order, our correspondent kept an eagle eye on the multi-million naira project which had lasted for six months without completion.
We Spend N850m on the Project – CACOVID
CACOVID, under the leadership of Aliko Dangote foundation, claimed to have spent about N850m on the Sani Abacha Isolation centre and the renovation of Abubakar Imam Urological isolation centre, both equipped with state-of-the-art facilities such as standard beds, Air conditioners, refrigerators, mobile laboratory and toilet, gymnasium, ventilators and ambulances among others.
Maijidda Modibbo, a member of CACOVID media committee told our correspondent that the project has reached 100 per cent completion and will soon be handed over to the State Government. “Sani Abacha Isolation Center is ready for use, we spent at least a minimum of N850 million, as at last week the Commissioner for Health and the COVID-19 Task Force went to the centre, they just made little observations here and there which is minor and is already being executed”
Residents, CSO Criticise Location of the Center
Apart from delayed execution of the project, another contentious issue raising an eyebrow is the location of the temporary isolation centre situated at Sani Abacha Stadium as critics observed that the location was inappropriate as Kano is endowed with other lucrative landscape for such purpose.
While applauding the passionate gesture of CACOVID for the initiative, they opined that the multi-million naira being expanded on the temporary centre made of canopy would have been managed better to build a permanent structure which could be useful to breach the infrastructural deficit of the State health sector after COVID-19.
“The project is very fantastic, it is very good if you have experience of how much building materials cost, you will know that they have spent millions of naira here, from my experience, mounting these two canopies alone will cost about N200m.
“It is good to build a permanent one than this one; this temporary structure is more expensive than the permanent one. It is very unfortunate that it is a temporary structure, Kano people would have enjoyed it after COVID-19” A source from Balmora Event, one of the companies contracted for the project, hinted our correspondent.
Also, a Civil Society Organisation, Resource Center for Human Rights and Civic Education CHRICED described the project as elitist. “if the State Government has taken it upon themselves to say these are our priorities when Dangote and his consortium of friends came, they would have said NO, this thing is best needed in so so so local government where there is no healthcare facility at all or let’s break it down this way. Like I told you, it is more elitist, this how people in the rural areas are being neglected”. Dr. Ibrahim Zikirullahi, CHRICED’s Executive Director lamented.
Isolation Center to Affect Kano Pillars & Other Sporting Activities
In the meantime, the imminent sporting activities would definitely share from the pinch of the isolation centre’s location as Kano Pillars Football Club, that usually plays their home games at the Sani Abacha Stadium had now secured the approval of Bauchi State Government to play their continental CAF confederation cup campaigners for the 2020/2021 season in the State.
The team’s spokesman, Rilwan Idris Malikawa, who confirmed the development in a statement, added that Bauchi state commissioner of youths and sports, Adamu Manu on Saturday at the club secretariat along UDB road presented a letter of approval to the management of the club in that regard.
Pillars’ Fans Lament
Reacting to the development, Bashir Idris Muhazu, Chairman of the Kano Pillars Football Fans, expressed his displeasure over the situation. His reason: “ It will affect us seriously because if we are to play our home matches in Kano, most of our members will be in the stadium, over ten thousand members, but since we are playing our home games away, that number will not be realistic to cheer the team”
Winning away matches without cheering fans has been a major challenge for the Pillars recently. For instance, from Dec 2019 to Match 2020, Pillars won only one out of their 12 away matches, losing four and drew seven. Could this development spell doom for the Sai Masu Gida team in their future encounters? Rilwan Idris Malikawa, the Pillars’ Spokesman said there is no cause for alarm.
“Anywhere we find ourselves we are ready to play football as usual, we will do everything humanly possible to make Nigerians and People of Kano proud. If the Government and the Nigerian Football Federation direct us to go back to training, we will see the situation of Kano Pillars Stadium and by God’s grace we are going to renovate it so as to allow us to play our home matches during the forthcoming Nigerian Premier League season”
Petty Traders Decry Relocation of Pillars Home matches
Beyond the enthusiastic fun, some petty traders around the Sani Abacha stadium share with our correspondent the financial implication should the team continue playing their home matches outside Kano city.
“I don’t know that Kano Pillars may not be playing their home matches at the stadium when the new season begins, so this means our business will face another challenge, we’re always looking forward to Kano Pillars’ matches to get more sales, the situation may render us jobless but we depend on Allah” Abubakar Aminu, one of the traders said.
Ibrahim Bashir, another trader said, “Actually my capital has dropped from N80, 000 to N20, 000 due to the lockdown and now that you are telling me that Kano Pillars may not play their games here, then there is a problem because whenever there is a football match or other sporting activities in this area, hundreds of spectators used to troop in to watch the sporting events, definitely their consistent absent will really affect our business, I have two wives and children, we may not be able to cope with this development”.
Kano COVID-19 Cases Record Significant Decline
As at the time of filing this report on Sunday, Kano, which was earlier regarded as the epicenter of the COVID-19 virus in the northwestern part of Nigeria, now has only 72 active cases out of the 1, 727 recorded so far in the State. 1, 601 patients have been treated and discharged just as the State recorded 54 deaths from the COVID-19 disease.
When contacted, Dr. Tijjani Hussain, Technical Coordinator, Kano State Task Force on COVID-19, confirmed that about 40 per cent of the active cases are being managed at home while only 60 per cent are currently at isolation centres.
However, the isolation centre at Sani Abacha stadium was projected to rescue Kano at the height of the COVID-19 outbreak and now that the State has recently witnessed a major decline of cases with just 72 active cases left, Maijidda Modibbo believed the purpose of establishing the centre has not been defeated.
“I don’t think the purpose is defeated, we have never had a problem in moving patients to other isolation centres like that of Abubakar Imam Urology centre renovated by CACOVID, the project is a plus to Kano State, when the COVID-19 is over, every material will still be of use.”
We are not praying that Kano should have more COVID-19 patients, its just a precaution. Every responsible Government or organisation like CACOVID will put such in place to ensure that in case of an outbreak, there is such a structure”. She disclosed
CACOVID Justifies Stadium Choice for the Project, Vows to Fix Shattered Pitch
While justifying the location of the project at the stadium, the CACOVID Spokesperson said “the reason why we have that temporary structure at the stadium is because of the proximity to people, there is nothing wrong about it, immediately after the COVID-19 is over, everything will be transferred to hospitals, we felt Sani Abacha stadium is convenient and conducive for the project”
Our correspondent also observed that the football pitch where the temporary isolation centre was mounted at the heart of the stadium was also shattered in the course of the ongoing construction, but the CACOVID media aide assured that the organisation would be responsible for fixing the pitch to the normal shape after the evacuation of the facilities.
Future of the Center to be Decided after Handover – Kano Govt
When contacted on the fate of the isolation centre post-COVID-19, Muhammed Garba, the State Commissioner for Information said he did not know the whereabouts of the centre at the moment, adding that its fate would be decided by relevant stakeholders after the proper handover.
“I say the isolation centre is still under the custody of Dangote, it is not handed to us. What we did at the level of government is to give them space and they are yet to complete and give us back, though I was told it has been completed 100 per cent, they haven’t invited us to hand it over to us. Honestly, I don’t know what is happening there” He explained.
According to the Commissioner, “COVID is not completely eroded in Nigeria, it is still ongoing, there still cases here and there, if eventually, they hand over to us, we will still maintain it as isolation centre pending on when there are no longer COVID cases in the country, then the facilities can be evacuated”