FOLLOWING widespread criticism in the social media against the apparent violation of health protocols put in place to check the spread of the coronavirus infection, the presidency has explained that it was helpless in controlling the crowd that attended the burial rites of Mallam Abba Kyari, the late Chief of Staff to President Muhammadu Buhari, at the Gudu Cemetery, Abuja.

The social media was agog with angry comments from Nigerians after the burial was transmitted life by several television channels showing a huge crowd of mainly government officials. Shortly after the burial, a trending video clip again emerged on social media showing one of the undertakers taking off his Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) beside the cemetery’s perimeter fence after the burial of the late Mallam Abba Kyari.

But speaking to journalists in Abuja, Mallam Garba Shehu, the President’s Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, said there was nothing the government could do to bar the crowd.

“Was there any invitation for the public to come for the burial? Go back to my twitter handle and read what I posted. From 10am, when we picked up the body at the airport, we sent a message out that the funeral will be private and that the public should please go and pray for Abba Kyari.

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“We also said no condolence visits to the President and family. What can we do? Are we going to invite soldiers to flog people who came to pay their last respect to the man?

“We didn’t invite people. We were trying to move people back and observe social distancing and it was delaying the funeral. We just have to do it because people are not ready to leave. What are we going to do?” Mallam Shehu explained.

Meanwhile the Federal Capital Territory Administration (FCTA) has called on residents of the FCT to remain calm as its health officials have swiftly taken steps to mitigate any harm caused by the violations on social distancing at the cemetery.

In a statement signed by Dr Mohammed Kawu,  Ag Secretary, Health and Human Services Secretariat of the FCTA, and captioned: “COVID 19: Unprofessional conduct at Gudu cemetery,” the FCT authorities stated that the Public Health Department had taken necessary action.

The statement reads: “The said PPE left over by the individual has been professionally evacuated and the entire cemetery has been decontaminated. In addition, all the individuals including the man in question that participated in the burial and were not properly kitted have been identified and are being isolated.

“Necessary tests will be conducted on all of them to determine their level of exposure and ensure that they do not infect other people.

“The Administration has also taken steps to ensure that all future burials of victims of COVID 19 are conducted in line with protocols established by the Nigerian Centre for Disease Control (NCDC).

“Residents are therefore urged to remain calm and rest assured that the FCT Administration will continue to do all that is necessary to curtail and eventually end the spread of the Coronavirus in the FCT.”

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