From several independent sources, it is reliably confirmed that corpses of Igbo citizens, resident in the North particularly in Kano State are being smuggled into old Eastern Nigeria in body bags. The body bag haulage of the corpses is so syndicated that in most cases, the travellers, except the relatives of the corpses are not aware that the long passenger vehicles with which they are traveling, are carrying body bagged corpses. Properly sealed with anti-stench chemicals sprayed, their haulage arrangements are struck and sealed at loading points between the drivers of the long passenger vehicles (undertakers) and the dead victims’ relatives. To avoid open suspicion, not more than two-three corpses mixed with ware-billed goods are carried and conveyed per long passenger vehicle.
Their haulage is patterned using ‘contraband haulage methods’ including special price negotiation and payment, after which the body bagged corpses are brought and specially loaded off the prying eyes of the passengers, usually executed before the passengers start arriving. Not less than N100, 000 is charged and paid on the spot for each of the body bagged corpses for purpose of same being smuggled into Onitsha from where the relatives disappear with same into his or her community or State of origin. Done or executed outside the prying eyes of the Government, this must have led to ‘community spreads and infections’, with alarming ‘dark figures’. It is from this illicit sum paid per body bagged corpse that stationed or drafted security agents are “beat-settled” in a manner they are “settled” (bribed) by contraband carriers. If for any reason the passage becomes difficult at Onitsha Niger Bridge, the body bagged corpse will be trans-loaded and crossed using sand tippers or any other lesser exposed means
The Northern route land transportation in the country is known for its age-long night traveling between old Eastern Nigeria and the core north. This is usually as a result of far distances between the two regions; commonly known as “good evening the East and good morning the north”. An under-cover source had told Intersociety days back that between ‘five and ten corpses of dead Igbo citizens from different parts of the north particularly Kano State are headed daily into old Eastern Nigeria through the Niger River Bridge or Delta and Anambra boundary’. The haulage wears the look of ‘organized crime syndicate’ and is usually executed at hours of the blue law or late night.
Our Investigation: We had followed a lead sighted on a Facebook page of “the Southeast & South-south Youth Forum”, which alleged among others, that “Igbo corpses are being smuggled into Igbo Land from Kano with COVID-19 health hazards posed by same”…. As a result, Intersociety reached out to its wide contacts in the East and North. Initially, we ran into a print media contact who painted the picture differently and we later found that the contact was a victim of highly institutionalized Government censorship in Northern Nigeria media practice. Our lead-focus was to find out ‘if the Kano harvest of deaths which swept and still sweeping its metropolis and others have also affected or not affected the Igbo populations resident in the State’, living in the heart of city.
In the end, it was found that the Igbo populations are involved but not yet as devastating as they are in indigenous settlement areas. One of those contacted was Nze Ugo-Akpe Onwuka (Oyi n’ Oyi 11), int’l coordinator of Igbo Renaissance Forum and outspoken critic, who told Intersociety that “at least three Igbo citizens died on daily in Kano in the past weeks”. We further contacted some ‘socially enlightened traders’ in Kano who also confirmed same.
From the above, we moved to ‘why the Igbo deaths in Kano’ and it was found that ‘some died of suspected COVID-19 virus while others died because they have been living with protracted illnesses and were denied access to their hospitals and doctors for routine checks and treatments following the total lockdown in the State. From general knowledge, too, those living with protracted or long illnesses once hit by COVID-19 symptoms are capable of being killed. Such deaths are referred to as “COVID-19 related deaths”.
It was from the above that we moved to “where are the dead bodies of Igbo citizens in Kano” and it was found that they were being moved or smuggled out of the State to their various States of origin in old Eastern Nigeria. This further led us to discovering of the patterns of their haulage and it was found that apart from morgues in Kano being totally shut down, the Igbo People have an age-long tradition of bringing their dead back home for interment. It is also a taboo in Igbo Land for an Igbo corpse to be abandoned within or outside Igbo Nation, not minding the ailment that led to his or her death. The recent resort to body bagging and smuggling of Igbo dead bodies follows the social stigmatization associated with death arising from COVID-19 and fears by their relatives and associates of Government hash responses including arrest of their family members and likelihood of them being quarantined and exposed as COVID-19 carriers.
Other Supporting Facts: Apart from the circumstantially sound and proven findings highlighted above, there have been media reports of nocturnal movements in the past weeks of suspected COVID-19 patients and dead bodies of Igbo stock from the North particularly Kano State into Igbo Land. One of such was reported in Enugu State where local vigilantes spotted a Kano bound dead corpse and its relatives attempting to deposit same in a local morgue. In the late night of Sunday, 3rd May 2020, our board chair interacted with Anambra State Commissioner for Transport (Christian Mmadubuko) who told him that ‘his team just arrested a family arriving from Kano with malicious intent at Onitsha Niger Bridge…’
Why We Are Deeply Worried: We have since past weeks expressed deep concerns over the poor COVID-19 handling in Nigeria or any part thereof. We had specifically in our statement of 23rd April 2020 expressed fears that ‘Nigeria is most likely to experience explosion of COVID-19 infections and deaths’. Today, we have seen it happening in Kano-a State where its integrity challenged Government was busy engaging in false denials and mangling of death figures until it found itself at crossroads. Jigawa State is not left as it has recorded over 100 ‘strange deaths’ in ten days. In Kano, at least six renowned professors and other prominent figures have untimely passed on.
‘Medicine-After-Death’ Admission Of COVID-19 Deaths In Kano: According to Mr. Nasiru Gwarzo, the head of Kano Presidential Taskforce on COVID-19, “our careful observation and understanding indicated that coronavirus is the cause of mass deaths in Kano”. Mr. Gwarzo disclosed this on Sunday, 3rd May 2020. Source: Sundiata News, 6th May 2020. By the account of Mr. Isa Abubakar, director of Centre for Infectious Diseases & Research at Bayero University, Kano, “this disease (coronavirus) has spread among almost every strata of our society and if Kano had the testing capacity of Lagos, it would probably surpass the State”. Till date, it is shocking that the National Center for Disease Control has refused to capture the deaths in Kano and Jigawa States in its COVID-19 data of ‘infections and deaths’.
The Escape Of Delta COVID-19 Patient To Enugu: Just days ago, it was reported in the media that ‘a coronavirus patient quarantined to isolation and treatment center in Delta State made an escape and landed in Enugu where he was arrested’. This was according to Enugu State Health Commissioner, Dr Ike Obi. In other words, the COVID-19 escapee must have passed through Onitsha and Awka by road transport before landing in Enugu and must have infected dozens of others, if not hundreds who came in contact with him or her. This is more so when ‘what Kano is to Northern Nigeria and Lagos to South-west, is what Anambra State is to old Eastern Nigeria particularly the Southeast’ and anything that affects Anambra State has affected the entire old Eastern Nigeria particularly the Southeast.
Importation Of Over 100 Potentially COVID-19 Almajirai Into Southeast: As if the above were not enough, another shocking news yesterday broke out that ‘over 100 Northern retreatists or almajirai (plural) were caught being transported like food stuffs and animal livestock into Abia part of old Eastern Nigeria’ at its boundary with Akwa Ibom. This was according to the Government of Abia State and its “Homeland Security”. The Abia case is likely to be a tip of the iceberg considering the number of potential COVID-19 carriers from the North being ‘imported into the Southeast and other parts of the Old Eastern Nigeria. In Kaduna State, Gov Nasiru el-Rufai confirmed days ago that “50 of the almajirai sent back to the State from Kano had tested positive to killer virus or COVID-19”.
Testing Centers & Extra Vigilance Are Required From Govs: The most effective way to checkmate the ‘raging importation of COVID-19 into Eastern Nigeria using body-bagging of dead bodies and mass population of almajirai’ is not only to tighten the open and boundary security in the East, but most importantly for the Govs in the two regions to get the regions flooded with COVID-19 testing centers and their trained handlers. Without availability and proximity of testing centers, there is little or nothing Governments of the two regions can do, except continuous bragging of ‘being on top of the situation’ when the contrary is the case. There ought to be at least 33 COVID-19 testing centers in the eleven states of the Southeast and South-south regions; on average of three per State; contrarily, only two centers are presently located in the eleven States as against ten in Lagos State alone. This formed our recent letter to NCDC in this regard.
It is most likely correct to say that “the Southeast and the South-south are secretly living with thousands, if not tens of thousands of coronavirus patients in secret and associated deaths likely to be in hundreds, if not thousands”. Assuming Enugu State Government, for instance, de-contaminated the spot where the escaped Delta COVID-19 patient was arrested in the State, what happened to those he or she was with from Asaba to Onitsha and from Onitsha to Awka and from Awka to Enugu State? How many were they and where are they? In their homes living unexamined or in Government quarantine centers? This is nothing short of indication that ‘the East is in danger’!
Finally, the saddest of it all is that Onitsha, the major gateway into the old Eastern Nigeria particularly the Southeast, does not have a single testing center. The testing center in Onitsha would have formalized the haulage of corpses of Igbo population resident in different parts of the country particularly Kano State and stopped them from being body bagged or smuggled into the region. The formalization would have also involved deployment of trained health officers at the Niger Bridgehead for purpose of screening and testing the corpses and their relatives so as to fish out those infected, or killed, or living with the killer virus-with those suspected tested and made to have their results out in a day or two.