Did the management of the Niger Delta Development Commission lie to the world when it announced that the former Executive Director, Finance and Administration, EDFA, of the NDDC, Elder Ibanga Bassey Etang died of corono virus?
If the commission’s claims were true, how come the remains of the former EDFA are going to be buried about three months after? Why was his body kept in the mortuary many months beyond the recommendation of health experts across the world?
Also, how come his burial which has now been scheduled to hold on August 28 at the Shelter Afrique playground, Uyo, Akwa Ibom State, is going to be handled by the family, against the directive of the federal government on the burial of person who died of the pandemic?
These are questions the NDDC may have to answer. But unfortunately, the commission is not responding to enquiries from TNN on these posers, as the family prepares to commit the remains of Etang to mother earth.
The NDDC’s announcement that Etang died of COVID-19 was however very suspicious and not many people believed them. The commission’s director, corporate affairs, Mr Charles Odili had said in a statement that the family of Etang had permitted the commission to announce that the former EDFA died of COVID-19.
He had said that “the family has authorized the commission to announce that the late executive director tested positive to COVID-19.
The Rivers State Ministry of Health has written to the Commission to also confirm the cause of death resulting from complications attributable to COVID-19(see the full press statement here).
Unfolding events have however created doubts on the veracity of that claim. For example, the same family that was supposed to have permitted the NDDC to announce that their son died of COVID-19 has already announced and invited the public to the burial, which is against the prescribed burial protocols.
In April, the minister of information, Lai Mohammed had said that the remains of COVID-19 victims would not be released to the families to handle for burial because they were contagious.
He had said that the ministry of health would ‘handle’ the bodies ‘because they are contagious. “Coronavirus is very dangerous and contagious; there is no medicine for it yet; and it is not just capable of killing, overwhelming healthcare system, it will destroy the economy.
“In some countries, they are putting dead bodies in big refrigerators, because the morgues have filled up. Nigerians should not forget that these are not the types of corpses that can be claimed for burial because it must be handled by the ministry of health.”
According to guidelines released by world health bodies on the handling of bodies of COVID-19 victims:
- Individuals handling the remains of someone with COVID-19 should wear personal protective equipment (PPE) such as gloves, masks and waterproof coveralls. These individuals should also ensure that they thoroughly wash their hands with soap and water.
- Should someone with COVID-19 die at home, family members should not handle the body themselves. Emergency Medical Services (EMS) should be alerted and the body must be removed by an undertaker.
- The bodies of deceased COVID-19 patients should be carefully transported in body bags. The outside of these body bags should be thoroughly disinfected. After being used, empty body bags must be cut and disposed of as healthcare waste.
- Families viewing the deceased’s body should wear gloves and masks. Family members can only view the remains one at a time and viewing can only take place at a mortuary or hospital. The health department discourages family members from washing and preparing the deceased’s body themselves.
- To limit contact with the remains, embalming is discouraged. Should the body be embalmed, the necessary personal protective gear and precautions should be worn and taken.
- Only close family members are allowed to attend the funeral of a person who died of COVID-19. Funeral services should be kept as short as possible and cannot exceed two hours. Individuals who have COVID-19 at the time of a funeral, are barred from attending burial services. Individuals handling the body at the burial should wear PPE and wash their hands once the burial has concluded.
It is however not certain if these guidelines were followed. Besides, there was no report of the quarantine of any family member of the former EDFA, neither did the commission announce that his personal aides were at any point in time compelled to go on isolation as a result of the death of their boss.
It remains suspicious, if the NDDC’s claims on the cause of Etang’s death were actually true. TNN’s text message to Odili on this matter did not get any response as at press time.