Aso Rock hit as Kyari, three staff test positive for COVID-19

• Media barred from presidency till further notice

Following the Chief of Staff (CoS) to the President, Mallam Abba Kyari, positive test for COVID-19, three of his staff have apparently returned the same result for the virus, sending panic into the presidential villa, Abuja.

Recall that the Federal Government’s directed that the civil servants from grade level 1 – 12 stay and work from home,  hence, there were fewer than normal personnel who reported for work on Tuesday.

Some of them could be seen in small numbers talking in hush tones, ostensibly about the news of the test, which was yet to be officially acknowledged at the time of this report.

Others could be heard openly expressing fears about the consequences of a positive test for the CoS given the nature of his interaction with politicians, other senior government officials and staff.

Since returning from Germany, Kyari, who was said to have been asymptotic, had been attending meetings including last week’s Federal Executive Council (FEC) and the inauguration of the Presidential Task Force for the Control of Coronavirus, both of which were presided over by President Buhari.

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Kyari was said to have tested positive on Monday reportedly necessitating a test by President Muhammadu Buhari whose result was said to have returned negative.

The CoS had returned from Germany last week after meeting with officials of Siemens on the Nigerian electricity expansion programme.

When asked for comments, the Senior Special Assistant to the President (Media & Publicity), Garba Shehu, said he could not speak at that time.

However, sources at the villa confirmed the positive test of both Kyari and his staff, which had now left many others fearing for their conditions.

The Presidential Task Force on the Control of Coronavirus pandemic led by the Secretary to Government of the Federation (SGF), Mr. Boss Mustapha, was at the presidential villa with the full complement of its members on Tuesday.

It was not clear what the committee’s mission was as Mustapha simply told the waiting State House correspondents that there would be a briefing later.

The committee, however, went to the floor housing the offices of the CoS and that of Shehu, who himself, was said to be in self-isolation, having been in contact with Kyari since the Germany trip.

Vice President Yemi Osinbajo was also said to have self-isolated as he was not sighted in his office on Tuesday even though he was in Abuja.

He had on Monday cancelled his scheduled commissioning the National Traffic Radio at the national headquarters of the Federal Road Safety Commission, Wuse Zone 3, Abuja.

Osinbajo’s spokesman, Laolu Akande, did not respond to request for confirmation.

Meanwhile, most State House corespondents have been barred from the premises until further notice.

An internal memo issued by Attah Esa, Deputy Director Information, on behalf of the Special Adviser to the President (Media & Publicity), granted access to only one newspaper reporter, the crews of three television stations, three other representatives of government media houses and five photographers out of the about 100 journalists accredited to cover the presidency.

The memo stated: “In view of the current restriction in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) against gathering of not more than 50 persons at the same time at any venue, as well as to be able to maintain social distancing following the spread of Covid-19 pandemic, it has become imperative to drastically review down the presence of the over 100 State House Correspondents who usually rendezvous in the Press Briefing Room in the Presidential Villa during this period since all other departments have scaled down the presence of their staff.”

It said only the selected correspondents “are to enter the Villa for media coverage of any event beginning from Wednesday, March 25, 2020, until further notice as the COVID-19 incidence will dictate.”

The memo pleaded for understanding and cooperation “as the Security Department enforces the restriction measure during this trying period.”


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