How over 200 people dropped dead mysteriously in Jigawa, Yobe in one week

 

Barely two weeks after Kano State made news headline globally over mysterious deaths that claimed the lives of hundreds of people in quick succession, its neighbour, Jigawa state and Yobe State in the Northeast have started making news headline for the same wrong reasons.

Over 100 people were reported by Daily Trust to have dropped dead in Hadejia Local Government Area of Jigawa State within four days – Friday May 1 and Tuesday May 5, 2020. Hadejia is about 177 kilometres from Kano and located in the eastern part of Jigawa. While in Yobe State, no fewer than 100 people were also buried in Potiskum and Bade Local Government Areas of the state in the last one week.

Most of the victims who have died in the two states were said to be between age 60 and 80 years and locals in Jigawa said the victims died of high fever, diabetes and high blood pressure. Like Kano where hundreds of people died mysteriously in April, the Jigawa and Yobe State Governments were also quick to say the "mysterious deaths" are unrelated to coronavirus.

Jigawa:

Created out of Old Kano state in 1991 by the military regime of former head of state, General Ibrahim Babangida, Jigawa is bordered on the West by Kano State, on the East by Bauchi and Yobe States and on the North by Katsina and Yobe States and the Republic of Niger. The state is mainly populated by the Hausa, Fulani and the Mangawa, Badawa and Ngizimawa which are dialects of the Kanuri people.

New graves at a section of the cemetery at Tsohuwar Makabarta Hadejia LGA in Jigawa State.
Photo: Daily Trust

Locals told Daily Trust that during the annual Ramadan, the season of fasting for Muslims, the community always experience a surge in the number of deaths, but they are bewildered by the number deaths recorded in the first five days of the month of May.

The state presently has 39 confirmed cases of the virus (as at 11:40pm on Tuesday May 5, 2020) and is presently confronted with another challenge of unravelling the cause of the mass deaths. 100 new graves were counted at Dalla quarters, while at the new cemetery in the town, about 20 new graves were seen.

There is already palpable tension in the community and a resident of Kantin Waje quarters, Ibrahim Abdullahi, described the death rate in Hadejia as scary.

"Honestly, we do not suspect the disease to be coronavirus even though there is a similarity with the issue in Kano," he said.

Chairman of Hadejia LGA, Abdullahi Mai Kanti, debunked allegations that the deceased persons were killed by COVID-19 and said most of the deceased had been sick for more than three years.

"I can confidently confirm to you that it is not true that over 100 people died in Hadejia in just one day. Going by our record, even the 51 deaths were recorded within four days which is not unusual."

Worried over the situation, the Jigawa State government said it has set up a five-man committee to investigate and unravel the cause of the mysterious deaths.

Yobe State:

Yobe is one of the northeast states gradually returning to normal life after years of Boko Haram attacks. On February 19, 2018, Boko Haram terrorists invaded Government Girls' Science and Technical College, Dapchi, Yunusari LGA of the state and abducted 110 school girls, while the girls were released a month later after negotiations, one of them Leah Sharibu was held back for refusing to renounce her Christian faith.

A breakdown of the figures of deaths in the state according to The Nation shows there were 49 graveyard in Mamman Ali; Hospital graveyard – 12; SOCOL graveyard-18; Gishiwa Dabua graveyard – 11; Nasarawa graveyard – 6; Lamba Mai Adikko graveyard – 2; in Gashua more than 50 people were reported to have died within three days.

The Commissioner for Health Mohammed Lawan Gana, who is also the Vice-Chairman of the Committee on COVID-19, said investigations were on to know the causes of the deaths.

"The Ministry of Health is investigating the cause of the deaths but until we find out the cause, we cannot associate it to COVID 19," Gana said.

The major hurdle that may stand in the way of the investigations into the deaths is the religious belief in Jigawa and Yobe States. The two states are predominantly Muslim states and they hold the same religious belief like Kano which said it is against Islamic doctrine to do a postmortem on the dead.

The Muslim Sharia does not support carrying out an autopsy on the dead and believes it is Haram and the Kano State government had said that it will adopt verbal autopsy to determine the cause of the deaths.

The Chairman Council of Imam in Ikeja, Lagos, Imam Abdul Azeez Kewulere, told Neusoom that Islam does not support postmortem test. He, however, said when there is an epidemic, the law must be relaxed to pave the way for scientific research in order to prevent a recurrence of mass deaths.

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