Kogi State Covid-19 Status And The Many Sins Of Prof. Sagay
When Professor Sagay was appointed as Chairman, Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption, there was a term of reference within which the Committee and ultimately, its Chairman was to operate. In case Prof. Sagay has forgotten the terms of reference for the said Committee, we will be kind enough to remind him in this article at no cost. The terms of reference is as contained in a press statement issued by Femi Adesina shortly after Prof. Sagay's appointment in 2015. According to Femi Adesina, Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, the Committee’s brief is to "advise the Government on the prosecution of the war against corruption and the implementation of required reforms in Nigeria’s criminal justice system." Unfortunately, despite this clear cut template which defines Prof. Sagay's scope of operation as Chairman, Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption, Prof. Sagay in the most bizarre manner has since his appointment, preferred to concern himself to issues that are outside the field of his hiring and in so doing, have made unguided utterances and unfounded allegations that are unbecoming of a Professor of Law and a Senior Advocate of Nigeria.
As a legal practitioner, Prof. Sagay ought to know that there are limits to everything. The expected role of Prof. Sagay-chaired committee is merely to "advise the President". In other words, Prof. Sagay's job ought to be a solemn and secret one. He is not expected to grant interviews on any advice he gives to the President except where his hirer (Mr. President) specifically instructs otherwise. Unfortunately, Prof. Sagay has, to say the least, brushed aside this little expectation to the detriment of his own reputation built over the years, at least academically.
Let us go down memory lane, and see some of the unguided utterances and accusations that have proceeded from the mouth of Prof. Sagay ever since he was appointed by the President as Chairman, Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption. They are:
1. In 2016, Prof. Sagay accused the Supreme Court Justices as being corrupt and even justified the illegal and unconstitutional raids carried out by the DSS operatives in their houses at night!
2. In November, 2016, Prof. Sagay turned himself into Rotimi Amaechi's media aid and defender when he described Amaechi as "one of Buhari's brightest stars", and proceeded to condemn those calling for his resignation as corrupt individuals who are "malicious and vindictive". He also accused the Supreme Court Justices who indicted Amaechi on bribery allegation as having the intention to undermine and weaken the Federal Government.
3. In December, 2016, Prof. Sagay declared that the appointment of Ibrahim Magu, Acting Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), will be “renewed” whether he is confirmed by the Senate or or not. By this, Prof. Sagay openly declared that the Senate is irrelevant as far as the appointment of EFCC Chairman is concerned even though that is not what the law says. Prof. Sagay then proceeded to accuse the National Assembly as being corrupt. In his words, the enemies of anti-corruption war are in the National Assembly! This allegation provoked even his party (the APC) and in a subsequent statement issued by the Party's Spokesman Bolaji Abdullahi, Prof. Sagay was cautioned not to create more enemies for President Buhari via his unguided and reckless utterances.
4. In March, 2017, Prof. Sagay accused the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) and the Nigerian Custom Service as being corrupt and reckless.
5. In April, 2017, Prof. Sagay, during an interview with The PUNCH, described Nigerian Senators as childish and irresponsible for refusing to screen 27 Resident Electoral Commissioners because President Muhammadu Buhari had failed to sack the acting Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, Mr. Ibrahim Magu. The Senate described Sagay’s comments as condemnable and subsequently referred the matter to the Committee on Ethics and Privileges for further action. However, in a letter titled ‘Re: Resolution summoning me to appear before the Senate’ and addressed to the Senate President, Prof. Sagay arrogantly stated that the Senate can sue him for defamation but cannot summon him to appear before it. This was a supposed constitutional lawyer talking!
6. In February, 2020, Prof. Sagay condemned the Supreme Court for fining Olanipekun and Afe Babalola in the case filed by the APC for the review of Supreme Court judgment on Zamfara State. In his view, by fining these senior lawyers, the Supreme Court "applied good law on wrong people"!
As if the above were not enough, just recently, on Sunday, the 10th of May, 2020, to be precise, Prof. Sagay was reported to have granted interview to Daily Independent Newspaper wherein he made some ridiculous remarks in relation to Kogi State Covid-19-Free status and the Governor of Kogi State. He was quoted to have said thus:
“That is a clear act of illegality. It is a clear case of provoking a more powerful entity than yourself and he got away with it. Even as a layman in medicine, nobody needs to tell me that Kogi state is probably full of COVID-19 infected people. From all that Yahaya Bello is doing, he is covering up. It’s as if there is a prize he will win if he continues to say there is not a single case of COVID-19 in the state. It is very childish and infantile act”. Now, he is covering up but what what it means is that when the thing spreads and death toll continues to rise like the case in Kano, then he will be overwhelmed and nobody will tell him before he crawls back to the federal government. What he did was illegal. He has no power to send back the NCDC officials who are acting under federal authority in this matter in which there is federal supremacy. If the federal government wants, it can send those NCDC officials back to Kogi state with full security and they will go in, do all the tests they want. Nobody will lift a finger against them, nobody will talk. They will do the tests well and be satisfied with the might and law behind them. So, Yahaya Bello is just testing an authority that is far higher than him but he should thank God that we have an accommodating Federal government. The NCDC officials know there are COVID-19 infected cases in the state and the whole thing is just a cover up. I suspect it is the same situation in Cross River”.
Prof. Sagay, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria for that matter, having dished out insults against the Governor of Kogi State, also (as usual outside the scope of his hiring by Mr. President) "advised" the Federal Government via Newspaper interview to use "might" by deploying "full security" to Kogi State and force the people of the State to undergo Corona virus test at the behest of the NCDC. Well, while Sagay's remarks and advice are laughable judging from the fact that acting outside his scope of employment has become his stock in trade, one still wonders why someone in his status would engage in such immature "venture". Prof. Sagay described Kogi State Governor as being "childish" but his (Sagay's) utterance on Kogi Governor itself portrays him (Sagay) as a perfect picture or example of a little child playing inside a heap of sand today and murky waters tomorrow!
When I first read Prof. Sagay's comments about Kogi Governor and Kogi State Covid-19-free status, many questions ran through my mind to wit: Is Sagay now a Minister of Health? Why is Prof. Sagay wishing Kogi State evil by saying that there is Corona virus in the State when in reality, there is nothing of such? Why is everyone including Sagay insisting that Kogi State must have Corona virus at all cost instead of commending the Governor and his team for ensuring that the disease does not come to the State? What is the gain of Prof. Sagay and the NCDC officials if Corona Virus is confirmed in all the States of the Federation? Why would Sagay, a renowned Professor of Law and a Senior Advocate of Nigeria advise the Federal Government to use force and deploy "full security" to Kogi State when a State of emmergency is not declared in the State? Are we in a military regime or in state of war? As constitutional lawyer, is Prof. Sagay not aware that his remarks and advice are illegal and unconstitutional?
It is unfortunate that in Nigeria, we delight in celebrating failure than success. In a country of 36 States and the FCT, only two states, that is, Kogi State and Cross River State, are yet to record a confirmed case of Covid-19 disease. Instead of celebrating (with) these two exceptional States and their respective hardworking Governors, the NCDC officials and other powerful people like Prof. Sagay chose to throw condemnations and unfounded allegations on the lucky States and their Governors!
In Kogi State for instance, even the opposition are well pleased with the way and manner Governor Yahaya Bello and his Deputy have handled and confronted the Covid-19 Pandemic in the State. At a time when some fictitious cases of Covid-19 were reported in some States just to put those to whom it may concern in an unholy position of making money in the guise of fighting the disease, Governor Bello chose the honest and un-lucrative path of preventing the spread of the disease into the State instead of making money from it, but today, he is being attacked and castigated by people like Prof Sagay.
It is a popular cliché that prevention is better than cure. This is what has helped Kogi State in the fight against the Pandemic. Immediately the disease was declared in Nigeria, Governor Bello established what is called Kogi State Covid-19 Squadron Committee headed by the Deputy Governor of the State to draw out plans and guidelines on how to prevent the disease from spreading into the State, and how to possibly fight it in the case of any eventuality. Jingles were sponsored by the Government to enlighten the people of the State on how to curb the spread of the disease. Schools and work places were closed. Religious, social and other public gatherings were prohibited. Civil servants were directed to work from home while prompt payment of salaries remain unchanged. Face masks and the use of hand sanitizers were consistently advised to be used by the people of the State. Deserving Inmates were released from various Correctional Centers in the State and were given transportation money and protective items such as face masks and sanitizers for their own safety. All these measures paid off as the people of Kogi State became very much enlightened about Covid-19 and how to curtail it's spread. In fact, enlightenment on Covid-19 was so popular in Kogi State to the extent that whenever my little child of about 2 years old saw someone wearing a face mask on TV or anywhere, he would shout, "Corona Virus"!
But, to people like Sagay, nothing else counts unless and until the disease is confirmed in Kogi State! Of course, Prof. Sagay has not heard, or rather, is not aware of all the above commendable measures and modalities put in place by the Governor of Kogi State and his team which have earned the State an enviable achievement of being a Covid-19-free State. However, Prof. Sagay is quick to hear about what transpired between NCDC officials and the Kogi Governor! Little wonder why the Governor of Rivers State, Nyesom Wike in 2016, once described him (Sagay) as "a false intellectual with broken moral compass"! (See Vanguard News (Online) of 11th December, 2016).
Prof. Sagay as he clearly admitted himself, is a layman in medicine yet, Prof. Sagay was sure in his armchair conclusion that "Kogi State is probably full of COVID-19 infected people". In arriving at this rootless conclusion, Prof. Sagay threw simple logic about Covid-19 Pandemic into the wind. The simple logic is anchored on the fact that symptoms of Covid-19 are manifested within 14 days of contracting the disease, and this explains why the quarantine period has always been 14 days. Now, It is over a month that the NCDC has been raising false alarm that Kogi State cannot be Covid-19 free as claimed by Kogi Governor, yet, nobody has died from the disease in the State. If Governor Bello is truly concealing or covering up Covid-19 cases in Kogi State as alleged by NCDC Officials and Prof. Sagay, can he also conceal or cover up deaths? Why are people not dying in Kogi State like the way people die in some other States that have confirmed cases of the disease? Why have the NCDC officials abandoned the war fronts in places like Kano, Lagos, FCT etc, where the disease is spreading geometrically only to take the "war" to a place like Kogi State where the disease does not exist? Honest answers to these simple logical questions will obviously establish the fact that Kogi State being Covid-19-free is not just a claim but a reality! And for this achievement, Governor Bello does not need an award as suggested by Prof. Sagay. The achievement of being a covid-19-free State at a time when millions of people are perishing globally as a result of the pandemic, is in itself, a divine crown bigger and higher than any man-made award!
Before bringing this article to an end, it is very essential to state in clear terms what transpired between the Governor of Kogi State and the NCDC officials that visited the State. The Governor after receiving the NCDC officials observed that the officials had contacts with the Governor's D.G. Protocol which is against the NCDC and WHO guidelines in the fight against Covid-19 Pandemic. Consequently, the Governor directed that the said NCDC officials and his D.G. Protocol should be tested and quarantined for 14 days in accordance with the NCDC guidelines and that of the WHO. Instead of submitting themselves to this simple exercise at least for test first, the said NCDC officials decided take to their heels when no one was pursuing them, except their own shadows. Is it not a sad commentary and a strange irony that the NCDC officials who came to Kogi State probably with the aim of testing people in the State do not want to submit themselves for testing too? It is a common saying that "charity begins at home"!
Thus, in my view, there is nothing wrong with the action of the Governor of Kogi State, judging from the fact that the NCDC had before their visit, made uncomplementary remarks in relation to Kogi State Government's claim that the State is Covid-19-free. In other to ensure that the disease is not deliberately planted in the State in the guise of paying official visit, the Governor was wise enough to adopt a preventive measure against any negative intention or motive of the visiting NCDC officials who by their previous remarks, projected themselves as "visitors" with questionable interest to serve and ulterior motive to achieve in their visit to Kogi State.
But, instead of condemning the NCDC officials who flouted their own guidelines and that of the World Health Organization (WHO), Prof. Sagay, as usual, chose to dance to the tunes of a foul-spirit melody with an evil prayer point that one day people will begin to die any how in Kogi State and the Governor will crawl to Abuja for help! May he dance well even unto the gate of hell but his evil prayers for Kogi State can never come to pass!
(S.O. Akobe is a Legal Practitioner, a Social Commentator and Poet. He can be reached via [email protected])