Presidency Bars Journalists At Abba Kyari’s Burial From Villa

  • For social distancing violation
  • Imposes 14-day self-isolation
Sympathizers at the Gudu cemetery

BY EDMOND ODOK, ABUJA – For violating the social distancing rules meant to check coronavirus’ spread in the country, State House Correspondents and staff of the Media Department that attended the burial ceremonies for the late Chief of Staff to the President, Mallam Abba Kyari, have been temporarily barred from accessing the Presidential Villa.

Fears of possible COVID-19 outbreak in Nigeria’s seat of power following the passage and interment of the late CoS have led officials to step up health security protocols for journalists and other media personnel in Aso Rock Villa. And the Presidency on Sunday ordered that those at Saturday’s funeral rites must self-isolate themselves for the next 14 days.

In a statement issued on Sunday by Deputy Director of Information in the State House, Attah Esa, the Presidency advised all those who attended the burial from the Media Department as well as Correspondents to stay away from the Villa and work from home for the next two weeks.

According to the statement, the advice was for necessary precautions, maintaining that all those affected by the advisory must ensure they observe all recommended precautionary measures by the relevant health institutions and authorities to prevent the spread of Coronavirus (COVID-19) within and outside the FCT.

Attah’s statement read in part: “As a precautionary measure, all State House Correspondents and Media Office Staff who covered/attended the funeral prayer/burial ceremony of the late Chief of Staff, at Defence House and Gudu Cemetery Abuja, respectively, are strongly advised to work from home for the next 14 days.”

To amplify the seriousness of the directives, the statement further pleaded thus: “Please be careful to observe the recommended measures to prevent the coronavirus transmission, including maintaining physical distancing and good personal hygiene going forward.”

Despite advisories from the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) and Federal Ministry of Health (FMoH), many people still thronged the Gudu Cemetery in Apo area of Abuja on Saturday to witness the remains of the late CoS, Mallam Kyari being laid to rest at an event that attracted wide media coverage.

However, even as the burial ceremonies were still on, the social media were awash with concerns over officials and people’s non-compliance to social distancing directives at the prayers and interment sessions for the deceased.

Speedily, videos and pictures emerged raising issues of the health hazards and calling out the FCT Administration on the likely implications on residents of the nation’s capital.

Though a statement was later released by the FCTA Health Department assuring that necessary measures are being taken to ensure public safety, sources said the State House security’s refusal to grant access to top Presidential aides and media personnel who returned to the Villa after the ceremonies was a spur of the moment order from above over fears of the Villa being contaminated by the virus.

Recalled that part of earlier precautionary measures by the Presidency came on March 25, 2020 when it restricted access into the Presidential Villa by pruning to only thirteen (13) the number of media houses that would be accessing the Villa throughout the period the national response to COVID-19 pandemic would last.

Insiders said the move was meant to effectively promote physical and social distancing rules for the State House Correspondents and other media hands in the Presidency.

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