Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Mallam Garba Shehu, has confirmed the report that he alongside some presidential staff that attended the burial of the Chief of Staff to the President, Mallam Abba Kyari, on Saturday, were stopped from entering the State House.
The late Chief of Staff, who was buried on Saturday at the Gudu Cemetery in Abuja, died from complications related to the COVID-19 (Coronavirus) infection. A number of presidency staff including Shehu, were in attendance.
The presidential staff members were also at the deceased residence, Defence Guest House in Maitama, Abuja, for a brief prayer for the body of Kyari.
An online media platform had published that Mallam Shehu, a close friend to the late Chief of Staff; National Security Adviser, NSA, Babagana Monguno; Chief Protocol Officer, Ambassador Lawal Kazaure; Special Assistant to the President, Yusuf Sabiu (a.k.a Tunde); a nephew to the President, Musa Haro Daura, were denied access to the State House.
Others were the Director-General of National Intelligence Agency, Mr. Ahmad Rufai, and Personal Assistant on New Media to President Buhari, Bashir Ahmed, among others.
Their presence at the burial ceremonies was said to have violated the strict protocols established by the Nigeria Centre for Diseases Control, NCDC, for interring a COVID-19 victim.
There are insinuations linking the alleged internal problems between some highly-placed members of the first family and the late Chief of Staff as the reason behind the action.
However, the presidential spokesman, Garba Shehu, has explained that stopping those that attended the burial rites from entering the State House was in line with the standard procedures to fight the spread of the dreaded pandemic.
Shehu explained in a series of tweets on his handle @GarShehu: “There is nothing extraordinary about those of us who attended Abba Kyari’s funeral being advised to distance ourselves from the Villa.
“This is in line with the standard rules put in place by the National Center for Disease Control, @NCDCgov and the Federal Ministry of Health. You do these things to stop the spread of #Coronavirus.
“For the most part, the Villa has operated digitally in the last few weeks. So, there is really nothing new to this.”
He had, also in a chat earlier on the access denial, said: “It is true. It’s nothing that anyone should be angry about. They were just to obey rules. We have all attended the burial of a close friend in this season.
Änyone will know that after such occasion, you are meant to proceed on self-isolation. So what happened was standard protocol.
“If you observed, we have mostly been working digitally. Most of our works have been done digitally, in observance of the social distance advice.”
Despite the Federal Government announcing that the bodies of COVID-19 victims would not be released to their relatives for burial, the late Chief of Staff, who died in a Lagos hospital on Friday, was flown to Abuja on Saturday for his final rites in accordance with Islamic rites.
There was outrage particularly on the social media on Saturday, as pictures emerged of mourners thronging Kyari’s prayers and burial site without regard for social distancing to check the spread of coronavirus.
Meanwhile, President Muhammadu Buhari has banned all condolence visits to the residence of the late Chief of Staff and even to the Presidency. The action was to contain the spread of the virus and ensure compliance with the social distancing protocol.