COVID-19 recommendations violated during Kyari’s burial

THE World Health Organisation (WHO) and Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) have provided guidelines to follow in the conduct of burial for the person who has died of confirmed Coronavirus, but the presidency has violated these guidelines in the burial of Abba Kyari, the late Chief of Staff to President Muhammadu Buhari.

Besides the conduct of the funeral rites of the late CoS on Saturday, April 18 which was a clear violation of the public health guidelines issued by the government to curb the spread of the virus, the handling of his treatment when he tested positive for the virus also violated the rule.

The NCDC guidelines developed in collaboration with the Federal Ministry of Health spelled out burial procedures for late victims of COVID-19.

WHO Guidelines for burying COVID-19 corpse

The WHO guidelines released on 24 March, 2020 states that COVID-19 casualties could be buried or cremated. But in doing so, recommendations by the NCDC must be complied with.

Family and relatives of the deceased were advised to maintain hand hygiene and were only allowed to view and not touch the corpse.

The United Nations health body also called for strict compliance with social distancing. It advised health workers to make use of the Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) during the burial rites.

Other individuals responsible for the burial exercise were also advised to wear the PPE, wash hands with soap and water thereafter.

“Family and friends may view the body after it has been prepared for burial, in accordance with customs. They should not touch or kiss the body and should wash hands thoroughly with soap and water after the viewing,” the guideline stated.

“Those tasked with placing the body in the grave, on the funeral pyre, etc., should wear gloves and wash hands with soap and water after removal of the gloves once the burial is complete.”

“Family and friends may view the body after it has been prepared for burial, in accordance with customs. They should not touch or kiss the body and should wash their hands thoroughly with soap and water following the viewing; physical distancing measures should be strictly applied (at least 1 m between people).


NCDC guidelines for COVID-19 case burial     

On 18 April, the NCDC made public its interim guidelines for the safe management of COVID-19 corpse.

The guideline discourages family members of the deceased from touching the COVID-19 infected corpse.

Although relatives of the deceased are allowed to view, the friends and relatives were charged to maintain social distancing and hand hygiene.

“A minimum number of people should be involved in preparations. Others may observe without touching the body at a minimum distance of 2 metres.

“Family and friends may view the body after it has been prepared for burial, in accordance with customs. They should not touch or kiss the body and should wash their hands thoroughly with soap and water following the viewing; physical distancing measures should be strictly applied at least 2 meters between people.

Most importantly, the NCDC emphasised that apart from the health officials mandated to conduct the burial, relatives, friends, religious leaders and other mourners present should wear PPE.

“Family members, religious leaders, health care workers or mortuary staff preparing the body should wear appropriate PPE according to standard precautions (gloves, impermeable disposable gown [or disposable gown with impermeable apron, medical mask, eye protection),” the eight-pages guideline stated.

“If the family wishes only to view the body and not touch it, they may do so, using standard precautions at all times including hand hygiene. Give the family clear instructions not to touch or kiss the body.”

It stated further that adults who are older than 60 years and ‘immunosuppressed persons’ should not directly interact with the body.

The guideline advised a less human population at the burial site to avoid the disease spread.

But, findings by The ICIR revealed that most of these guidelines were violated by the government authorities that designed them.

During Kyari’s burial, which held on 18th April, the social distancing guideline was disregarded based on photographs and video evidence.

The number of people who attended the burial rite was more than the NCDC recommendations.

Moreover, not all the individuals present wore the compulsory PPE, while one of those who did was seen in a viral video removing and disposing the safety gown wrongly.



During prayer session for the deceased Abba Kyari prior to his burial at Gudu Cemetery, Abuja. Photo Source: Sahara Reporters

Violation of Social Distancing during his funeral prayers and burial

Despite lockdown imposed on Abuja by President Muhammadu Buhari to contain the spread of the virus, the Islamic funeral prayer observed for the remains of Abba Kyari was performed by scores of sympatisers contrary to social distancing rule and the WHO and NCDC guidelines on burial of victims of Covid-19.

The United Nations health agency generally advised individuals to maintain at least two meters apart to avoid the virus spread.

But for COVID-19 burial, WHO recommended at least one metre physical distancing among mourners but the NCDC guideline put the compulsory physical distance at two metres at least. However, this was not adhered to during Kyari’s burial.


The NCDC had earlier warned loved ones to “refrain” from attending the burial in mass, to check further spread but from the photographs and video broadcast of the event, the advice was disregarded.

Aside, it could be recalled that the NCDC had shared the need to reduce human presence at Kyari’s burial.

“Even at this time, as we mourn loved ones lost to COVID-19, including the recently deceased, President’s Chief of Staff, Mallam Abba Kyari, we need to refrain from attending mass gatherings to prevent the further spread of COVID19,” the NCDC stated in a tweet.

“Let us #StaySafe & protect each other.”


Wearing of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

According to the NCDC COVID-19 burial procedures for confirmed cases, irrespective of the locations an infected person died, the officials assigned to bury the dead should be equipped with the PPE.



    Also, they are expected to use disinfectants, rubber boots, heavy-duty gloves among other vital items.

    Similar conditions were recommended for relatives of the deceased, religious leaders and mortuary workers who are to partake in the burial process.

    However, contrary to the provisions listed above, majority of persons reported at the burial ground did not comply with the specific guidelines. Mourners did not wear the PPE, except for the medical officials.

    Although, some were seen with face masks, others do not have the mask or hand gloves including other protective kits.


    Friends, relatives during burial of Late Abba Kyari at Gudu Cemetery, Abuja where social distancing was disregarded. Photo Source: Punch Newspaper


    Olugbenga heads the Investigations Desk at The ICIR. Do you have a scoop? Shoot him an email at [email protected]. Twitter Handle: @OluAdanikin

    Join the ICIR WhatsApp channel for in-depth reports on the economy, politics and governance, and investigative reports.

    Support the ICIR

    We invite you to support us to continue the work we do.

    Your support will strengthen journalism in Nigeria and help sustain our democracy.

    If you or someone you know has a lead, tip or personal experience about this report, our WhatsApp line is open and confidential for a conversation


    Please enter your comment!
    Please enter your name here

    Support the ICIR

    We need your support to produce excellent journalism at all times.

    - Advertisement


    - Advertisement