The chief of staff to the Nigerian president Abba Kyari is dead, presidential spokesmen Femi Adesina said on Saturday morning.
“Funeral arrangements to be announced soon,” Adesina said.
Kyari was suspected to have contracted the novel coronavirus when he visited Germany in early March multiple sources said. The presidency did not deny or confirm the rumours at the time.
It was only after his death that Garba Shehu, the special assistant on media and publicity to President Muhammadu Buhari, confirmed that Kyari had died of coronavirus. Shehu said Kyari died on Friday.
“The deceased had tested positive to the ravaging COVID-19, and had been receiving treatment,” Shehu said.
He was Buhari’s closest person in the cabinet. In fact, Buhari, while inaugurating his ministers in August, ordered them to make requests for meetings with him through his now-late chief of staff.
Multiple media reports said the president was also tested for the virus but his test came out negative. A number of top Nigerian politicians, some of whom met Kyari after his return from Germany, also took the test.
Three governors – Nasir El-Rufai of Kaduna, Bala Mohammed of Bauchi and Seyi Makinde of Oyo – all tested positive for the virus. Mohammed and Makinde have since recovered.
Kyari’s was the highest profile death due to the disease in the West African country, which has 493 confirmed cases and 17 deaths, according to the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control.
Kyari acted as the gatekeeper to Buhari. He travelled to Germany in early March with a delegation of other Nigerian officials for meetings with Siemens AG. He attended meetings with senior government officials upon his return to Nigeria.
Reuters reported on March 24 that Kyari had contracted the highly infectious disease.
Buhari himself has undisclosed medical ailments and spent five months in London for treatments in 2017