The chief of staff and chief adviser to the Nigerian head of state Muhammadu Buhari has died after contracting the new coronavirus, the presidency announced in Abuja on Saturday.
The presidency “regrets to announce the death” of Abba Kyari, right-hand man of Buhari, according to a press release published overnight.
“The deceased had tested positive for COVID-19, which is wreaking havoc and receiving care. But he died on Friday, April 17, 2020,” said the press release. “May God accept his soul”.
Abba Kyari is the highest person in Nigeria to have succumbed to the virus which officially infected 493 people and left 17 dead.
His exact age has never been publicly revealed, but he was thought to be over 70, and was a mysterious figure, a figure in the first circle of Buhari, a 77-year-old former general re-elected for a second term in 2019.
Abba Kyari controlled access to the head of state. He supervised all strategic meetings of the presidency and granted the hearings of the president to the ministers.
He had tested positive for coronavirus at the end of March, after a stay in Germany, causing panic at the top of the state and forcing in the process several senior Nigerian officials who had been in contact with him to quarantine.
On March 29, Kyari announced that he had been transferred to Lagos, the economic capital of Nigeria for treatment and hoped “to be back at (his) office very soon”.
The presidency has not communicated on whether Mr. Buhari himself has been tested for coronavirus, but the head of state has made several televised speeches in recent days to announce measures to curb its spread.
Federal authorities have imposed confinement on Lagos and the capital, Abuja, but governors of other states have also taken measures such as closing their borders.
The most populous country in Africa, with 200 million inhabitants, is particularly vulnerable to the health crisis, due to its fragile health system and its high population density.