Army insists Gen Irefin died of COVID-19, gives details of his last moment on earth

The Nigerian army has narrated how John Olu Irefin, a major-general, died from COVID-19 complications.


Irefin was attending the annual chief of army staff conference in Abuja before he took ill and died.

The army authorities had immediately canceled the conference and directed all the participants to go into isolation.

But in a statement signed by A.A Aminu, a spokesman of the Ayetoro Development Association, where he hailed from, the kinsmen of the deceased said they suspected foul play.

They called on the authorities to investigate the general’s death, saying COVID-19 couldn’t have killed Irefin within such a short period.

They also questioned the army over its “haste in the burial” of Irefin.

But Sagir Musa, army spokesman, dismissed the allegations, insisting that COVID-19 is responsible for the death of the late general.

He said an explanation on the death of the general is needed to “combat fake news, unnecessary and wicked insinuations”.

“The sudden death of Maj General JO Irefin is no doubt a great loss to the Nigerian Army (NA), his family, and the country at large,” Musa said in a statement.

“In view of the fake news, unnecessary and wicked insinuations that started emanating from unknown group or individuals, the NA wishes to inform members of the public the sequence of events that led to the death of the late senior officer.

“Recall that the Chief of Army Staff Annual Conference 2020, started on 7 December 2020 following the virtual declaration by President, Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces of the Federal Republic of Nigeria for its commencement. The participants who were mostly Principal Staff Officers, General Officers Commanding (GOCs), Corps Commanders, Commandants of NA schools, Directors and other invited dignitaries assembled in Giri venue of the first phase of the conference during which Mr President virtually commissioned the NA Cyber Warfare Command Headquarters among other vital projects.

“Among the attendees was Maj Gen JO Irefin the erstwhile GOC 6 Division NA. While at Giri, the General started complaining of discomfort. Despite the discomfort, he was at phase 2 in life camp for the commissioning of Housing Scheme for families of officers and soldiers killed in action from where he left the venue for his accommodation. He was later taken to Defence Medical Centre the same day at about 2125 hours having complained of fever, headache, and mild cough. Medical history revealed that he was treated for malaria with parenteral artemether a week ago at 6 Division Medical Services and Hospital Port Harcourt where he was the GOC. He had a fever but oxygen saturation was normal at 99%. Other vital signs were essentially stable on presentation. A working diagnosis of drug-resistant malaria to rule out lobar pneumonia and COVID 19 infection was made. He was also placed on cefriaxone and COVID 19 test was requested.”

Musa also narrated the events that transpired before Irefin’s sample was taken for COVID-19 test.

He said the deceased received adequate medical attention before he died.

“Consequently, in the morning of 8 December 2020, the fever and cough have subsided and he was eating well. On the same day (8 December 2020), he was discharged after his sample for COVID 19 test had been taken and was requested to self isolate pending the out come of the test. On 9 December 2020, the result of the COVID 19 test conducted on him was positive,” he said.

“As a result, he was taken to 063 Nigerian Airforce Hospital Abuja where his SpO saturation was noted to be well reduced to between 55 – 60%. He was then immediately taken to Gwagwalada Specialist Hospital, Abuja by Commander 063 NAF Hospital for further management. At the hospital, he was immediately admitted and placed on high flow oxygen.

“An initial improvement of 80 – 82% oxygen saturation was noticed. He was then commenced on Antiviral agent remdesivir based on the COVID 19 test result. Other treatments included the usual COVID 19 treatment cocktail. Unfortunately, despite these efforts, at about 0510 hours on Thursday 10th of December 2020, the Commander 063 NAF Hospital Abuja was informed that the senior officer desaturated again and eventually died. The cause of his death was reported as respiratory failure secondary to the complications of COVID 19 infection.”

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