The Nigerian Institute of Medical Research says two persons have been arrested in connection with the fake COVID-19 results that rocked the institute last week.
The two suspects, Enoch Basyan and Fazin Binrah, who were neither staff nor agent of the institute, were reportedly caught while conducting a phoney COVID-19 test on an undercover patient in Isolo area of Lagos.
Recall that PUNCH HealthWise reported on December 29 about a video that went viral on social media, creating the impression that fake COVID-19 result could be procured at NIMR.
The video, uploaded on YouTube, indicted an unnamed official working at NIMR drive-through testing centre of extorting about N35,000 to abet travellers seeking COVID-19 certificate.
The drive-through initiative, in partnership with LifeBank, a healthcare technology and logistics company, was set up on March 30, 2020, to provide free COVID-19 test after online registration.
In the video clip, the indicted official could be heard on phone haggling over service charges with a supposed client.
He claimed that if the client could visit the drive-through test centre on a special arrangement, it would cost her N30,000 and N35,000 if she preferred having the result delivered to her.
However, speaking with newsmen on Friday, NIMR Director-General, Prof. Babatunde Salako, said that officials of the institute were shocked and embarrassed by the viral video.
He reiterated that all COVID-19 results from NIMR are sent electronically using the institute’s official email.
“We were greeted by a serious shock over the video. As an institute with an unblemished reputation whose vision is the promotion of national health and development, it raises a serious concern to know that our efforts were being sabotaged,” he said.
Salako stated that an investigative committee was set up with the mandate to come up with facts on the veracity of the report.
“The investigation revealed that two individuals, Enoch Basyan and Fazin Binrah, who were neither staff nor agents of NIMR, were behind the issuance of COVID-19 results without proper testing.
“The suspects were caught in the act while trying to do a COVID-19 test for one of our undercover staff who acted as a patient in front of a bank at Isolo, Lagos.
“They were promptly arrested by policemen from Aswani Station for further investigation.
“When their vehicle was searched, several copies of the laboratory request forms, including that of our institute, were found in their possession.
“In the course of their confessional statements, the suspects revealed that they sometimes came surreptitiously to NIMR and took away our COVID-19 Testing Request Form under the guise of coming for a test,” he said.
According to the NIMR director, when the staff-in-charge of the request form was interrogated, he admitted that he mistakenly gave out a blank form to some individuals who went away with it without trace.
“The indicted staff attributed the mistake to work pressure,” Salako said.
Armed with the request forms, the two suspects went about collecting people’s samples and fabricating results which they issued to people without undergoing the test, Salako added.
“The staff in question is currently being interrogated and if found liable, will be sanctioned in accordance with the extant rules guiding such offence.
“As earlier mentioned, all COVID-19 results from NIMR are sent electronically using the institute’s official email.
“Therefore, any result emanating from any source other than our official website is not our result,” he said.
The NIMR boss further disclosed that the development has compelled the research centre to put in a mechanism to check some loopholes created by the lapse.
“For instance, clients who register on our website for testing but do not qualify for the test will henceforth be provided feedback to that effect.
“Also, photo identification will be required together with an invitation letter to be admitted for testing,” he said.
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