Nigeria is expected to be declared Ebola-free today, just three months after fears that the virus could spread like wildfire through Africa’s most populous nation.
The World Health Organization (WHO) will make the announcement that Nigeria has not had a confirmed case of Ebola for 42 days — or two incubation periods of 21 days — just as it did for Senegal on Friday.
The achievement is being welcomed, with no end in sight to the disease that has claimed more than 4,500 lives this year, most of them in West Africa, and mounting fears about cases around the world.
Close attention is being paid to how Nigeria, with an under-funded and ill-equipped health system, managed to contain the virus, as specialists look for a more effective response to control its spread.
But there were warnings against any premature celebration, with complacency still a risk and luck considered to have played a part in containing the outbreak.
However, eight people died out of 20 confirmed Ebola cases in Nigeria, with all infections traced back to a single source — Liberian finance ministry official Patrick Sawyer, who arrived in Lagos on July 20.
Many feared the worst when Sawyer died on July 25 in a private hospital in Nigeria’s biggest city, which is home to more than 20million people, with poor sanitation and inadequate health facilities.
Doctors were on strike at the time over pay and conditions in the public health sector, where many state hospitals lack running water, let alone soap and other basic equipment.
Yet, the doomsday scenario of rapid spread among a 176-million-strong population, devastating Africa’s leading economy and oil producer, did not materialise.
“Nigeria acted quickly and early and on a large scale,” John Vertefeuille, from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), told AFP.
“They acted aggressively, especially in terms of contact-tracing.”
Key to the response was an existing plan for a mass outbreak of polio, which was adapted to Ebola, as well as a rapid appeal for foreign help.
The Ebola Emergency Operations Centre (EEOC) prioritised contact-tracing and twice-daily monitoring of those at risk, with experts aware that every Ebola case is in contact with about 50 people.
In all, nearly 900 people were monitored in Lagos and the oil city of Port Harcourt, where one contact of Sawyer travelled after slipping surveillance, going on to infect another doctor.
Some 1,800 people were trained to trace and monitor those at risk, as well as decontaminate infected places and care for the sick, said the head of the EEOC, Faisal Shuaib.
Luck cannot be discounted in Nigeria’s first brush with Ebola. Sawyer was taken straight to hospital after arriving from Monrovia visibly ill, keeping him off Lagos’ teeming streets.
Doctors also prevented him from discharging himself into an area of the city frequented by tens of thousands of people with a bus station that serves the entire country.
The EEOC in the early days of the outbreak, highlighted concerns such as lack of personal protective equipment for medics, which could have had serious implications in any rapid spread.
Public health campaigns, including a giant electronic billboard warning about Ebola just outside the hospital where Sawyer died, have helped raise awareness.
Airports and seaports have introduced compulsory screening on arrival and departure; temperature checks and hand sanitiser use for the public are now the norm.
Greater knowledge about Ebola is likely to help in reporting any new cases, said epidemiologist Chukwe Ihekweazu, who runs the Nigeria Health Watch website.
But he warned Nigeria against celebrating its Ebola-free status.
“It’s premature when you see the situation in West Africa right now. There’s still a lot to do. It’s not the right time to celebrate,” he said.
Vertefeuille admitted that there was “no equal level of preparedness everywhere in the country” but still said Nigeria was better equipped to deal with any future Ebola cases.
Isolation centres have now been identified in most Nigerian states, while six laboratories have been accredited by the WHO to conduct Ebola tests, said Shuaib.
But concerns remained, not least about funding.
Vertefeuille said the federal authorities had been slow to match state government funding for the outbreak, which would be vital for tackling any new cases.
GoG: Nigerian, Ghanaian Navies Meet On Joint Operations
Against the backdrop of renewed piracy and hostage-taking incidents in the Gulf of Guinea, Nigeria’s Chief of Naval Staff, Vice Admiral Awwal Gambo and his Ghanaian counterpart, Rear Admiral Issah Adam Yakubu, have commenced a security engagement aimed at joint security initiatives to tackle the situation.
Speaking during the meeting held at Naval headquarters, Abuja, Vice Admiral Gambo said, “The Gulf of Guinea is currently bedevilled by the activities of criminal elements who take advantage of limited capability of the navies in the region to adequately secure the area.
“The threat posed by the activities of these criminal elements constitute a major challenge not only to the littoral states but equally undermines regional development and global trade.
“Notably, the trans-boundary and trans-national nature of maritime crime makes the security of the maritime domain a task beyond the capacity of any country acting alone.
“It is against this backdrop that this bilateral engagement was convened at the instance of the Heads of Government of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and Republic of Ghana towards addressing the maritime security challenges within the region”.
Vice Admiral Gambo expressed belief that “the engagement would foster greater collaboration and burden sharing that is hinged on cooperative maritime security framework as envisioned in the 2013 Yaoundé Protocol to arrive at strategies that would help address the maritime insecurity for enhanced economic prosperity in the region”.
Declaring the technical session open, the CNS said, “In deliberations, please consider amongst others: maritime area of interest covering Zone E and integration of the capabilities of the countries in Zone E, emplacing a robust intelligence sharing mechanism and collaboration with international partners”.
On relations between both countries, Gambo said, “This good relation is equally manifest in the several interactions between the Nigerian Navy and Ghana Navy. I must not fail to mention the remarkable contributions of the Ghana Navy-CNS to manpower development during his tour of duty at the prestigious AFCSC, Jaji as a member of the Directing Staff. I have no doubt that this engagement would further strengthen the existing cordial bilateral relations between Nigeria and Ghana navies.
In his address, Chief of Naval Staff of Ghana, Rear Admiral Issah Yakubu, noted that he and his delegation were in Nigeria at the behest of President Nana Akufo Ado to engage the Nigerian Navy and come out with collective strategies to tackle insecurity which is in the ascendancy in recent times in the Gulf of Guinea.
“We hope our navies will buy into this engagement to improve security in the Gulf of Guinea. We know our big brother Nigeria has bigger capacity to chart the way forward”.
He disclosed that, “Since year 2020, the situation has bot been good in the Gulf of Guinea”, noting that “Last May, two Ghanian vessels were attacked and 10 persons were abducted with investigations still ongoing”.
Consequently, the Ghanian Navy Chief said, “We are proposing an ECOWAS naval task force and joint maritime security architecture to checkmate these threats, adding that this was done in the past successfully during ECOMOG operations without problems with inter-operability and doctrinal issues.
Furthermore, he proposed the setting up of a ‘transit corridors’ where ships from fellow West African countries can go to anchor for assistance and joint naval assets will conduct regular patrols especially for protection of commercial fishing vessels.
Wike Orders Destruction Of Criminal Hideouts In Rivers
The Rivers State Governor, Chief Nyesom Wike, has ordered the destruction of all criminal hideouts in Ahoada, Elele, Eleme and Onne to prevent attempt to undermine security of the state.
The governor said criminals were already coming to terms with the reality that Rivers State was too hot for them to invade at will and detonate their foolish attacks on targeted security posts and personnel.
Wike, who made this assertion in a state broadcast, last Friday, disclosed that the state government has identified the hideouts, safe houses and secret places that provide both cover and comfort for the hoodlums to plan, execute and return to after operations.
“This was the reason we ordered the destruction of all the shanties and makeshift structures located along Elele to Ahoada expanse of the East–West Road to deny the criminals the opportunity to continue to undermine our security from these hideouts.
“We have equally decided to destroy all the shanties, illegal shops and mechanic sheds along the Eleme to Onne stretch of the East-West Road having discovered these places also as hideouts and operational bases for criminals and criminal activities in the state.
“Consequently, I hereby direct owners of such shanties and illegal structures along the Eleme – Onne axis of the East-West Road to vacate the area within two weeks from June 11, 2021, as the state government will go ahead to destroy these structures without any further notice.”
Wike said the government was not unmindful of the economic effect these measures would have or may have had on residents carrying out businesses in the affected areas.
He, however, stressed that government was merely discharging its constitutional responsibility to advance the collective security of all with no ethnic targets in mind or attachment to political sentiments.
He explained that the existing curfew in Rivers State will not last one day beyond necessary, and pleaded with all residents to endure the temporary inconveniences in the interest of the state and collective wellbeing of all.
“We will continue to take the war on criminality and insecurity to the den of the criminals and we will neither yield nor lower the tempo of our assault until they are comprehensively neutralized. As a matter of fact, they want us to prematurely terminate the state wide night time curfew in order for them to have the leeway to operate again and roll back the gains of the last few weeks.”
Wike said he has received reports about the excesses of the State Task Force on Illegal Trading and Parks, especially the alleged shooting of motorists, extortions and abuse of the human rights of citizens.
He assured that government would not hesitate to bring the full weight of the law on any member of the task force who crosses the boundaries of the law and rational behaviour.
The governor, who appealed to motorists and residents to be responsible road users by complying with the clear regulations against illegal trading, indiscriminate parking and irresponsible driving, noted that the situation where some motorists would have the effrontery to compete for traffic space with or even attempt to block his official vehicular convoy leaves much to be desired.
He has meanwhile, directed the management of the Rivers State Waste Management Authority to clear the state of filthiness within one week or be disbanded without any further notice.
Army Begins Shooting Exercises In Rivers
The Nigerian Army, 6 Division, has announced that it would commence its annual range classification exercise from yesterday to Sunday, June 27.
The division’s spokesman, Lt.-Col. Charles Ekeocha, said in a statement in Port Harcourt, that the exercise aimed at ascertaining the professional competence of troops on the use of firearms.
He said troops from the division and its affiliated formations and units would conduct the exercise at the Army Shooting Range in Igwuruta and Elele Barracks, both in Ikwerre Local Government Area of the state.
“The shooting exercise is a routine activity in the Nigerian Army which involves the firing of various calibre live ammunitions.
“Members of the public, especially residents of Igwuruta and Elele, as well as its environs, are advised to keep away from the general shooting area,” he stated.
The Army spokesman also advised the public not to panic over the movement of troops, military hardware and sound of gunshots.
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