The Liberaian (Patrick Sawyer)
Government on Thursday apologised to Nigeria over the importation of the deadly Ebola Virus by a Liberian-born American, Patrick Sawyer.
Sawyer arrived Lagos on July 20 from Lome but died five days after he was admitted into a hospital in
Obalende when he showed Ebola virus symptoms.
The Liberian-born American came into contact with
59 people in both the Murtala Mohammed
International Airport and the hospital. Eight of the
hospital contacts were quarantined at the Infectious
Diseases Hospital in Yaba. One of them, a matron,
who died on Tuesday became the first Nigerian
casualty. Five others, including a female medical
doctor, had as of Wednesday, tested positive to the
The Liberian Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, Mr.
Nurudeem Mohammed, told journalists in Abuja that
President Ellen Sirleaf-Johnson, was deeply sorry that
Sawyer brought the virus to Nigeria.
He said that the deceased was under surveillance in
Liberia but that he sneaked into Lagos.
Mohammed said, “The Liberian President has
personally called to apologise on the unfortunate
“She specifically said her country had declared a
state of emergency over the Ebola epidermic in
‘She equally apologised that Sawyer ignored medical
advice and escaped out of Liberia.”
However, hopes that the United States may send
Zmapp, the experimental drug for Ebola virus
treatment, appear dashed going by US President
Barack Obama’s declaration that it was too early for
West African countries hit by the outbreak to have it.
Obama made the US position known at a news
conference at the end of an African summit on
Wednesday. While he spoke at the event, the Minister
of Health, Onyebuchi Chukwu, told journalists in
Abuja that he had written the US Centre for Disease
Control requesting for ZMapp.
On Thursday, Chukwu also told journalists that he
had yet to receive a response from the centre.
But Obama, according to The Independent of
London, said he lacked enough information to give
the green light on distributing the drug, insisting the
world must “let science guide us” on its use.
“I don’t think all the information is in on whether this
drug is helpful,” the US President said, adding that
“Ebola virus both currently and in the past is
controllable if you have a strong public health
infrastructure in place.”
He said, “We’re focusing on the public health
approach right now, but I will continue to seek
information about what we’re learning about all the
drugs going forward.”
The Cable News Network also reported on Thursday
that Obama said, “The countries affected(by the
virus) are the first to admit that what has
happened is that their public health systems have
been overwhelmed. They weren’t able to identify and
then isolate cases quickly enough.
“As a consequence, it spread more rapidly than has
been typical with the periodic Ebola outbreaks that
But Chukwu told journalists in Abuja on Thursday
that he was not aware that the US had turned down
requests for the experimental drug.
The minister, who inaugurated Defence
Identification Centre at the Mogadishu Cantonment
Abuja, said he was optimistic that Nigeria would get
positive response from the US.
Chukwu explained that the seeming delay might be
as a result of issues relating to the production and
supply of the drugs.
He stated also that the data of the drugs were still
being collected since it had been used on human
Chukwu however added that for now, nobody was
sure of the efficacy of the drug and whether its side
effects would outweigh its benefits or not.
He said, “Well, we are waiting for a response from
them (US); we have made the request but of course,
we believe that they will respond to us.
“But we also know that; one, this is an experimental
drug, some of the data required are now being
collected because it is now being used on people.
“We are not completely sure yet of its efficacy; we are
not yet completely sure if the side effects would
outweigh its benefits, and then secondly, since it is an
experimental drug, it means it has not been
produced in commercial quantity.
“So obviously, given the demand all over the world,
may be, they are having challenges about the supply.”
Chukwu commended the military for establishing
the first Defence Identification Centre in Sub –
Saharan Africa, which according to him, is in
consonance with best practices in combat casualty
He said the centre would be useful in the storage of
the DNA samples of serving military personnel,
identification of crash victims and victims of terror
Also at the event attended by the Minister of Defence,
Gen. Aliyu Gusau, and all the service chiefs and
heads of security agencies in the country, the Chief of
Defence Staff, Air Chief Marshal Alex Badeh, urged
military and security personnel to utilise the centre
by providing their blood samples.
Badeh said the centre would make it possible for all
fallen military personnel to be identified and given a
It was gathered that the military leadership decided
to establish the centre after 46 soldiers of the 234
Battalion of the Nigerian Army, Monguno, burnt to
death in an accident.
According to him, the 46 soldiers were buried to the
chagrin of their families who complained that their
corpses were not identified.
Don’t close borders against Nigerians
At another function where the Health Minister met
with representatives of embassies and international
agencies in Nigeria, Chukwu pleaded that foreign
borders should not be closed against Nigerians.
He said it would be wrong for any country to do so
since Nigeria had not closed its own borders.
He said, “We are prepared to treat every infected
person . Representatives of the various foreign
countries in Nigeria should advise their home
countries against closing their borders against
Nigerians because everything is being done to
contain the spread of the disease.
“We will be destroying the whole world totally if every
country should close down their borders. But if you
think closing down your own borders will help you,
go ahead and do it.
“We have not closed down our land borders because
we are weighing all possibilities. The ministry of
health will not be the last to advise the Federal
Government to close the borders if we are convinced
that doing so is necessary.
“Unless we are sure that all our land borders are fully
secured, closing the border in Nigeria will be
counter-productive because we still have many
porous borders which foreigners would explore
without being screened.”
He commended the international community, the
World Bank, the ECOWAS and the private sector for
supporting Nigeria’s efforts at combating the
Chukwu also said Nigeria would not allow
foreigners infected with the Ebola virus to travel
out for treatment.
He said that WHO had noted that about 1, 700
persons had been infected with the virus and that
more than 900 of them had died since the outbreak
of the disease.
The minister said, “This was the figure released
yesterday (Wednesday) and it could have been more
“If the incubation period of the virus had shifted a
little bit, the Liberian- born American , Mr Patrick
Sawyer, who imported the disease would have after
participating in the ECOWAS summit in Calabar,
Cross River State, returned to the US where it would
“This means that currently, the whole world is in
danger. For Nigeria, it is a national emergency but for
the whole world, it is a global emergency. Everyone,
every nation and every individual is at risk.
“Clearly, a victim is condemned to prison by the
disease but he or she is not condemned to death. The
victim is in prison because he is quarantined when
suspected to have the virus and isolated when he has
the disease. It is not condemnation to death.
“So, having Ebola virus is not a death sentence.
People can survive it and an international research is
still ongoing to make sure that any carrier of the
“It is true that we are in possession of the manifest of
the passengers that flew in the same aircraft with
Sawyer from Lome to Lagos but the problem is that
the seats in the aircraft were free so we have to go
after all the 48 passengers.
“All those who landed with him in Lagos were
immediately placed under surveillance alongside all
the airport staff and hospital personnel who had
direct contact with them.
“At the moment, one or two of the passengers are
hiding . Some of the primary contacts, against our
advice, had even left Lagos and travelled to other
“We have put in place the infrared tarmac detectors
gadgets to screen outgoing and incoming passengers
at the Lagos and Abuja airports. We are also
screening in 49 land borders, 13 airports, and 18
“Currently Nigeria has diagnosed seven Ebola virus
victims. The figure included the late Sawyer. There
are six Nigerians and one of them unfortunately died
on Tuesday. Others are under investigation.”
The minister added that medical personnel were the
only people allowed to wear protective gloves in the
He called on non-medical personnel at the borders
to stop wearing protective gloves.
He said the Federal Government was ready to work
with the Saudi Arabia authorities on how to ensure
that pilgrims were well screened before being
allowed to participate in the Holy pilgrimage.
Chukwu, who lamented the deteriorating state of
health workers who had contracted Ebola, urged the
international community to assist Nigeria in
combating the menace.
He also announced that “there will be introduction of
life insurance scheme for the health workers that will
be recruited so that it would go a long way in helping
the family of the doctor when issue of Ebola arises.”
The minister added, “The issue of Ebola is affecting
our health workers but we are assuring them that
government is doing everything possible to protect
them; the health workers the ministry is going to
recruit will have life insurance so that when anything
happens, the family of the doctor will not suffer the
ECOWAS closes Lagos office
The VicePresident of ECOWAS, Dr. Toga McIntosh, said the sub regional organisation was in support of
all strategies being employed by Nigeria to stop the
spread of the Ebola virus.
McIntosh disclosed that the regional body had closed
down its Lagos office pending when health officers
would declare it fit for reopening.
He confirmed that ECOWAS invited Sawyer to its
annual retreat in Calabar alongside other ECOWAS
ambassadors, national officers, unit heads, and
heads of ECOWAS institutions.
He said, “Our protocol officers, including the driver
that went to meet Sawyer at the airport are among
those under surveillance and are under careful
observation. We are monitoring them very closely.
“Also, we have suspended all our activities for a
while. In our Lagos office where we initially hosted
the late Sawyer, we are collaborating with the Lagos
State Government to fully fumigate the entire
premises because the vehicle which was used to take
him to the hospital is in the compound.
“He had interacted with people used the toilets and
At the moment we have closed down our office
pending when the health officers will declare it fit for
Also, the Officer in charge of the WHO in Nigeria, Dr.
Rex Mpazanje, said Ebola virus in Nigeria had been
contained at the primary contact level.
He commended Nigeria for declaring an epidemic
when the case was discovered.
However, the Liberian Ambassador to Liberia, Prof.
Al-Hassan Conteh, said the attention of the embassy
had been drawn to several cases of harassment of
Liberians in Lagos and other places in Nigeria.
He said, “I think that as we combat this disease, it is
important to carry out a campaign that association is
not concession. The fact that the index case came
from Liberia, does not mean that all Liberians in
Nigeria are infected with the Ebola virus.”
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