The Federal Executive Council (FEC) has directed the Ministry of Health to step up surveillance at the nation’s borders, following reports of a fresh outbreak of the Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
The outbreak in Bikoro town, northwest of the DRC, has already recorded two confirmed cases of the virus and 17 deaths.
More than 11,000 died of the disease in Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone in 2014.
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), “EVD is a severe, often fatal illness in humans. The virus is transmitted to people from wild animals and spreads in the human population through human-to-human transmission.
The average EVD case fatality rate is around 50 per cent. Case fatality rates have varied from 25 per cent to 90 per cent in past outbreaks.”
The Minister of Health, Prof. Isaac Adewole, disclosed the Council’s directive while briefing State House correspondents after a meeting presided over by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, yesterday.
Joined by Minister of Foreign Affairs Geoffrey Onyeama and Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity Femi Adesina, Adewole said apart from the directive, which is intended to ”keep Nigerians safe”, the government will also establish an emergency operation centre to be headed by Dr. Babasanya, who led Nigeria’s efforts in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea during the 2014 outbreak.
“We will be screening incoming passengers, particularly passengers from the DRC and neighbouring countries. We will also ensure we step up all activities, screening people coming in, so that we will not be caught unawares,” he said.
He disclosed that the Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) is planning to send a team to the DRC to build capacity for managing the outbreak.
“We want to assure Nigerians that the Federal Government is concerned about the outbreak and will do everything possible to keep the country safe,” said Adewole.
Fielding questions on the ongoing strike in the health sector, Adewole said the Minister of Labour, Chris Ngige, is already leading the Federal Government’s negotiation team for talks with the Joint Health Sector Unions (JOHESU).
FEC also directed the Federal Ministry of Education to carry out an audit of Nigerian universities to ascertain their performance and also stop the charging of tuition fees.
The Minister of State for Education, Prof. Tony Anwuka, said the ministry is expected to submit a status report to the Council about both public and private universities. He said FEC took the decision while approving Skyline, a new private university in Kano State.
“FEC discussed the issue of school fees in the various universities and noted that with regard to the law, no federal university should charge tuition fees. We understand some universities now charge fees per course unit.
We are going to make sure we investigate that properly and make it stop. Students can pay other auxiliary fees but not in excess.
Various university councils and management should be able to fix fees students should pay that are affordable and acceptable to the students.
That is the position. The Federal Government does not determine fees for private and state universities; it only takes responsibility for fees paid in the federal universities,” he said.
FEC also approved the procurement of equipment worth N1.365b for the completion of control towers at airports in Maiduguri, Akure, Benin, Ilorin, Kaduna and Ibadan.
The Delta State government, meanwhile, has declared it would partner the NCDC and the Federal Ministry of Health to stop the outbreak of Ebola and Lassa fever.
Commissioner for Health, Dr. Mordi Ononye, said the government has put in place an effective medical emergency response system spanning all the 25 local councils of the state.
Speaking in Asaba, yesterday, he said: “It is this system that made it possible for the achievements we recorded in managing the outbreak of Lassa fever, Monkey pox and the rest.”
He noted that following the suspected outbreak of Monkey pox in Bayelsa, the State Rapid Response Team was activated, and the Ministry of Health, in collaboration with WHO, sensitised disease surveillance officers in the local government areas.