By Evelyn Usman & Onozure Dania
The move by the authorities to contain Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) continued, at the weekend, following the arrest of 39 foreigners, mostly from the Democratic Republic of Congo, in Lagos.
Police and Immigration officials raided two hotels in the former federal capital where the suspects were apprehended.
35 of the foreigners are said to be from Congo which produced the first ever Ebola victim in 1976.
Although the latest round of infections started from Guinea in West Africa, two Ebola victims have been recorded in Congo.
The four other suspects arrested in Lagos, according to police sources, hail from Sierra Leone, also battling Ebola cases.
The foreigners’ arrest came just as former President Olusegun Obasanjo criticised Liberian officials for allegedly conniving with the Liberian-American, Patrick Sawyer, who brought Ebola to Nigeria.
Also, yesterday, there was panic in Aba, Abia State commercial nerve centre, after a radio station aired a report that a relation of the Port-Harcourt victim of Ebola, Dr Iyke Enemuo, had sneaked into the town.
Lagos State government, in the meantime, warned residents against indulging in acts that could escalate Ebola in the state.
The Lagos arrest of the 39 foreigners, launched by police and immigration officials, was apparently carried out in a hotel and a guest house situated at Atere Street on Victoria Island.
Sunday Vanguard sources said the raid followed a tip-off by some residents to the Area A Police Command, Lion Building, Lagos.
Consequently, the Area Commander, Imohimi Edgal, an Assistant Commissioner of Police (ACP), collaborated with immigration and health officials to storm the hotel where the foreigners were apprehended.
A police source said immigration officials will determine if the suspects were legally residing in the country while health officials will determine their health status to know if any of them had Ebola or not.
Following the arrest of the foreigners, hotels in the area, it was learnt, were placed under surveillance while residents were told to report any suspicious persons or activities to the police.
A resident of the area, Femi Ajasa, told Sunday Vanguard that they became suspicious and alerted the police following the mass movements of the foreigners into the hotels in the aftermath of the outbreak of the Ebola virus.
While commending the police for their swift response which led to the arrest of the suspects, he said residents suspected that some persons were receiving treatment in the hotels rooms, hence the need to alert the authorities.
” We were particularly concerned about our safety following the revelation that it was a foreigner, Patrick Sawyerr, who imported Ebola to Nigeria. A vigilant resident alerted the community on Friday that he suspected some new faces entering the two hotels mostly patronised by foreigners, hence we alerted relevant authorities”, he said.
Obasanjo: My problem with Liberia
Obasanjo, yesterday, took a swipe at Liberian officials who, according to him, connived with Sawyer, who brought Ebola Virus to Nigeria.
The former president spoke while answering questions from guests at an event organised by the publisher of Inside Watch Africa magazine, Oluwaseyi Adegoke-Adeyemo, tagged, ‘An afternoon with Obasanjo’, held at the Olusegun Obasanjo Presidential Library, Abeokuta.
According to him, this singular misadventure has started to take its toll on the manpower and the economy of not only Nigeria but the West Africa sub-region.
Obasanjo, however, disclosed that he had a meeting with the Ghanaian President, John Mahama, who’s also the Chairman of the Economic Community of West African Countries, some weeks ago, and discussed how to contain the spread of the deadly virus within the sub-region.
He further said that, during the meeting, Mahama wanted a meeting of ministers of health, but he suggested that there was a limit the ministers could go and that a summit of the presidents in the sub-region would be better.
He said, “It is devilish enough Patrick Sawyer had to spread this, and indeed spread it to Nigeria in connivance with some authorities from his country, because they knew he had it before he came to Nigeria.
“The EVD has started to take its toll on the country and the West African sub region. The toll is not only on the number of those who are ill or dead but on the economy of communities, countries, region and sub-region”.
The former president, while noting that EVD was not only a regional or sub-regional threat but a global one, called for a summit where a national policy on the disease would be formulated.
Obasanjo said, “Pharmaceutical companies in the country should be encouraged to carry out research on EVD and come up with vaccine to treat the deadly disease.
“Also, we have to be aggressive in taking precautionary measures. When you see your neighbour or someone who has unique symptoms not just of ordinary cold or fever, take him to the doctor, whether it is symptomatic of Ebola or ordinary malaria.
“We should not wait till someone has got incubated in it, just like Patrick Sawyer, who knew he had it and he deliberately spread it.”
Timely intervention of Abia State government, yesterday, averted pandemonium in Aba, the commercial nerve of the state, following a report carried by a radio station that a relation of the Port Harcourt Ebola victim, Dr. Iyke Enemuo, had sneaked into the commercial city.
The news immediately triggered panic and residents retiring home abruptly.
But government quickly reacted to deny the report, saying no case of Ebola had been recorded in Abia and that nobody in contact with the Port Harcourt Ebola victim had entered the state.
According to the state Commissioner for Information, Mr. Eze Chikamnayo, no such person had come into Abia just as he restated the commitment of government to work in concert with the Federal Government to ensure that Ebola virus did not come to the state.
He said that Government investigated the report by the radio station and found out that the late Enemuo had no relation residing in Aba.
Riot act in Lagos
Lagos State government, yesterday, warned residents against indulging in unhealthy acts that could escalate Ebola in the state.
The state Commissioner for Environment, Mr. Tunji Bello, gave the warning during the August sanitation monitoring exercise in Isolo Local Council Development Area, LCDA, with the council Chairman, Mr. Shamsideen Olaleye.
According to Bello, residents indulge in habits like open defecation and urination, which aid the spread of EVD, even as he said the acts, if continued, the state government “will have no option than to invoke public health law to prosecute offenders.”
On why this month’s sanitation was exclusively dedicated to advocacy campaign on preventive measures to curb the spread of EVD, the commissioner said that with the case in Port Harcourt, proactive measures must be taken to save the country from its spread.
He stated that the development necessitated the move to embark on aggressive campaign across Lagos to enlighten residents on how any unhealthy habits like open defecation could spread the virus.