ABUJA (AFP) – The Liberian government complained Thursday that its citizens were being harassed and “stereotyped” in Nigeria following the death in a Lagos hospital of one of its citizens infected with Ebola virus.
“The attention of our embassy has been brought to several cases of harassment of Liberians especially in Lagos and other places. This harassment borders on stereotyping and sometimes expression of collective guilt,” Liberian ambassador to Nigeria, Martin George, said.
The patient who brought the virus to Lagos on July 20, Liberian finance ministry employee Patrick Sawyer, was placed under quarantine at a private hospital. He died on July 25.
“Just because the ‘index case’ came from Liberia, so ‘all Liberians in Nigeria have Ebola’. That is the message and people are being harassed,” said the diplomat.
He was speaking during a meeting the Nigerian Health minister, Onyebuchi Chukwu, held with heads of diplomatic missions in the country on developments on Ebola virus.
Nigeria on Wednesday confirmed five new cases of Ebola in Lagos and a second death from the virus, a nurse, bringing the total number of infections in sub-Saharan Africa’s largest city to seven.
“There are law-abiding Liberians living here in Nigeria who have been harassed. So I appeal for your indulgence as you frame the responses especially on the radio talk shows. People have been making all kind of derogatory remarks that have been brought to our attention,” the Liberian diplomat said.
– ECOWAS suspends meetings –
Regional grouping ECOWAS also said at the same meeting that it has suspended momentarily meetings that could bring representatives of its member states together.
ECOWAS Commission vice president Toga Mcintosh said that the management of the 15-nation grouping has decided “to suspend all meetings that will bring us together coming from our various countries”.
“Except if the mision is so essential and well guided, we will approve. All other missions, meetings will be suspended for a while.”
The suspension is initially for the whole of August, after which the situation will be reviewed for further action, an ECOWAS spokesman, Sunny Ugoh, told AFP.
The Lagos liaison office of the Economic Community of West Africa States (ECOWAS) has been temporaily closed down and fumigated, Mcintosh told the meeting.
It was clear that some ECOWAS officials had primary contact with Sawyer in the organisation’s Lagos office when he arrived, he also said, but gave no further details.
The Nigerian health minister said Nigeria will begin to screen all outbound air travellers and if they are found to have the Ebola virus, they will be asked to stay back.
“We don’t want them to go to other countries and cause problems for those countries…. We can’t allow you to take it (Ebola virus) to your country and cause problems for them,” Chukwu said.