Ebola: FG directs surveillance at all entry points
—Approves N1.4bn for new control towers equipment for six airports
By Johnbosco Agbakwuru
ABUJA – FOLLOWING the report of recent outbreak of Ebola in Democratic Republic of Congo, the Federal Executive Council, FEC, Wenesday directed the Federal Ministry of Health to step up surveillance at all entry points in the country, to prevent Ebola virus being brought into the country.
The FEC which was presided over by the Vice President Yemi Osinbajo at the Council Chamber, also directed a full scale investigation to ascertain the allegation of payment of tuition fees per unit course at the nation’s federal universities, in order to put a stop to it.
This is as the government approved the sum of N1.365, 364, 458.75 billion for the procurement of new equipment for control towers in six airports in the country.
Briefing the State House correspondents after the end of the weekly meeting, the Minister of Health, Prof. Isaac Adewole said that FEC, ordered that steps should be taken to ensure that the dreaded Ebola outbreak in Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) should not be allowed to come to Nigeria.
Prof. Adewole explained that part of the new measures to be taken include screening passengers coming into the country.
According to him, “Of course great concern to the Federal Executive Council is the outbreak of Ebola in DR Congo. As you might be aware, over the last one month, DRC recorded 19 suspected cases of Viral Hemorrhagic Fever and lost 16 of the cases.
“But, what is also particularly important was that on Monday, blood samples from five patients in a particular district in DRC, in two of the five cases, Ebola was actually confirmed. And, FEC has now directed the federal ministry of health to step up emergency surveillance activities at all land and airport borders, so that we can actually keep Nigerians safe.
“What we will do is to set up an emergency operation center which will be chaired by Dr. Babatunde Babasanya, who actually led our efforts in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea during the outbreak in 2014. Not only that, we will be screening incoming passengers, particularly passengers from DRC and neigbouring countries, we will also ensure we step up all activities screening people coming in so that we will not be caught unawares.
“The Nigerian Center for Disease Control (NCDC) will also consider sending some teams to DRC as part of building 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.”
The Health Minister also disclosed that his ministry presented an update on the state of public health to the council.
He said, “We reported on the situation with Lessa fever and declared that we are declaring the emergency phase of Lassa fever outbreak over. Essentially, that implies that the emergency operating center would be stood down but that instead of meeting everyday throughout the country, they will now meet once a week. They will still continue surveillance so that if there are cases anywhere in the country we can quickly dictate it and then treat it appropriately.”
Also fielding question on whether FEC discussed the ongoing strike by Joint Health Sector Union, JOHESU, he said, “Negotiations are still on with Joint Health Sector Union, JOHESU, and the minister of labour is leading the negotiation and we expect that we will conclude on all issues very soon.”
Also briefing journalists, the Minister of State for Education, Prof. Anthony Anwuka, said Council approved new license to be given to Skyline University, Kano.
He also said that following the allegations that some universities were making charges per course unit, Council ordered investigation of alleged charges of tuition fees by some Federal universities.
He described it as illegal for Federal universities to charge tuition fees, adding that the FEC has directed the Ministry to ascertain if the allegations were true and put a stop to it.
The minister said “No federal university should charge tuition fees, that is the law. And, we understand some universities now charge fees per course unit and we are going to make sure that we investigate that properly and make it stops.
“But students can pay other auxiliary fees but not in excess. Various university councils and management should be able to fix what fees students should pay that is affordable and acceptable to the students.
“That is the position. The federal government does not determine fees for private and state universities, they only take responsibility for fees paid in the federal universities.”
The Minister of State for Transportation, Aviation, Hadi Sirika on his own part said council approved the sum of N1.365, 364, 458.75 billion for the procurement of new equipment for control towers in six of the nation’s airports.
He said, “FEC approved procurement of equipment for the completion of control towers in some airports that included Maiduguri, Akure, Benin, Illorin, Kaduna and Ibadan. This particular procurement was done in 2011. From 2011, government stopped funding a particular procurement with all its importance.
“So, we provided for it in 2017 so that we can complete it. And council has graciously approved to complete those control towers which will enhance communications and security of our airspace. The total value is N1.365, 364, 458.75.”