- Â Igbo group says IPOB behind rumours of virus in South-east
Damilola Oyedele , Adedayo Akinwale in Abuja and â€¨ David-Chyddy Eleke in Awka
The National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), has said it is not executing any vaccination or immunisation exercise to prevent against the monkey pox virus, in any part of the country.
The National Coordinator of the agency, Dr. Chikwe Ihekwazu, while speaking before the Senate Committee on Primary Health and Communicable Diseases in Abuja, yesterday, said the government was not conducting such exercise whether through its civilian or military organisations.
He said this against the backdrop of reports that the military allegedly embarked on a vaccination exercise against the virus in the South-east, leading to parents withdrawing their wards from schools over rumours that the exercise is to depopulate the region.
â€œWe want to rule it out categorically. We are not vaccinating anywhere. Absolutely not! There is one vaccination exercise starting tomorrow (Friday) in Kwara on yellow fever in 18 local government areas and there are vaccination campaigns for other issues,â€ he said.
â€œNo monkey pox vaccination. Do not participate in any of such. There are other vaccinations, which are being delivered to prevent diseases in our children but nothing like monkey pox vaccination. As far as I know, there is no agency of the federal government that is doing this â€“ civilian or military. I have enquired, we have worked very closely with the medical corps of the Nigerian military. I met with them yesterday and I have been assured that nothing like that is going on anywhere in the country. A lot of these (reports) are rumours being spread for malicious reasons,â€ Ihekwazu explained.
The agencyâ€™s head further noted that the virus can also be contracted from rodents and other animals, even though it was first contracted from monkeys.
â€œThe primary host is actually not a monkey, though it was first discovered in monkey. The primary hosts are rats, squirrels and the family of what we call bush meats. Those are the animals we have to worry about,â€ he added.
Bush meat can however be eaten when properly prepared, he added.
â€œThere is no risk in eating well cooked, well fried and well roasted meat. The risk is in preparing, cutting and managing. Whoever does that or plays with animals â€“ especially sick animals â€“ should wash their hands with soap and water or bleach, if they cannot use gloves,â€ he said.
The Chairman of the Committee, Senator Mao Ohuabunwa, in his remarks, reiterated that the disease cannot be prevented by vaccination as there are no vaccines for it yet.
Meanwhile, schools in Anambra State yesterday witnessed poor attendance resulting from last Wednesdayâ€™s monkey pox disease scare which followed the commencement of a military medical outreach sponsored by the 82 Division of the Nigerian Arny.
When THISDAY went round the capital city of Awka to monitor the level of attendance in schools, it was gathered that some private schools did not open for classes after having announced to guardians to keep their wards at home as there would not be classes yesterday.
Schools that opened however witnessed poor attendance as most of the parents decided to keep their wards at home despite announcements by the government and school management that the school would be opened for classes.
Meanwhile, Anambra State Government has set up a committee to tackle monkey pox disease in the state.
The state Commissioner for Health, Dr. Joe Akabuike, who revealed this in a press briefing, assured citizens of the state that the monkey pox virus has not been discovered anywhere in the state.
He said the committee would begin effective monitoring to detect any case of such in the state, and engage in sensitisation of the people of the state.
Following unfounded reports in some quarters that the free medical outreach of Operation Python Dance II by the Nigerian Army was aimed at injecting monkey pox virus in the children, the Igbo for Nigeria Movement (INM) has fingered the outlawed Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) as responsible for the reports.
It said it was another desperate attempt to set Igbo people against the Nigerian Army and other members of the Nigerian State.
In a statement issued yesterday in Abuja, the National President of the group, Ifeanyi Igwe, said the fact on ground showed that the larger population of the South-east are law abiding citizens with very cordial relationship with the military and all security agencies in Nigeria.
He emphasised that the rumour in circulation has portrayed Ndigbo as unthinking and shallow-minded people who cannot differentiate between reality and fiction.
Ifeanyi noted that the rumour was a desperate move by those with criminal intent to use any means possible including peddling outright falsehood or blackmail to discredit the army.
According to him, â€œunfortunately, IPOB is laying the groundworks to kill and destroy more Igbo people than any security agency could have ever done even if they had mounted a coordinated genocidal campaign against the southeast geo-political zone. This is a concern that is backed up by logic.â€
Ifeanyi added: â€œThe IPOB lies has practically shut down schools. Emma Powerful asked teachers and pupils to stay at home until Operation Python Dance II leaves the South-east. This is going to disrupt education calendar in Igbo areas and this will leave our students at disadvantage since the other parts of the country would not pause their calendar for the South-east. Since Operation Python Dance is now poised to be an annual event are we going to be shutting down our school every year while other regions make progress?
â€œWe want to appeal to Ndigbo to decisively deal with the IPOB problem as it has been established that this criminal lies emanated from the group. Even as the damage is unfolding, Emma Powerful, the supposed spokesperson of IPOB continues to make inflammatory remarks, which were sadly reported by some mainstream media that ignored the fact that his group is a designated terror organisation.
â€œShould monkey pox evolve into an epidemic that requires mass vaccination the lies and rumours that have spread like wildfire will prevent people from accepting life saving inoculations and treatment. This could cause casualty on a catastrophic scale. Let us be reminded that some parts of the country only a few weeks ago have to get vaccinated for cholera. The vaccines were shipped and conveyed by people in the South that included Igbo yet persons of northern ethnicities that received the vaccines did not wrongly accuse or fear the Igbo even at a time IPoBâ€™s hate speech was at its vilest. The lies have set up our people to die needlessly should there be a national health emergency.
â€œWhile IPOBâ€™s lies may serve its immediate propaganda goal, it will create a new generation of vaccine deniers in the long term. We only need to take a cue from the impact of the anti-vaccines movements in the United States; they rely on the kind of rumours being spread in Nigeria now to push their agenda but the impact of the follies is being felt by way of resurfacing of diseases that the US had once eradicate while children are dying needlessly. Unless something is urgently done we are at risk of babies dying while those that survive would do so with the ravages of diseases like polio that vaccines could have easily dealt with. We will also bear the burden of staring afresh to roll back any eradicated disease that resurfaces as a result.
â€œIf our Hausa-Fulani brothers or any other ethnic group for that matter are resolute on decimating the Igbo as Emma Powerful is lying they will easily achieve that by tampering with our food sources since Nigeriaâ€™s food chain is heavily interconnected. The southeast does not produce all the meat, fish, grains and tubers it consumes and these are items that can be tampered with or bioengineered to deliver pestilence. It is therefore unkind to accuse others of what we are incapable of,â€ he added.
The National President said hope that the Army would remain on standby with its medical outreach to cater for those in need of medical attention once the lies making the rounds have been properly exposed
Igwe called on state and federal governments to take immediate steps to stop further propagation of the lies by getting legal interpretation on IPOBâ€™s continuing capacity to issue statements as an already-labeled terror group.