Ebola: FG Beefs up Surveillance, Screening at Airports

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  • Stops federal universities from collecting tuition fees Lifts emergency on Lassa fever

Omololu Ogunmade in Abuja

The Federal Executive Council (FEC) rose from its weekly meeting in Abuja wednesday with a resolution mandating the Ministry of Health to beef up surveillance and screening of passengers at the country’s land borders and airports with a view to averting the return of Ebola into the country.

Briefing journalists at the end of the meeting presided over by Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo, the Minister of Health, Prof. Isaac Adewole, said blood samples taken from five patients in DR Congo confirmed that two of the five patients had been infected with Ebola.

According to him, the council resolved to set up Emergency Operation Centre to be chaired by one Babasanya whom he said led the Nigerian efforts in Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone against the outbreak of the disease in 2014.

The minister also said not only would the government ensure the screening of passengers coming into the country especially those from DR Congo, Nigerian Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) would also consider sending a team to DR Congo in its quest for capacity building with a view to ensuring effective management of the situation.

He promised that the government would also ensure that the country was well protected from the outbreak.

The minister also said following the content of the report presented to the council by the Ministry of Health on Lassa Fever, the council had resolved to lift the emergency earlier declared on Lassa Fever in the country.

He also said negotiations on the strike embarked upon by the Joint Health Staff Union (JOHESU) would be concluded soon.

“We presented an update on the state of public health in Nigeria at the FEC meeting. We reported on the situation with Lassa Fever and resolved that we are declaring the emergency phase of Lassa Fever outbreak over. Essentially, that implies that the emergency operating centres 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 treat it appropriately.

“Of course, of great concern to the Federal Exceutive 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 last Monday, blood samples from five patients in the DRC, particularly 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 centre which will be chaired by Dr. Babasanya, who actually led our efforts in Liberia and Sierra Leone and Guinea during the outbreak in 2014. Not only that, we will also 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.

“Nigerian Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) will also consider sending some team 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.

“Negotiations are still on with JOHESU and the Minister of Labour is leading the negotiation as we expect that we will conclude on all issues very soon,” he stated.

In his briefing, the Minister of State for Education, Prof. Anthony Anwuka, said FEC resolved yesterday to investigate the discovery that federal universities collect tuition fees contrary to the laws setting them up.

According to him, the council would ensure that such practice is brought to a close, pointing out that whereas the federal government does not determine tuition fees for state and private universities, the federal universities have no right to impose tuition on students, adding that FEC approved the advent of Skyline University, Kano.

“FEC approved the insurance of provisional licence for the establishment of Skyline

University in Kano. The application for the establishment of the Skyline University has been on for the last years and the National University Commission (NUC) after going through the rigorous verification of the claims as to the application, sent a recommendation to the Ministry of Education, which in turn presented the request to FEC and it was approved.

“While making the approval, FEC noted the following issues: ‘They wanted the NUC through the ministry to provide a status report to FEC on all the country’s universities in terms of their performance, be they private, state or federal. We stressed on quality of staff on various universities.

“And then, FEC discussed the issue of school fees in various universities, and noted that as of law, no federal university should charge tuition fees. 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 stop. 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,” Anwuka stated.
Also briefing, the Minister of State for Aviation, Hadi Sirika, said FEC approved the purchase of equipment for the completion of control towers in some airports including Maiduguri, Akure, Benin, Illorin, Kaduna and Ibadan at the cost of N1.36billion.

“FEC approved procurement of equipment for the completion of control towers in some airports that included Maiduguri, Akure, Benin, Illorin, Kaduna and Ibadan. These particular procurement was done in 2011. From 2011, the government stopped funding a particular procurement with all its importance. So, we provided for it in 2017 in order to complete it, and the 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,” he said.

In the same vein, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Geofrey Onyeama, described President Muhammadu Buhari as the strongest brand in Nigeria today.

“One of the strongest brands that this country has is the president. By the level of invitation he has been receiving, all the major heads of states want to meet with him. I think this is a recognition of the weight of his persona, his integrity and the leadership qualities. And, this is something we as a country have to be extremely proud of, and we saw that when he went to the United States and the respect Donald Trump has for him.

“He was extremely focused during that visit on Nigeria’s interest. He wanted the US to help him and this country achieve those priority areas – security, corruption and revamping the economy. The US is on our side on the fight against insecurity, training and sharing of information. We secure the commitment of the US to repatriate large sums of looted money in the country,” he stated.