BY WINIFRED OGBEBO, Ejike Ejike, Tunde Oguntola, Uche Onwurah and DOYIN OJOSIPE, Abuja
The federal government has finally started screening and checks against the dreaded Ebola disease at airports across the country.
Checks by LEADERSHIP yesterday at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja and Murtala Muhammed International Airport Lagos, revealed that sanitisers and scanning apparatus called thermal scanners were already installed by port health services at arrivals terminal of the airport.
Our correspondent who visited the airport in Abuja observed that international passengers were properly undergoing screening for symptoms of Ebola. Similar screening is ongoing at the Lagos airport.
All facilities needed for the screening exercise had been in place since 2014 when Nigeria first experienced the disease and made frantic effort to contain it.
This paper had reported on Monday that, unlike in 2014 when hand sanitisers were placed at strategic places within the airports and temperature tests were carried out on travellers, checks had yet to be put in place against the deadly disease.
The Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria, (FAAN) and the National Emergency Management Agency had assured Nigerians of their readiness to check and tackle Ebola.
Responding to how prepared the country is for the disease, the acting general manager, Corporate Affairs, Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN), Henrietta Yakubu, had said last week that passengers still fill forms to ensure that those arriving the country through the airports were not potential carriers of deadly diseases.
“There are sanitisers at our arrivals with the scanning apparatus called thermal scanners being installed by the port health services. The scanners have camera monitor that displays pictures, aside the capturing of temperature. The port health officials are always at alert and we will also inform them of the need to increase their surveillance”.
Also, the spokesperson of the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), Sani Datti, disclosed that the agency had started consultation with relevant stakeholders on how to manage any eventuality.
Meanwhile, the gederal government announced yesterday that it has set up an Ebola Preparedness Working Group (EPWG) as part of the move to prevent the spread of the Ebola Disease in the country.
A statement by the Nigeria Center for Disease Control (NCDC) noted that the EPWG was part of the resolution reached at the emergency meeting held by the federal government on Monday.
According to NCDC, the working group is made of representatives from the department of public health and port health services of the federal ministry of Health and World Health Organisation (WHO).
There are also representation from the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), US Centers for Disease Control, the African Field Epidemiology Network and the University of Maryland Baltimore.
NCDC said the group is saddled with the responsibilities of guiding the country’s preparedness activities.
It would be recalled that the federal government had convened an emergency meeting on Monday, after NCDC received formal notification from WHO of an outbreak of Ebola Virus Disease in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) on May 12, 2017.
Nigerians were thrown into a frenzy of panic, following the declaration of Ebola outbreak in the DRC by WHO, but the federal government urged all to be calm and go about their normal activities, assuring that it has given directives to Port Health Officials to screen everyone on international travels in to the country.
The federal government also urged Nigerians to be very observant and report any suspected cases to the NCDC through the agency’s toll free line: 0800-970000-10.
While reaffirming its directives on Port Health Authorities to intensify existing screening procedures at all ports of entry, the federal government, according to the
statement, assured yesterday that “there will be an increased focus on reinforcing principles of infection prevention and control to all healthcare workers across the country.
“Nigeria’s response to Ebola in 2014 was recognized globally for its speed and efficiency. NCDC and its partners will leverage this successful in its preparedness to prevent, detect and respond to the unlikely situation of the introduction of the virus to Nigeria”.
Meanwhile, the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA) has assured of its readiness to partner with the federal government in its preventive measures being put in place against Ebola.
The association, however, said protection for its members was sacrosanct as it would not want to put the lives of its members at risk.
Speaking to LEADERSHIP yesterday on phone, the president, Nigerian Medical Association (NMA), Prof Mike Ogirima, said, “We are ready to partner with the federal government. Our members have been sensitized against the deadly scourge.
“But what we are asking is protection for our members nationwide. Protective gears like hand gloves, face masks should be provided”.
Ogirima expressed satisfaction with the measures being put in place by the federal government to prevent the virus from resurfacing in the country.
He said, “The government has ignited the prevention system; there is red alert already and there is screening at the entry ports. So, we are satisfied with all these arrangements”.
FG Saves N53bn From Ship Building Fund
Meanwhile, the federal government disclosed yesterday that it has been able to save N53 billion from ship building fund through rebranding of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA).
The minister of Transportation, Mr. Rotimi Amaechi, who gave the hint expressed confidence that more funds could be sourced for the government from the maritime sector.
He said, “They were so many faculties of Maritime in universities when we came. We went about rebranding them and stopped that contract award in which money gotten from the ship building fund are meant for Nigerians who built ships.
“Maritime transportation is the one to access the fund to buy more vessels. We kept that money, we are saving it now. The last we heard about it was that we had saved N53bn” he added.
Amaechi noted that President Buhari has approved a new security infrastructure that will reduce piracy and robbery in that sector.
The minister said, “We believe that more fund can be gotten for the government, from the maritime sector and the president has approved a performance audit of the maritime sector.
“Part of the problem of the maritime sector is the fact that we have had issues with insecurity on our waterways and the president has approved a new security infrastructure that will reduce piracy and robbery in that sector”.
According to Amaechi, there is need to save the country from corruption, even as he said that the ministry would introduce the single window which is between Nigerian Customs and Nigeria Ports Authority to move goods within 48 hours.
He said that the ministry has awarded three contracts for repairs of Lagos – Ibadan rail, Kano – Kaduna rail and Port Harcourt – Calabar rail based on the loan collected from the China EXIM bank.
The minister stated that China EXIM bank has approved $1.2bn, while the federal government has released its own counterpart funding for Lagos – Ibadan rail, which will be completed in December 2018.
He stated that work has started on Itakpe-Warri rail but the N60 billion allocated for the project was removed by the National Assembly, stating that if that was resolved, the work would be completed.
…Creates 193,469 Jobs In Works, Housing Sectors
Meanwhile, the federal government hinted yesterday that it has created 193, 469 jobs, with 40,429 direct and 153,040 indirect jobs in works and housing sector, within the two years of President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration.
The minister of Power, Works and Housing, Mr Babatunde Fashola, disclosed this in Abuja at 10th edition of the town hall meeting to celebrate the mid-term of President Buhari’s implementation of the economy recovery plan.
According to him, the construction of roads, power projects, housing projects and macro impact on jobs were gradually increasing the purchasing power and money in the economy.
He said, “In the last three months we have been travelling by road to ascertain the condition of these roads.
“We need to do more but gradually the roads are becoming better. Our artisans and construction works are getting back to site bit by bit. We are also doing our best to address power challenges in the country”.