Southwest Governors met yesterday in Lagos State on how to stop the spread of the deadly Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) following the death of a nurse, the first Nigerian victim, on Tuesday.
The meeting, which held at the Ikeja Office of the Lagos State Governor, Mr. Babatunde Fashola (SAN), was attended by Governors Olusegun Mimiko (Ondo), Ibikunle Amosun (Ogun), Kayode Fayemi (Ekiti) and Oyo State Deputy Governor, Moses Adeyemo.
Rising from the closed-door meeting, the governors called on the Federal Government to ensure that the nation’s borders in the Southwest are effectively policed to prevent the EVD from entering the region through them.
Fashola said the meeting afforded the governors the opportunity to share experiences and seek partnership for an effective control of the deadly virus.
He said the governors were determined to prevent an outbreak of the virus in the region.
Fashola said: “We discussed issues of containment and the challenges of illegal borders. We felt the need to express appreciation to health workers who have taken the responsibility from the front by attending to people who are showing symptoms and people who are suspected to have had contacts with the very first case that was reported in a man who came from Liberia.
“We also discussed possible support by the Federal Government and coordination among states. We feel that it is imperative that our collaboration suggests to us that Nigerians, especially those in these states and in other states, should not panic and that we would overcome this with the very best practices and collaboration. It is important, therefore, that advocacy must continue about what the risks are and the sources are”.
Gov. Amosun decried the lack of enough manpower and materials to effectively monitor Ogun’s over 100 illegal borders.
The governor said foreigners easily entered the state through the illegal routes.
He said: “We are more prone and more at risk with this Ebola virus than so many other states. I did mention that we have put our security agencies and the medics at the illegal borders. But when you have an excess of 100, you and I know that the state doesn’t have the capacity to man the borders.
“Indeed, it’s not our responsibility to man the borders. But we should collaborate with the Federal Government. That is what we are doing.
“At the last count, we had about 70 (illegal borders). You can take containers and trailers and what have you, even on a normal day, through the borders. People hardly use the official borders. It’s through the illegal ones you see them conveying all those smuggled cars. Now, it becomes more worrisome, by the time you look at the fact that everybody is taking proactive measures of banning flights.
“So, if people cannot fly, you know obviously they would find a way of entering the country. That is why we are calling on the Federal Government to assist us. We need men and materials to man those borders.
“As we speak, we have about 68 Hilux vans manning those borders. It’s not just the vehicles alone. We also need the manpower of the Immigration Service, the Nigeria Customs Service and even our medics have to be there. That is why I have been shouting that we need help, if we are going to succeed in the prevention of this Ebola virus.
“We agreed that we would interface with the Federal Government to see what it is doing. We learnt that the Federal Government is doing something. But we need to see it: what and what it is doing.
“We are exposed to over 100 borders in Ogun State. I know Oyo too will have stories to tell. Don’t forget that this disease has been localised, more or less. Everybody agrees that it is within the West African sub-region. Of course, we have that access where people can come in easily.
“As we speak, we have our men on ground. But we are being stretched to breaking point. These are some of the things we have been discussing, that there is no way we can continue or cope. We do not have the wherewithal to man those borders”, Amosun lamented.
Ondo governor, Mimiko, said the responsibility of ensuring that foreigners do not have unrestricted entry into the country especially through the borders, lies on the shoulders of every Nigerian.
He said: “Every Nigerian and everybody should know that those who aid and abet illegal entry into Nigeria now could be up to something that could be dangerous to the health of the nation. So, we out there, Nigerians in the adjoining villages, everybody must take the responsibility of combating this new challenge. It’s very important for the message to go out”.
Fayemi said the curative drug ‘ZMapp’ for the virus had not been certified but commended the Federal Government’s efforts at trying to get Nigeria to be one of the ‘test’ centres for the efficacy of the drug.
He said: “This is still a drug that is on trial. From what we gathered, it has been tested on animals. But it has not been tested on humans yet. There are processes a country has to go through to procure drugs that are still on trial.
“Even the FDA has not certified this drug for use yet. If we are going to access it, my own limited knowledge of this process is that it can only be by a controlled trial centre at this stage. It can’t be a certified drug for use. If what the Federal Government is trying to do is to be one of the centres to test the efficacy of the drug, I think that is well-meaning, that is commendable. We should encourage the Federal Government to take that action”.