Sawyer, Adadevoh and leadership in Nigeria (1)

(By Jonathan Ekperusi)

As some medical practitioners have stated, Nigeria ought not to have been subjected to this avoidable trouble of the EVD. We ought only to hear of it. Unfortunately, the EVD recklessly found its way to Nigerian soil because some persons somewhere failed to do what they were supposed to do. That failure has provided a basis for conspiracy theorists to argue that Sawyer may have been deliberately unleashed on Nigerians to provide a huge market for EVD drugs, considering the huge population of Nigerians and the highly communicable nature of the EVD.

NIGERIANS are relieved that the Federal Government, Lagos State Government and Rivers State Government, in praise-worthy collaborative working ably led by the Minister of Health, Prof. Onyebuchi Chukwu, have effectively contained the threatening Ebola epidemic in our country. At every opportunity, an elated President has been beating his chest that Ebola has been crushed in Nigeria. Commendable as the efforts were, Jonathan Ekperusi, a legal practitioner, says, however, that there are several unanswered questions which should be directed largely at the Federal Authorities.

IT is common knowledge that the Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) was a total stranger to Nigerian territory until Patrick Sawyer, a Liberian-American, deliberately brought it to our shores. The fact that Sawyer falsified his health details in bringing the deadly EVD to Nigeria is now adequately in the public domain. What is yet to be ascertained is the true identity of Patrick Sawyer. Nigerians are also wondering why the Liberian Government has not deemed it fit to issue an official statement on the matter, and why the Nigerian Government, on its own part, has not taken any diplomatic action against the Liberian Government for the apparent negligence or recklessness of its officials in the Sawyer saga.

   In resolving the Sawyer dilemma, the first crucial question is, who was Patrick Sawyer? Was he a Liberian Government official, an ECOWAS official or a private employee of ArcelorMittal of Liberia? Bearing in mind certain online media reports that ArcelorMittal, an iron mining company in Liberia, issued a health-status statement on Patrick Sawyer as a member of its staff, showing that he was exposed to the EVD while still in Liberia, why was Mr. Sawyer cleared to come to Nigeria for the ECOWAS meeting in Calabar? Who issued the clearance for Sawyer to leave Liberia and come to Nigeria? Was Sawyer quarantined or under scrutiny for the EVD when he was cleared to come to Nigeria? In what capacity was Sawyer attending the ECOWAS event? The matter is even more complicated by claims from Sawyer’s wife, Decontee Sawyer, a Radio host in New York, that her husband deliberately travelled to Nigeria to seek better medical attention. That claim would, however, collapse in view of the revelations from the management of First Consultants Medical Centre, Lagos, that the hospital was under immense pressure to release Patrick Sawyer for the ECOWAS event in Calabar. More importantly, why did the Nigerian Government not take proactive steps to restrict Liberians, Sierra-Leoneans and Guineans attending the said ECOWAS event in view of the already publicised details of the deadly EVD outbreak in those cluster nations at the time of the said ECOWAS event? Questions, questions, and more questions.

   The above questions are pertinent in taking responsibility for the lacuna that allowed the deadly EVD to become a public health emergency in Nigeria. As some medical practitioners have stated, Nigeria ought not to have been subjected to this avoidable trouble of the EVD. We ought only to hear of it. Unfortunately, the EVD recklessly found its way to Nigerian soil because some persons somewhere failed to do what they were supposed to do. That failure has provided a basis for conspiracy theorists to argue that Sawyer may have been deliberately unleashed on Nigerians to provide a huge market for EVD drugs, considering the huge population of Nigerians and the highly communicable nature of the EVD.

   There was also the information or misinformation that a certain top Nigerian security official had advised the Federal Ministry of Health and officials of the Nigerian Immigration Service to place a red alert on travellers coming to Nigeria from Liberia, Sierra-Leone and Guinea in the wake of the EVD outbreak in those countries before Sawyer found his way to Nigeria. If that story is true, it would be really ridiculously that nobody has resigned from his position in the Nigerian government at least to register some form of remorse for the lapse.

   Nigerians need to know the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. In seeking to unveil the truth, the Nigerian government ought to have investigated and publicised the true facts and surrounding circumstances under which Sawyer foisted the EVD malaise on Nigeria and Nigerians.     Nigerians need to be assuaged that the culture of impunity is not on the increase in official quarters. There ought to be some form of official remorse when we recall that Abba Moro did not resign for the recent death of several graduate job-seekers; that nobody at the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) has resigned over the several indictments about the repeated missing funds at the NNPC, as reported by the Nigerian Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (NEITI), the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), and other appropriate authorities, among others.

   With the ravaging EVD crisis in Nigeria recently, Nigerians were left at the mercy of God. Despite the huge financial allocations and provisions announced by the federal and state governments to combat the EVD epidemic, there were no concrete structures on the ground to suggest that government was sincere in the fight against the EVD. The media coverage of the EVD was mere repetitions of photographs taken from Liberia, Sierra-Leone and Guinea. We did not see and are yet to see any photograph of the so-called EVD isolation centres in Nigeria.

To be continued.

• Ekperusi is the managing partner, Excellence Solicitors, Effurun-Warri, Delta State. 

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