Indications have emerged that the Office of the National Security Adviser warned the Office of the Minister of Health of the grave implications of the Ebola virus to national security and the need for steps to be taken 10 days before the infamous visit of the Liberian, Patrick Sawyer, to Lagos.
The NSA office in a letter dated July 10, 2014 alerted to the Minister of Health, Prof. Onyebuchi Chukwu, to the need to follow a guideline against the Ebola virus, which according to the letter, was at the ‘doorstep of the country.’
It was stated in the letter with ref. no. NSA/A/208/C, signed by a senior officer in the NSA’s office, Brig. Gen. TT Waya (retd.), that the guideline was meant to provide a working plan to guide the health ministry to take proactive steps to combat any possible outbreak of the disease in Nigeria.
Waya stated further in the letter that the guideline was to further aid the minister to give necessary warnings and information to the citizenry as regards the Ebola threat.
It was also learnt that the ministry, the NSA’s office and the Presidential Communication, Command and Control at the State House were to hold joint briefings on the Ebola issue.
However, investigations revealed that the Plan of Action was yet to be followed 10 days before the sick Sawyer visited the country and infected health workers and others with the deadly virus.
The guidelines, presented in a summary form under the topic ‘Crisis Management Guidelines for Pandemics- Ebola’, attached as Annex ‘A’ to the letter, included three major areas: General Information, Communication and Looking Ahead.
Items listed under General Information include Introduction, History of Ebola, The West African Pandemic, Contingency Planning, Risk Analysis, Being Better Prepared, The Response Plans, Reinforcing the Crisis Response, Management of Information and Creation of Joint Communication Centre.
The guidelines also include the national response, communications with stakeholders, the role of the social media and local and international media.
The letter alerted the minister of the outbreak of the deadly virus and its high fatality figure in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea. It said 367 persons out of a total of 600 infected died as at June 26, 2014, according to World Health Organisation reports.
It was observed further that a reported case of Ebola in Ghana called for steps to be taken in the event of an incident in the country.
The NSA latter read in part, “Last week, there was an isolated case reported in Ghana. With this development, Ebola disease could be said to be on Nigeria’s doorstep.
“An outbreak of the disease in Nigeria would obviously have security implications. Consequently, I am directed to forward to you the crisis Management Guidelines for your Ministry’s preparedness and response to an eventual outbreak of the disease.
“The guidelines will assist the Hon. Minister in preparing a working plan to deal with the outbreak as well as to warn and inform the public among others.”