Patrick Sawyer, the late Liberian-American, who brought the deadly Ebola virus to Nigeria, deceived and manipulated the Liberian government and the Economic Community of West African States, ECOWAS, to enable him travel to Nigeria, an official, who admitted approving Mr. Sawyer’s travel, has said.
Sebastian Muah, who until recently was the Liberian Deputy Minister of Finance for Fiscal Affairs, said in an email to PREMIUM TIMES that the late Mr. Sawyer deceived the Liberian government into believing that he was “Ebola Free’.
Mr. Muah was responding to this newspaper’s exclusive report on Tuesday indicating that he, on behalf of the Liberian government, cleared Mr. Sawyer to head to Nigeria even when the administration knew he was under observation for Ebola.
In his response, the former minister said Mr. Sawyer told his ministry that he had no contact with his younger sister who died of the disease on July 8 and that he had voluntarily subjected himself for testing which showed he was free of Ebola.
Mr. Muah said even to secure employment as a Liberian Government official, a position that qualified him for the trip, Mr. Sawyer lied that he had quit his employment as Public Health Manager of ArcelorMittal, an iron ore mining company in the country.
The former minister said Mr. Sawyer told the same lies to ECOWAS, and at a point, sidestepped the Liberian Minister of Finance, dealing directly with ECOWAS on matters concerning the trip.
On the whole, Mr. Muah blamed the slip that enabled Mr. Sawyer to travel to Nigeria on a “broken system of communication” within the Liberian bureaucracy.
Nigeria was free of Ebola until July 20 when Mr. Sawyer arrived. He became terribly ill on his flight and was rushed to the First Consultant Hospital Obalende, Lagos, where he died on July 24.
Nigeria’s Health Minister, Onyebuchi Chukwu, said on Monday that although the Liberian government has apologized for the incidence, it was pertinent to note that Nigeria was free of Ebola Virus until its importation by the Liberian-American.
Mr. Sawyer’s action, he said, has placed unnecessary stress on Nigeria’s health system. An apparently angry President Goodluck Jonathan also described Mr. Sawyer’s action as “madness”. Since the Liberian’s death in a Lagos hospital, three other persons who had contact with him have died of the virus.
At least seven others have also tested positive to the infection and have been quarantined at a Lagos hospital. President Goodluck Jonathan has since declared a national emergency on the disease while the federal health ministry in conjunction with health ministries in the 36 states are working to prevent the spread of the virus, which has killed over 1,000 people in Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone.
Read Mr. Muah’s explanation in full below:
“Sawyer’s travel was made possible not by the GoL (Government of Liberia). My office has a review and approval process for ECOWAS related travel. Sawyer, if you must know, was asked not to report to work even at the Ministry of Finance.
“The fact of the matter, this many of us now know, is when you’re tested for Ebola right after contact, your test will come back negative. Being a non-medical officer, and seeing his emails from the time he was still supposedly employed by Mittal as their Public Health Manager (which he was still employed until his death deceiving us that he was no longer in their employ), he said he’d was in NO direct contact and that he had submitted himself for testing, but anyone can claim they’re “Ebola Free” if tested right after contact (something his email claimed he had NOT made with his sister [Direct contact with fluids]).
“Further, the fact that he requested e-tickets and I was NOT copied on those communications says that he did not want me informed. But I have a process of approval and believed that any such travel would meet that approval process; hence my assertion as to making the approval.
“But apparently, people were self-contracting on an “honour” system of quarantining themselves. Because I did not get a watch list to know who were to be quarantined or not. But shifting blame is NOT a part of who I am, I believe institutions should be the basis of functionality and not individuals.
“The system of approval for Travel was NOT followed and for the record, Sawyer’s trip was not approved by the system I had in place and hence did NOT meet my approval. My folks indicated to me that no request was made through the system.
“He travelled because he did NOT inform the ECOWAS commission who purchased his plane tickets and paid per diem for his travel; and because we did not have this ticket information to actually alert relevant authorities to stop such.
“Upon checking his government emails I was able to uncover that he was communicating differently and directly with ECOWAS Commission (both using his Yahoo and gov.lr) and got an e-ticket from the Commission’s travel Unit. He did NOT even inform the ECOWAS Ambassador in Liberia, who was traveling with him about his situation. His email to folks at ECOWAS only said he had lost his sister.
“Further to that, he WAS in the employ of Mittal, this was information I was NOT made aware. When there is a broken system of communication and silo institutional structure, someone intending to deceive can get away with such.
“The ticket below shows who actually paid for Mr. Sawyer’s travel to Nigeria. No senior management at MoF saw Sawyer from the inception of his letter until his demise. Key here is when there is no strong integration around institutional communication, people can dupe the system.
“In this case Sawyer for no reason whatsoever I can imagine decided that he was going to travel while sick. A fundamental challenge with the fight that we have to make against this Disease. Ebola is a disease that can thrive on deceit, self-denial, pride, envy, non-patriotic behaviour.”
Below is the ticket with which Mr. Sawyer would have travelled to Calabar.
ECOWAS COMMISSION BOOKING REF: YMYUNZ 101 YAKUBU GOWON CRESCENT DATE: 18 JULY 2014 ASOKORO ABUJA SAWYER/PATRICK NIGERIA TELEPHONE: 234 7064189247, 8076229479 FAX: 234 09-314005 EMAIL: ECWTRAVELUNIT@GMAIL.COM
FLIGHT W3 638 – ARIK AIR MON 21 JULY 2014 —————————————————————————– DEPARTURE: LAGOS, NG (MURTALA MUHAMMED INTL), TERMINAL D – 21 JUL 11:00 DOMESTIC TERMINAL ARRIVAL: CALABAR, NG (MARGARET EKPO INTL) 21 JUL 12:20 FLIGHT BOOKING REF: W3/FYSUH6 RESERVATION CONFIRMED, ECONOMY DURATION: 01:20 - – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – - BAGGAGE ALLOWANCE: 20K NON STOP LAGOS TO CALABAR OPERATED BY: ARIK AIR, W3 EQUIPMENT: BOEING 737-700
FLIGHT W3 639 – ARIK AIR FRI 25 JULY 2014 —————————————————————————– DEPARTURE: CALABAR, NG (MARGARET EKPO INTL) 25 JUL 12:50 ARRIVAL: LAGOS, NG (MURTALA MUHAMMED INTL) 25 JUL 13:55 FLIGHT BOOKING REF: W3/FYSUH6 RESERVATION CONFIRMED, ECONOMY DURATION: 01:05 - – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – - BAGGAGE ALLOWANCE: 20K NON STOP CALABAR TO LAGOS OPERATED BY: ARIK AIR, W3 EQUIPMENT: BOEING 737-700
FLIGHT(S) CALCULATED AVERAGE CO2 EMISSIONS IS 169.93 KG/PERSON SOURCE: ICAO CARBON EMISSIONS CALCULATOR http://www.icao.int/environmental-protection/CarbonOffset/Pages/default.aspx
FLIGHT TICKET(S) —————————————————————————– TICKET: W3/ETKT 725 5233719663 FOR SAWYER/PATRICK
GENERAL INFORMATION —————————————————————————–