The Federal Ministry of Health has given the Nigerian Bar Association [NBA] the green light to proceed with its forthcoming conference billed for Owerri, Imo State, amid concerns the meeting may provide the grounds for the spread of Ebola.
The NBA President, Okey Wali, told PREMIUM TIMES that after a “fruitful” meeting with health ministry officials, the NBA was given the go-ahead for the conference.
Mr. Wali said the ministry was now working with the association to curtail the spread of the deadly virus that has killed five people in Nigeria.
“We put our thoughts across to them about what we were doing. The preventive and safety methods put in place – sanitiser and temperature pens, and they were very impressed and also gave a couple of suggestions to us about one or two things we should look at and we agreed to work together even beyond the conference,” he said in a telephone chat.
A spokesperson for the health ministry, Dan Nwomeh, confirmed that the government was satisfied with measures put in place by the NBA.
“The NBA has made provisions for spraying the hall with family sanitizer, the have provided additional mobile toilets and have made arrangement for spacing of the sitting arrangement,” Mr. Nwomeh said.
The Chairman of the Nigerian Human Rights Commission, NHRC, Chidi Odinkalu, had urged the NBA to suspend the conference to curtail the spread of the virus.
Mr. Odinkalu, who was billed to give a speech at the conference, said he was staying away after being placed on observation of possible Ebola infection having been treated as an outpatient by one of the doctors who had contact with the Ebola index case, Patrick Sawyer.
“It will be ill-judged to continue with the conference in the circumstances of the present public health emergency prevailing in the country,” the NHRC boss said in a statement on Sunday.
The NBA conference attracts large number of lawyers from across the country. Mr Odinkalu said it could pose public health risk as the country is battling to contain the spread of the virus.
The NBA chairman, Mr. Wali, said the ministry of health has agreed to send its officials to the NBA conference to help sensitise members of the NBA.
“Because the NBA has a very good reach with members all across the nation, they are disbursing some materials to us like leaflets and posters of how to check Ebola in the conference. In fact officials of the Federal Ministry of Health would be attending the conference on Monday to give five to ten minutes talk on Ebola. It was very very fruitful. In fact we are all very happy with the way things turned out.
“But the most important thing is that we have put a lot of measures in place and the Federal ministry of Health were very impressed with the steps that we’ve taken. In fact they have said they wished that other organisations or other people organising such thing would take a cue from what the NBA has done,” Mr. Wali said.
He added that the NBA is also working the Imo State Ministry of health, which has also set up its own arrangement to sensitise the lawyers on preventive measures against Ebola.
He praised Mr. Odinkalu for the advice but said it was an isolated case.
“We are thankful to him that he was honourable enough to disclose the fact that he was under observation and stay away from the conference but that is one case,” Mr. Wali said.
Nigeria has recorded five deaths so far since the outbreak of the disease in July. Eight people who have tested positive for the disease are still receiving treatment at the isolation centre in Lagos.
Over 200 people are being monitored. Last week 61 persons were taken of released from observation after being certified by health officials.