At a time when the country is locked down by an Ebola Emergency, it is unhelpful that two key players in the national containment campaign are engaged in time wasting power play. The two are the Minister of Health, Prof. Onyebuchi Chukwu and Lagos State’s Health Commissioner, Dr. Jide Idris. They are strifing over who has the “sole authority” to announce confirmed cases of disease epidemics in this country.
It all began with a press statement put by Dr. Idris on Wednesday in Lagos in which he revealed 5 “new confirmed cases” of the Ebola virus disease in Lagos. “To date we have 8 suspected cases and five of them came in yesterday (Tuesday). We’ve 12 confirmed cases on the whole, 2 have died. We are currently following up 213 contacts and 62 have completed the 21-day follow-up.”
Few hours later, however, Dr. Idris was contradicted by Prof. Chukwu, who said that as at 7pm, Wednesday, no new Ebola case had been, confirmed “outside the 2 under treatment at the isolation ward in Lagos.” He added, “The latest death occurred Tuesday evening and it (was) the death of Senior Consultant/Physician and Endocrinologist, Dr. Stella Ameyo Adadevoh, at First Consultants Hospital.” Therefore, the minister urged that the report of 5 new Ebola cases in Lagos, attributed to Dr. Idris “should be disregarded.”
Ordinarily, Nigerians would be happy to hear that the country is close to containing the deadly virus which has no known cure to date, as the minister seemed to suggest. Is Dr. Idris being alarmist then.
We do not think so. Rather, Nigerians should feel alarmed by a power drunk health minister who is more concerned about protecting his “sole authority”. The “Office of Minister of Health has the sole authority to announce confirmed cases as far as disease epidemics in Nigeria are concerned.”
As we said in opening paragraphs of this editorial, this contest for power is unhelpful in the effort to contain EVD. As it is, the country is well behind, and even the little progress the WHO and the American government have credited us with is in danger of being undermined by the minister’s pettiness. What happened, in our view, was a breakdown in communication which itself was unpardonable. The matter, serious as it was, should have been resolved internally without the minister openly castigating his Lagos counterpart. What the Ebola Emergency, declared by President Goodluck Jonathan, needs to drive is synergy between the federal and state governments, not a tussle for control.