Contrary to speculations that the Federal Government may reverse the September 22 date for the reopening of schools across the country owing to the controversies around the threat of the dreaded Ebola Virus Disease (EVD), the Federal Executive Council (FEC) had indicated that there would be no going back on the date.
Briefing newsmen yesterday after the FEC meeting presided over by President Goodluck Jonathan, the Health Minister, Onyebuchi Chukwu, said there was no scientific basis for school resumption to be postponed.
The minister also insisted that no single new case of the disease has been recorded of recent.
Chukwu, who urged the people to allow government do its job which so far has been applauded by everybody, including international community since the index case, Late Patric Sawyer, a Liberian American exported the disease to Nigeria in July, said the government had yet to see reasons why the school calendar would be further distorted.
The Nigerian Medical Association (NMA) had on Monday faulted the government’s directive to schools to resume on September 22 as against October 12.
It said, through its National Secretary-General, Dr. Olawunmi Alayaki, that all schools ought to remain shut till all those under surveillance for the Ebola Virus Disease in the country had been certified free.
But Chukwu told State House Correspondents that the date for resumption was agreed upon by the Minister of Education and commissioners of education in all the states of the federation.
He said, “The minister of education, after meeting with the commissioners for education from the 36 states and FCT decided when public schools should open which they told us is September 22. In taking that decision, they used information that was given by the federal Minister of Health, to the fact there is actually no reason now, with the expert information we have at hand, why no school cannot resume earlier than the original date of October 13.
“I think people should just allow us to do the work we have been doing very professionally. It was based on advice given by the Ministry of Health that the Minister of Education took the original decision that it was going to be in October and nobody quarreled with the minister. Now, the minister, based on expert advice, has come back to say well, for us, if you are asking us we don’t have any reason to stop that. And everybody is now quarrelling; I think we should allow the authorities to do their jobs. It is not an ordinary matter to be discussed the way we want to discuss it.
“If you have any evidence why there is need to review, supply such evidence to the Minister of Health. We will look at it, because we may never know, you may have a real reason. But it is not something people to just wake up and begin to make comments. We are very serious, we should be sober about this situation in Nigeria; we must be extremely careful.
“We have allowed a football match to go on and we screened every fan in Calabar; we screened every player and everybody, even the governor and the wife were screened. We are dead serious, we are not perfect, but I know we are trying to encourage everybody in Nigeria to collaborate. We don’t need to close the world, we don’t need to say nobody should go to work in Nigeria. There is absolutely no reason for that. I will tell you why.
On the NMA’s stance against the resumption date, Chukwu said, “You have asked about NMA, the only information I had from NMA was that someone informed me that he had been appointed to head a committee being set up by the NMA on EVD. And I replied that person saying we welcomed that as a government and as federal ministry of health we look forward to collaboration.
“Now, collaboration doesn’t mean going to the media. With all due respect, collaboration means if they have information they should give it to the federal ministry of health or the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control. I have not received any such information; so if you are telling me what is in the media I would investigate, I’ll probably call them to let me know the basis of what they are saying through the media.
“The most important thing is that let’s work together but let’s be rational in whatever we are doing so that we don’t cause panic. Panic is not welcome in this business, otherwise we will be in trouble.”, he further said.