Wednesday, 6 August 2014

Nigeria’s 1,479 Illegal Porous Borders May Hamper Efforts To Curtail The Spread Of Ebola Virus

There are fresh fears that porous Nigerian land borders may thwart the Federal Government’s efforts to check
the spread of the deadly Ebola virus in the country.

Saturday PUNCH’s investigations revealed that the porosity of Nigerian land borders exposed the country
to the risk of the deadly disease.
At the last count, there are about 1,479 illegal routes into Nigeria through which smugglers, undocumented immigrants and terrorists have been infiltrating the

Checks also show that port health officials, who are usually deployed by the ministry of health in border points, are not available at many of the unauthorised routes where individuals infected with Ebola virus could access the country without let or hindrance.

Findings revealed that the 114 regular border posts manned by immigration and health officers, were inadequate to protect the country from Ebola virus
which could be imported into the country through infected migrants and even documented visitors.

Although visitors to Nigeria are expected to possess the International Health Certificate (Yellow card), investigations show that most foreigners using the
international land borders do not have the document.
Investigations by Saturday PUNCH indicated that the Nigerian Immigration Service, with 23,000 workers, and other security agencies do not have the manpower, material resources and capacity to secure even the normal legal and massive borders and prevent
infiltration of the country by immigrants infected with Ebola disease.

Thus, infected persons, who do not show symptoms of the virus can easily enter through the land borders as the deadly Ebola disease may not be obvious to the
health officials and immigration personnel at land borders.

Nigeria, being a hub of economic activities in the West African sub-region, is an attractive destination for illegal migrants from Chad, Mali, Niger, Cameroun, Togo, Benin Republic and other countries.

Though the Federal Government had issued a health advisory to port health officers and the immigration service personnel, Saturday PUNCH’s investigation showed that they were not given enough equipment that could assist them in the task of identifying and
isolating infected persons coming into the country.

Ebola is an acute viral illness and often characterised by fever, intense weakness, muscle pain, headache and
sore throat. These are followed by vomiting, diarrhoea, rash, impaired kidney and liver function, and in some cases, both internal and external bleeding.

Experts, including the Medical Director, Clinical Research Physician, United States, Dr. Hezekiah Adesanya, said that Nigeria was at the risk of the disease through land borders.

Adesanya said the Federal Government should set up Ebola quarantine centres at land borders like it did in airports.
He stated that the possibility of the disease spreading through land borders is worse than air and sea ports because more people preferred roads as a mode of transportation.
“Due to the long travel from Liberia to Nigeria in cramped and close proximity, potentially infected people have more time to interact and opportunities to
“touch” and therefore spread to co-travellers,” he stated.

Advising Nigerians going through land borders, he said, “Be careful and observe the same care; no touching of
anyone. If anybody manifests any of the symptoms, inform the driver, evacuate the bus and get the person to the nearest health facility which is to be isolated
According to him, the Federal Ministry of Health should liaise with ECOWAS and the WHO to set up health posts along the ECOWAS highway.

On his part, the Vice -President of the Commonwealth Medical Association and former President of the Nigerian Medical Association, Dr. Osahon Enabulele, said, “Indubitably, there is a possible risk of Ebola Viral Disease spreading to Nigeria on account of the highly active migration activities at all of Nigeria’s land borders, including the active and unrestricted movements of immigrants from afflicted African
countries such as Guinea, Sierra-Leone, Liberia and Ghana.”

He called for the re-orientation of the Nigerian border patrol and health staff as well as the strengthening of the disease surveillance mechanisms at the land borders.
Enabulele stated, “The spread can further be buoyed through contact by uninfected persons with persons
infected with the Ebola Virus following contact with infected bodily fluids, blood and blood products or the consumption of infected animal meat products by
unsuspecting persons migrating through Nigeria’s land borders.”

Punch Newspaper