The Federal Government may sanction Kenya Airways for conveying a corpse from Ebola infested Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) without approval from the necessary authorities. This is coming as the corpse flown in from DRC has tested negative to the deadly Ebola virus.
At a joint news conference on Thursday in Ikeja, Lagos, Southwest Nigeria, Dr. Jide Idris, Lagos State Commissioner for Health, said the Kenya airline conveyed the deceased to Nigeria against the extant regulation.
“The airline brought the remains of this Nigerian without all necessary documentations that are required to process its clearance by the Department of Port Health Services, Federal Ministry of Health. The Federal Government of Nigeria and relevant agencies condemn this deliberate breach.
“In line with industry practice, a report has been made to the Nigerian Civil Aviation, the regulatory agency of the Nigerian aviation industry on the occurrence.
“Necessary steps are being taken by the regulatory authority to sanction the airline in a bid to prevent future occurrence. We have commenced detailed investigation by all relevant agencies of government to determine the immediate and remote intentions of this unfortunate behaviour,” he said.
Idris emphasised that the Federal Government instituted a ban on the repatriation of human remains into the country in all points of entry as a precautionary measure to avoid importation of any infectious disease, saying that the ban was one of the interventions the nation undertook during the Ebola outbreak.
He said the Federal Ministry of Health and Port Health Division issued guidelines to all airlines on the procedures to be followed to obtain a waiver before repatriating any human remains into the country.
“The government will like to reiterate again that the ban is still in force and any attempt to contravene this ban will attract serious sanction. The administration of President Muhammadu Buhari takes the health of her citizens seriously and will not shy away from wielding a big stick on any errant individuals or organisation,” Idris said.
However, the commissioner noted that as soon as the dead body was brought in from DRC, the officials of Port Health, Nigeria Centre for Disease Control, NCDC and the Lagos State Ministry of Health investigated the cause of death of the remains and took samples for laboratory investigation.
Idris said the laboratory report showed that there was no evidence of Ebola infection or any other contagious infections on the corpse, while assuring everyone to go about their normal business without any anxiety.
“Government will want everyone to be vigilant and encourage all our officials at land, sea and air borders to continue screening of international passengers.
“Government will want to appeal to all our international passengers to cooperate with our officials who are conducting screening at all our borders. This surveillance shall continue until further notice. All international carriers are also enjoined to cooperate with all relevant agencies of government to ensure unhindered surveillance,” he stated.
Dr. Joshua Obasanya, a representative of the Minister of Health, also said a letter of investigation had been forward to Kenya Airline to establish why the airline flew a corpse from DRC into Nigeria without the necessary approval.
He said if it was found that the airline breached the necessary protocols, it would be sanctioned appropriately, saying that the government was waiting for the airline’s response to the letter.
Also speaking, Dr. Biodun Ogunniyi, Consultant Epidemologist, Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) assured that there was no fresh outbreak of Ebola in Nigeria, saying that government had the wherewithal to deal with any emergent outbreak.