by Aubuike Azikiwe
The Chairman of National Human rights commission, Dr Chidi Anselm Odinkalu, has implored the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) to defer its Annual Conference which is scheduled to hold in Owerri, Imo State, between 24-29 August because of the presence of the Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) in Nigeria.
Odinkalu released a statement saying that it would be ill-judged to continue with the conference in the circumstances of the present public health emergency prevailing in the country.
He highlighted the recent declaration of the Ebola virus disease as a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC) by the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the Federal Government’s announcement of a nation-wide public health emergency as reasons why the conference should be temporarily cancelled.
He said, “The NBA Conference is usually a very large gathering. Its venues usually attract well in excess of 20,000 participants, traders and visitors. It’s an excellent market place for a virus in search of vectors. Participants are not in a position to asses independently what risks they run in attending the conference. The most “adequate precaution” the NBA can take at this time is to defer the conference. It should do so. If the NBA declines, I would urge government at all levels to strongly request it to do so.”
The Human rights commission Chairman also added that he is scheduled to speak at the conference despite having been under observation because he was a patient of one of the doctors who attended to Patrick Sawyer, the Liberian/American who imported the Ebola virus disease int Nigeria.
He said, “I am a scheduled speaker at the Owerri Conference. I have also been a person under observation for Ebola because as an out-patient I was attended on 21 July by one of the doctors in Lagos who managed the index case, i.e., on the day after he was admitted. The NBA has no way of knowing this and has made no effort to elicit this kind of information from any of the participants.
Speaking further, his statement advised participating lawyers to collectively shun the conference. “I have decided that I will not go to Owerri. As an act of responsible citizenship, I would also urge as many intending participants as possible to consider withdrawing from the Owerri conference.”