Ebola: NHRC Chair calls for shift of NBA conference
Chairman of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), Dr. Chidi Odinkalu has called the postponement of the annual conference of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) scheduled for between August 24 and 29 in Owerri, Imo State in view of the current Ebola disease threat.
Odinkalu who is a scheduled speaker at the conference disclosed in a statement on Sunday that he is under observation for Ebola having been attended to by one of the doctors in Lagos,who managed the index case.
He urged intending participants at the conference to consider withdrawing from attending in view of the possible health risk involved in a gathering of the large number of people attracted annually by the conference.
“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 July 21 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. 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.” Odinkalu said.
He argued that it was incumbent on the NBA to contribute to measures to control and manage the public health emergency caused by the presence of the Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) in the country by postponing the conference.
He said it would be a wrong decision for the NBA to continue with the conference in the circumstances of the present public health emergency prevailing in the country.
Odinkalu said the NBA, in a bid to avoid leadership vacuum, could swear-in newly elected national officers of the association (which was one of the events planned for the conference) at a less elaborate venue at the NBA office in Abuja.
“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.
“On August 15 the NBA issued a public statement claiming that it ‘is putting adequate anti-Ebola precautions for its members attending the 2014 Annual General Conference in Owerri. It failed to say what these precautions were or who said they were ‘adequate.’
“As a result, 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,” Odiankalu
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