Lagos takes sensitisation to Synagogue Church
Lagos State Government stepped up its surveillance on the Ebola virus yesterday, with its officials visiting a church in continuation of its enlightenment campaign.
Officials of Lagos State Ministry of Health and the Federal Government visited the Synagogue Church of All Nations (SCOAN), seeking the cooperation of its General Overseer Prophet Temitope Joshua in ensuring Ebola victims are not brought to his church for healing.
The SCOAN, a church reputed for its claims of divine healing, is a popular destination for the sick.
Commissioner for Health, Dr. Jide Idris, who led the delegation to the SCOAN, said it was in recognition that the church is an international Christian congregation whose members comprise people from all over the world, including the countries of West African sub-region already affected by the disease.
The commissioner added that the visit is one of the state government’s strategies of sensitising faith-based organisations on the need to cooperate with the government to prevent the spread of the disease by educating worshippers to report health issues to medical experts.
Idris said the Federal and state governments were working hard to prevent the virus from coming into the country.
“We have our strategies that we intend to share with you. Again, we need to know the resources you have here because whether it is one or two cases, if they are allowed to get out, it is a major problem. We are here to work together on how to contain this disease,” Idris told the cleric.
Another member of the delegation and Director, Centre for Disease Control (CDC), Professor Abdulsalami Nasidi, said the visit was to inform the church’s leadership about the deadliness of the Ebola virus and to ensure that it does not enter Nigeria.
Nasidi, who is an epidemiologist and a virologist, said the meeting was a “positive engagement mission”. “We are here to engage you positively. We know the powers of this House and your powers and we are duty- bound to protect you and your congregation. We have no doubt the power God has given you; we can’t do that, but we want to help and make it work stronger,” he said.
While the delegation came short of telling the cleric not to accept victims of the disease who may want to seek healing in his church, it however made it clear that the government would do everything to ensure the disease is not imported into the country under any guise, after a Liberian government official died of the virus in a Lagos hospital. He flew into the country to attend an Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) meeting in Calabar.
Professor Nasidi said the government is worried as the Synagogue congregation comprises of people from around the world.
He said government would provide technical and medical expertise to help the Synagogue team deal with any suspected Ebola case. “ We have experts from the World Health Organisation (WHO), Dr. Musa is an expert who has all the guidelines, we have Dr. Yaunti of the UNICEF, he has all the materials to work with you, to make sure your people know how to handle Ebola.”
The experts are to work with the Committee on Technical issues and the church’s health team to “ train them on how to handle this dangerous situation, pass some materials to them, share knowledge with them and if need be provide some technical materials,” Nasidi said.
The committee will also provide underground medical support to the Synagogue church laboratories to be able to diagnose the virus.
The delegation also reiterated that the Ebola disease comes from a most deadly virus which “ spreads so fast from man to man especially those who come in contact with the victims, share body fluid during treatments.”
Nasidi said: “ These are the areas we felt we should come and engage and work with you to ensure that members of your congregation, everybody in Lagos and Nigeria will be free of this disease.”
Prophet Joshua promised to work with the government to ensure that the disease does not spread into the country. He said he would put some measures in place to ensure people from the affected countries do not enter Nigeria.
According to the faith healer, one of such measures would be to visit any of the countries when necessary rather than allow their residents come into Nigeria. He would also suspend some of his church healing programmes for a few weeks. “I am ready to work with you, I love my country and I will be ready to work with you. Even if it is a rumour, there is need to secure our environment to ensure that it is safe,” Joshua said.
On the team were the Special Adviser on Information and Strategy, Mr. Lateef Raji, his media counterpart, Mr. Hakeem Bello, and Dr. Frank Mahoney from the CDC.