The operations of the Lome, Togo-based Pan-African airline ASKY have been suspended in Nigeria after the airline flew an Ebola-infected Liberian to Nigeria, where he died of the disease last week.
The regulatory Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) announced the suspension of the airline’s operations Monday, just as a Nigerian airline, Arik Air, suspended flights to Liberia and Sierra Leone, two of the three West African countries hit by the Ebola epidemic.
NCAA said in a statement that the suspension of ASKY operations took immediate effect, and that it was aimed at protecting Nigerians from the disease.
“ASKY was invited to the Aviation House to show evidence of actions it had taken since the pandemic in their core areas of operation and after. The Airline representative could not offer any conclusive or substantial evidence neither did it demonstrate any capacity to be able to prevent a re-occurrence or possibly ship loading Ebola victims to Nigeria.
“This is contrary to the provision of Article 14 of the Chicago Convention,1944, which states that ‘Each contracting state agrees to take effective measures to prevent the spread by means of air navigation, of cholera, typhus (epidemic), smallpox, yellow fever, plague and such other communicable diseases as the contracting state shall from time to time decide to designate.”
“The airlines operations were therefore suspended with immediate effect until it is able to sufficiently and evidently prove that adequate machinery is in place to provide adequate screening of passengers in all their points of operation, including profiling of each passenger,” the NCAA said
ASKY flew the 40-year-old Liberian national to Nigeria’s commercial city of Lagos via Lome, Togo, 20 July. He presented with the symptoms of the disease and was hospitalised in the city, where he died 25 July.
The Lagos state government said 59 of the people who had contact with the deceased have so far been screened, and 20 of them released.
Lagos State Commissioner for Health Jide Idris said the number includes 44 health workers and 15 others, including three ECOWAS officials who came to receive the Liberian citizen (an ECOWAS staff who was coming for an ECOWAS meeting in Nigeria’s South-eastern city of Calabar when he took ill) as well as Nigeria’s Ambassador to Liberia.
The commissioner said the government had not been able to establish the number of contacts the Liberian had on the plane that flew him into Nigeria because the management of ASKY Airline had not provided it with the manifest.
“So far, 59 contacts have been registered, consisting 44 hospital contacts (38 health care workers and six laboratory staff) and 15 airport contacts. The 15 airport contacts comprise three ECOWAS staff – driver, Liaison, and Protocol Officer, Nigerian Ambassador to Monrovia, two nursing staff and five airport passenger handlers.
“As of the time of this report, 20 contacts had been physically screened of which 50 per cent had type one contact and 50 per cent had had type two contact.
“Airline manifest has not been provided by the airline and therefore the precise number of passenger contacts has yet to be ascertained, especially as two flights were involved (Monrovia-Lome and Lome-Lagos). There was no report of medical incident and the General Declaration report of the flight,” he said.
The Commissioner said nobody in Nigeria had been infected with the virus, hence there is no reason to panic.
“We can categorically state that as of today, we have only one case of imported Ebola and death. No Nigerian is infected, but all contacts are being actively followed.
“We call on all Nigerians to be calm and not panic. We assure them that both the state and the Federal Government are up in arms to ensure that the virus did not escape and that no Nigeria is infected with this virus,” Mr Idris said.