The Federal Government and Lagos State Government are seeking sanction for Kenya Airways for conveying a corpse from Ebola infested Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) without necessary approval from Nigerian authorities.
Speaking at a joint news conference in Ikeja on Thursday, Lagos State Commissioner for Health, Dr. Jide Idris, said the airline conveyed the deceased to Nigeria against the extant regulation.
It was, however, revealed that the corpse tested negative to the deadly Ebola virus.
“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 Authority, 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 infectious diseases, saying that the ban was one of the interventions the nation undertook during the Ebola crisis of 2014.
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.
He added that laboratory report showed that there was no evidence of Ebola 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.
A representative of the Minister of Health, Dr. Joshua Obasanya also said a letter of investigation had been forwarded to Kenya Airways 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.