© 2019 - International Centre for Investigative Reporting
Ehanire, Ihekweazu, Osamaye, Abayomi, other Nigerians at the frontline of fight against COVID-19
SINCE February 27 when Nigeria recorded its first index case of Coronavirus disease (COVID-19), many Nigerians including governors, top government officials and health workers have been at the forefront battling to flatten the curve in Nigeria, like their counterparts in other parts of the world.
These outstanding Nigerians have been putting their lives on the line to contain the spread of the virus and ensure those that have contracted it are treated.
The ICIR has compiled a few of these frontline workers fighting the spread of Coronavirus in Nigeria.
This is perhaps the most trying period for Osagie Ehanire, Nigeria’s Minister of Health in his entire career. The outbreak of COVID-19 in Nigeria seems to be the beginning of his difficult time in office. Since the outbreak in Nigeria, the minister has been coordinating activities and programmes to ensure that the government through the Ministry of Health provides the necessary support for both health workers and patients.
Osagie, several times, has commended the frontline health workers who manage patients and has called those who cannot handle the pressure to quit. He has also called on Nigerians to disclose complete and accurate information to health workers about their travel history or contact with persons who have had COVID-19.
Born 4 November 1946, Osagie Emmanuel Ehanire is a Nigerian medical doctor and politician. He studied Medicine at the Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich in Germany, qualifying as a Surgeon. He went on to the Teaching Hospital of the University of Duisburg and Essen and to the BG Accident Hospital in Duisburg, Germany for his post-graduate education.
In 1976, he attended the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland where he obtained a postgraduate Diploma in Anaesthetics. He got his Board Certification in both General Surgery and Orthopaedic Trauma Surgery at the Medical Board of North Rhine Westphalia in Dusseldorf, Germany. In 1984, he became a Fellow of the West African College of Surgeons. He was appointed as the Minister of Health by President Muhammadu Buhari administration in November 2019.
Chikwe Ihekweazu, Director-General Nigeria Center for Disease Control
Chikwe Ihekweazu, Director-General, Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) has led the fight against the pandemic alongside his team of experts across Nigeria.
Ihekweazu has continued to ensure that the battle against the pandemic in Nigeria remains a transparent one by updating Nigerians on the progress made through the NCDC’s various posts on social media and website.
In a recent interview with THE PUNCH, he stated that the Centre has started the review of protocols and guidance for home management of asymptomatic cases. This, Ihekweazu said, would be implemented when needed.
“We have scaled up our sample collection and transportation as well as testing capacity to ensure that cases are tested within the shortest possible time,” he said.
Ihekweazu was born to Nigerian-German parents. His father is a Nigerian doctor and the mother, a German professor. Chikwe holds an MBBS from the University of Nigeria and a Masters in Public Health from Heinrich-Heine University, Germany.
He trained as an infectious disease epidemiologist and has over 20 years of experience working in senior public health and leadership positions in several national public health institutes.
Akin Abayomi, Lagos State Commissioner for Health
Akinola Abayomi, a professor of Internal Medicine and Haematology is the Lagos State Commissioner for Health. He has been leading the struggle against COVID-19 in Nigeria’s biggest commercial city since the first index case was identified on February 27.
According to the Lagos State Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu, Abayomi had since 2019 warned the state about COVID-19. And he has been up and doing to ensure that the state government scales up its testing capacity, and takes care of the welfare of the health workers in the state. Now, test and treatment centres are available across the state, thanks to the active health commissioner.
In a Twitter post in April, he urged residents to be ready to answer questions from health workers who are going house-to-house asking about Coronavirus symptoms. The health workers will “make inquiries about symptoms of cough, cold and fever”, Prof Akin Abayomi tweeted. Abayomi is an experienced medical doctor who has served as a lecturer and practitioner in Africa as well as the West Indies.
He is a specialist in Internal Medicine and Haematology, studied at the Royal Medical College of St Bartholomew’s Hospital at the University of London where he obtained his first graduate degree in Medicine. He later obtained fellowships from both the Royal College of Medicine in the United Kingdom and the College of Medicine of South Africa. He was Associate Professor Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Stellenbosch University, Cape Town, South Africa before he was invited to serve as Lagos state government.
Tochi Joy Okwor, Coordinator Infection Prevention Control
Tochi Joy Okwor is the Coordinator at the Infection Prevention Control (IPC) and Member Technical Working Group of the NCDC Manual Universal and Outbreak Infection Control (MAURICE). Okwor also gives daily updates: ‘Issues of the Moment’ with updates on COVID-19 Nigeria on Radio Nigeria.
Tochi is a Consultant Public and Occupational Health Physician at the Department of Community Health University of Nigeria Teaching Hospital, Itukku Ozalla Enugu State.
Her research efforts are focused on occupational respiratory diseases and infection prevention and control in healthcare.
Uzezi Emuophedaro, medical doctor
Emuophedaro works as a medical practitioner in one of the biggest hospitals in Nigeria.
She is resilient and remains undeterred, even when grappling with limited equipment and shortage of supplies at her place of work.
Osamaye Faith, Youth Corps member
Faith Osamaye, a Youth Corps member is according to Nigeria Health Watch, one of the young scientists working at the NCDC’s National Reference Laboratory.
Nwando Mba, Director of Public Health Laboratory Services at NCDC
Nwano Mba, Director of Public Health Laboratory Services Department at NCDC works with other people at the Centre and gives the young people in her team the opportunity to take lead.
She said once they understood that COVID-19 was a respiratory infection, they quickly brought out Nigeria’s influenza pandemic preparedness plan.
“This became our blueprint because influenza surveillance is the bedrock of our COVID-19 response,” Mba said.
Celestina Obiekea, Coordinator Network Coordinator of COVID-19 Laboratories in Nigeria
Obiekea is the Network Coordinator of COVID-19 Laboratories in Nigeria. She was in Dakar when the index case was reported in Nigeria, and life has not been the same since then. She is still able to smile and maintain positive energy for her team, despite the grueling long days at the laboratory.
Obiekea says it can be challenging when everyone wants to be tested, as it takes a toll on both human and material resources. She advises that people stick to the advisory from the NCDC and Federal Ministry of Health to stay at home, practice social distancing, self-isolate if they feel they have been exposed to someone who has COVID-19 and call the NCDC toll free numbers if they are having symptoms.
Christopher Chukwu and other team members got trained on COVID-19 diagnosis from the African Centres for Disease Control and Prevention in Dakar before the first case of COVID-19 was recorded in Nigeria. He had been trained on molecular diagnostics previously from numerous training, including training delivered by Public Health England in 2019.
Akinpelu Afolabi, Lab Manager National Public Health Reference Laboratory, Abuja
Akinpelu Afolabi is the Laboratory Manager at the National Public Health Reference Laboratory in Gaduwa, Abuja.
He said work at the laboratory has been intense since the outbreak o the pandemic. “Unlike before, we now work 24 hours. I came here around 11 pm yesterday and left by 6am today. By 12pm, I returned and as of now (5pm), I’m not sure when I’ll leave,” he said in an interview.
Amina Mohammed Baloni, Kaduna State Commissioner for Health
Amina Mohammed-Baloni, Kaduna State Commissioner for Health has been at the forefront of the state’s war against COVID-19 in her state.
She has warned that anyone who conceals COVID-19 positive status would be prosecuted. She said the state has, however, traced up to 95 per cent of contacts and discovered 28 active cases.
Mohammed-Baloni is a medical practitioner and a fellow of the West African College of Physicians. She holds a Masters’ degree in Public Health and has had over 20 years of practice as a clinician and a public health professional. Her career has been devoted to improving the health and wellbeing of children and women.
Salisu Kwaya Bura Aliyu
The Borno state Commissioner for Health has expressed confidence that Borno has put in place active surveillance for all disease conditions.
In March when the state had not recorded any case of COVID-19, the State Ministry of Health with the support of WHO and partners has activated the Emergency Operations Centre that developed a comprehensive preparedness plan in case of a COVID-19 outbreak. Other responses, according to him, include case management, infection prevention control, contact tracing, surveillance, and risk communication.
He has continued to enjoin the media to educate the public on basic hand-hygiene, coughing etiquette and temperature monitoring.
Salisu Kwaya Bura Aliyu is an Obstetrician and Gynaecologist with over 20 years experience, and was appointed into office in 2015.
Abba Umar Zakari is Jigawa State Commissioner for Health. He holds a Postgraduate Diploma in Tropical Medicine and Hygiene from the Royal College of Physicians of the United Kingdom and a Masters Degree in Infections and Health in the Tropics from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, the United Kingdom in 1996 after his MBBS Degree in 1990 at Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria.
Zakari, who is also the chairman Jigawa taskforce on COVID-19, has continued to ensure that the infection rate in the state is reduced. He also has also ensured that almajiris returnees are tested and isolated.
According to him, 607 samples of the returnee almajiris had been taken, and only 45 samples were ready, adding that the results of the remaining samples were expected any moment from now while the remaining 29 that returned negative would be united with their families soon, and each would receive N10,000 and clothing.
He has disclosed that the state had no intentions of returning almajiris to their respective states as this could risk a rise in the infection.
Patrick Okundia is the Edo State Commissioner for Health, and charged with the full implementation of the Edo State Healthcare Improvement Programme (Edo-HIP).
Patrick Okundia said that he and his team are making steady progress in the management of Coronavirus, noting that all active cases of COVID-19 are being managed at different isolations centres across the state and are responding well to treatment.
Okundia reassured Edo people that the state government remains committed to containing the COVID-19 pandemic in all communities across the state.
Until his appointment, Okundia was the Chief Medical Director, Stella Obasanjo Hospital. He hails from Uhunmwonde Local Government Area of Edo State.
The Oyo State Commissioner for Health has continued to put steps in place to prevent the spread of coronavirus in the state. The creation of a rapid response and monitoring department and disease surveillance and notification officers in the 33 LGAs and 35 LCDAs was his idea.
Bello through the Ministry of Health has also run enlightenment campaigns about Coronavirus in markets, schools and for people in the hospitality industry to maintain the handwashing culture and give a safe distance if anyone is sneezing or coughing around them.
Bashir Bello has expertise in evaluation and passion in improving the health and wellbeing of people. His open and contextual evaluation model based on responsive constructivists creates new pathways for improving healthcare has been reportedly effective. He has built this model after years of experience in research, evaluation, teaching, and administration both in hospitals and academic institutions.
Princewill Anthony Chike
The Rivers State Commissioner for Health said the state was in a hurry to be fully ready for any outbreak of the Coronavirus disease.
Chike said because of the seriousness of the pandemic, the state has been on an alert phase since the COVID-19 outbreak. “This is no time to blame anybody but to put all hands on deck,” he said.
He is a Nigerian physician and professor of medicine. He was chairman of the Rivers State Primary Health Care Management Board. On 31 August 2017, he was sworn in as a member of second Wike Executive Council. He became the Commissioner for Health in September 2017.
Rafiu Isamotu Olasunkanmi, the Osun State Commissioner for Health, championing the fight against the pandemic in the state has explained how the state has protected its people from the scourge, attributing it to massive surveillance, intensive enlightenment campaign and rapid response and testing initiatives, among others.
Olasunkanmi is a graduate of the College of Medicine University of Lagos. He is a native of Iwo in Osun State. Though much is not known about him but he is the man at the forefron of the battle against Coronavirus in the State of the Living Spring.
Nimkong Ndam Lar
Lar is the Commissioner for Health in Plateau state.
Ndam is making sure that the fight against COVID-19 in the state is won by all means.
According to him, the Ministry of Health has activated preventive emergency measures in case of any eventuality, some of which include setting up isolation wards, provide medical supplies to keep the fight againt the virus strong.
He said the ministry is working closely with the Federal Ministry of Health and other relevant government agencies to remain vigilant to handl any health emergencies.
Lar said stakeholders made of a team of experts from the ministry and the World Health Organisation (WHO) are working tirelessly to ensure that proper measures are put in place in the state.
Iya is the Commissioner for Health in Nassarawa State.
Dr. Daniel is a man trusted with various leadership roles. He is a longstanding fellow of the West African College of Surgeons, a fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh, and was chairman of the Nigerian accreditation committee of the Nigerian Medical and Dental Council. After his first term as Commissioner, Dr. Daniel became chief medical director in the state’s teaching hospital from 1996-2004. That was also the time he did a postgrad public health course at Harvard. He has served as commissioner for health twice in Nassarawa State.