THE World Health Organisation has appointed the Director-General of the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) Chikwe Ihekweazu as assistant director-general for its Health Emergency Intelligence.
Ihekweazu will return to Germany, where he was born and bred, to resume his new office, as the appointment takes effect from November 1.
“He will lead the work on strengthening pandemic and epidemic intelligence globally, including heading the WHO Hub for Pandemic and Epidemic Intelligence in Berlin,” the WHO Director-General Tedros Ghebreyesus said in a statement on Tuesday.
However, it is not immediately clear if Ihekweazu will be quitting his office as the DG of the NCDC.
The Director of Media and Public Relations at the Federal Ministry of Health Olusegun Adetola could not confirm Wednesday afternoon if Ihekweazu would relinquish the leadership of the NCDC for his new role.
“We are waiting for the interpretation of the appointment,” he told The ICIR when our reporter contacted him to request if the appointee would keep his current office with his new portfolio.
President Muhammadu Buhari appointed the DG in August 2016 and reappointed him in July 2019.
During his first term in office, Ihekweazu held dual roles as NCDC DG and acting director of the Regional Centre for Disease Control for West Africa until January 2018.
The DG is a graduate of the College of Medicine, University of Nigeria, and has a master’s degree in Public Health (MPH) from the Heinrich-Heine University, Dusseldorf, Germany.
In 2003, he was awarded a fellowship for the European Programme for Intervention Epidemiology Training (EPIET) and subsequently completed his Public Health specialisation in the United Kingdom.
He is widely published in medical peer-review journals. He was 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.
The institutes include the South African National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD), the United Kingdom’s Health Protection Agency, and Germany’s Robert Koch Institute (RKI).
He has led several short-term engagements for WHO, mainly in response to major infectious disease outbreaks worldwide.
Ihekweazu has led Nigeria’s fight against killer diseases, namely cholera, Lassa Fever, Monkey Pox, COVID-19, among others.
Nigeria obtained the polio-free certification from the WHO in 2020.
The country also freely secured over eight million AstraZeneca and Moderna vaccine doses from the UK and US.
He also provided the leadership that has made Nigeria one of the nations where deadly COVID-19 has had the lowest fatalities.
His appointment increases the number of Nigerians holding sensitive offices of the UN agencies.
A former Minister of Environment Amina Mohammed is currently a deputy secretary-general of the UN. She got the job in January 2017.
The country’s former Minister of Finance and Coordinator of the Economy Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala is the director-general of the World Trade Organization.
Mohammed Barkindo, another Nigerian, is the secretary-general of the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC). He has been in office since August 2016.
Bola Adesola, a former chief executive officer and managing director of Standard Chartered Nigeria, is one of the two vice-chairs of the Board of United Nations Global Compact – the world’s largest corporate sustainability initiative.
Similarly, Bukar Tijani has been an assistant director-general at the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) since 2018.
Ghebreyesus, who announced Ihekweazu’s appointment, is the first African to lead the WHO.