Category Archives: West Africa

Nigeria – Borno local officials deny army report on release of schoolgirls

Reuters

Nigeria local authorities say most of abducted schoolgirls still missing

MAIDUGURI, Nigeria Thu Apr 17, 2014  (Reuters) – Authorities in Nigeria’s northeast Borno state denied on Thursday a statement by the armed forces which had said most of the more than 100 schoolgirls abducted by Islamist rebels had been freed in a military rescue operation.

“As I am talking to you now, only 14 of the students have returned,” an aide to Borno State Governor Kashim Shettima told Reuters, asking not to be named.

The assertion directly contradicted a statement issued late on Wednesday by national armed forces spokesman Major General Chris Olukolade in which he said only eight of the students were still missing after the military operation.

The Borno governor’s aide said the 14 girls found safe so far “escaped” and were not rescued.

An uncle of two of the teenagers who were snatched on Monday by Islamist Boko Haram militants from the government secondary school at Chibok in Borno state said the search was still going on.

“Two of my nieces, Laraba and Hauwa, are still missing, … twenty other girls from our village are missing,” Isaiah Rabo told Reuters by phone from Chibok. His daughter was among those who escaped from the abductors.

There was no immediate explanation for the contradictory versions regarding the mass abduction of the schoolgirls aged between 15 and 18, which has shocked Nigeria.

Monday’s raid on the Chibok school showed how the five-year-old Boko Haram insurgency has brought lawlessness to swathes of the arid, poor northeast, killing hundreds of people in recent months.

It occurred the same day a bomb blast, also blamed on Boko Haram, killed 75 people on the edge of the capital Abuja, stirring fears of violence spreading from the north of Africa’s No. 1 oil producer and most populous nation.

President Goodluck Jonathan was meeting his National Security Council on Thursday to review the security situation.

 

igeria – parents and army give different accounts over kidnapped schoolgirls

Can you believe anything that comes out of the Nigerian military about the fight against Boko Haram. Have the girls been freed or not – if they have, where are they? KS

 

BBC

Nigeria abductions: Parents say girls still missing

The school is located not far from where the Islamist militant group Boko Haram has been carrying out attacks, as the BBC’s Will Ross reports

Mystery surrounds the fate of more than 100 teenage girls who were abducted from a school in the remote north-east of Nigeria.

The military says all but eight of the 129 girls have escaped, but parents of the girls say many are still missing.

It is thought Islamist militant group Boko Haram took the girls to forested areas near the Cameroonian border.

The group is waging a bloody campaign for an Islamic state in northern Nigeria.

Boko Haram at a glance

  • Founded in 2002
  • Official Arabic name, Jama’atu Ahlis Sunna Lidda’awati wal-Jihad, means “People Committed to the Propagation of the Prophet’s Teachings and Jihad”
  • Initially focused on opposing Western education
  • Nicknamed Boko Haram, a phrase in the local Hausa language meaning “Western education is forbidden”
  • Launched military operations in 2009 to create an Islamic state across Nigeria
  • Founding leader Mohammed Yusuf killed in same year in police custody
  • Succeeded by Abubakar Shekau, who the military wrongly claimed in 2013 had been killed

Also on Wednesday, 18 people were killed in an attack in the Gwoza district of north-eastern Nigeria, local officials told the AP news agency.

Soldiers ‘overpowered’

The BBC’s correspondent in Lagos, Will Ross, says the Nigerian military’s statement that most of the girls had escaped their captors contrasts sharply with other information available to the BBC, including the claims of parents of pupils at the school. They insist “many” of their children are still missing.

The raid on the boarding school is a great source of embarrassment for the Nigerian authorities who say their military campaign against the militants is succeeding, he adds.

Hours before the military issued its statement, the governor of Borno state Kashim Shettima said the vast majority of the girls were still missing and offered a reward of 50m naira ($308,000; £184,000) for information.

A map showing Borno state and the town of Chibok in Nigeria

The air force, army, police, local defence units and volunteers have all been involved in the search for the schoolgirls.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon condemned the “shocking” mass abduction and called for the girls’ immediate release.

“The targeting of schools and schoolchildren is a grave violation of international humanitarian law,” he said in a statement.

“Schools are, and must remain, safe places where children can learn and grow in peace.”

The BBC’s Hausa Service says Boko Haram has kidnapped civilians in the past – usually women to work as sex slaves.

Gunmen reportedly arrived at the school in Chibok, a remote area of Borno state, late on Tuesday, and ordered its teenage residents on to lorries.

A local politician said about 50 soldiers had been stationed near the school ahead of annual exams, but were apparently overpowered.

Local residents reported hearing explosions followed by gunfire.

“Many girls were abducted by the rampaging gunmen who stormed the school in a convoy of vehicles,” local education official Emmanuel Sam told the AFP news agency.

A screen grab taken from a video released on You Tube in April 2012, apparently showing Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau (centre) sitting flanked by militants The attackers are thought to be from the Islamist group, Boko Haram
Vehicles burn after an attack in Abuja on 14 April 2014 After Abuja was hit by a bomb attack, fears are growing that the organisation may be widening its campaign

A girl who managed to escape and did not want to be named told the BBC that she and fellow students were sleeping when armed men burst into their hostel.

The girl said she and her schoolmates were taken away in a convoy, which had to slow down after some of the vehicles developed a fault, at which point 10 to 15 girls escaped.

“We ran into the bush and waited until daybreak before we went back home,” she said.

Nigerian media reported that two members of the security forces had been killed, and residents said 170 houses were burnt down during the attack.

The militants know the terrain well and the military has had only limited success in previous efforts to dislodge them from their forest hide-outs.

Militants from Boko Haram – which means “Western education is forbidden” in the local Hausa language – frequently target educational institutions.

This year, the group’s fighters have killed more than 1,500 civilians in three states in north-east Nigeria, which are currently under emergency rule.

The government recently said that Boko Haram’s activities were confined to that part of the country. However, bombings blamed on the group killed more than 70 people in the capital city of Abuja on Monday.

Are you in the area? If you have any information you wish to share with BBC News you can do by emailing us at haveyoursay@bbc.co.uk using the subject line: “Nigeria”.

Nigerian military says it frees 107 kidnapped female students, 8 still missing

Premium Times

 

“With this development, the Principal of the School confirmed that only 8 of the students are still missing.”

The Nigerian military has confirmed that it has freed majority of the 129 female students of the Government Girls’ Secondary School, Chibok, Borno State.

The students were kidnapped on Monday night by suspected Boko Haram members.

In a statement on Wednesday evening, the spokesperson of the Defence Headquarters, DHQ, Chris Olukolade, confirmed that only 8 of the girls were still held captive by the insurgents.

Of the 129 kidnapped students, the Borno State Governor, Kashim Shettima, earlier in the day confirmed that 14 of the girls escaped from their abductors.

“More students of the Government Girls’ Secondary School, Chibok have been freed this evening in the on-going search and rescue operations to free the abducted students,” Mr. Olukolade, a Major General, said. “With this development, the Principal of the School confirmed that only 8 of the students are still missing. One of the terrorists who carried out the attack on the school has also been captured.”

“Efforts are underway to locate the remaining 8 students.”

With 14 of the girls escaping on their own, and 8 still unaccounted for, it implies the military freed 107 of the kidnapped female students.  Premium Times

Nigeria: 24 hours after Abuja blast gunmen abduct 100 schoolgirls in Borno

Vanguard/allAfrica

Photo: Angela Stuesse

classroom

Less then 24 hours after the Boko Haram terrorists bombed the Nyanya bus terminus in Abuja, killing more than 100 innocent Nigerians, some unidentified gunmen suspected to be members of the terrorist organisation again abducted more than 100 female students from a Government Girls Secondary School, GGSS, in Borno State.

The students were abducted in the school located at Chibok Local Government Area of Borno State, after killing a security personnel suspected to be a soldier.

The Police Public Relations Officer, PPRO, DSP Gideon Jubrin confirmed the attack in Chibok, but said, he was yet to get details on the number of casualties.

The incident occurred at the council headquarters where the students were preparing to write the Senior Secondary School Certificate Examinations, SSCE now going on across the country.

Vanguard sources said that the gunmen numbering over 100 using motorcycles and Toyota Hilux vans stormed the council’s headquarters at about 9pm, and operated till 3am, yesterday.

“Apart from the abduction of the female students, the gunmen also carted away foodstuff, before setting many residential buildings and shops ablaze,” the sources added.

A resident of Chibok who escaped the attack, Mr. Nuhu Amos told Vanguard in a telephone interview that, ” the gunmen armed with AK47 rifles, Improvised Explosive Devices, IED’s, and petrol bombs stormed Chibok on Monday evening and attacked one of the security posts and shot one security personnel, before abducting more than 100 female students, as well as setting some houses and shops ablaze within the vicinity.

“Although, the attackers did not kill any resident, they only shot one security operative, before carting away foodstuff and escaping into the Sambisa Forest.

“I also learnt that out of about 250 female students writing their SSCE, some were able to escape into the bush, while more than 100 were abducted by the attackers using a 911 truck/lorry that was abandoned by its driver who was heading to Maiduguri, the state capital.

“Prior to this incident, gunmen had attempted to attack Chibok on three occasions without success, but this time around, they were able to accomplish their mission, as they were in Chibok from 9pm till about 3am on Tuesday.”

Another resident who spoke on the condition of anonymity also said: “Seven of my children including those of my elder brother and sister who are writing the SSCE in the affected school are still missing, and I don’t know whether they were abducted or among those who escaped into the bush.”

However, the PPRO who spoke on the issue said: “Yes, there was an attack in Chibok, yesterday evening by suspected members of Boko Haram terrorists, but we are yet to get details. As soon as details of the attack reach my table, I will get back to you.” allAfrica

Nigeria – 100 schoolgirls abducted by gunmen in Borno

BBC
15 April 2014
Nigeria unrest: Gunmen abduct ‘about 100 schoolgirls’

The school is located not far from where the Islamist militant group Boko Haram have been carrying out attacks, as the BBC’s Will Ross reports

Around 100 girls are thought to have been abducted in an attack on a school in north-east Nigeria, officials say.

Gunmen reportedly arrived at the school in Chibok, Borno state, late last night, and ordered the hostel’s teenage residents on to lorries.

The attackers are believed to be from the Islamist group, Boko Haram, whose militants frequently target schools.

On Monday, bombings blamed on the group killed more than 70 people in the capital, Abuja.

Boko Haram, whose name means “Western education is forbidden” in the local Hausa language, has been waging an armed campaign for an Islamic state in northern Nigeria.

‘Soldiers overpowered
A government official in Borno state told the BBC around 100 girls were thought to have been abducted from the school.

The exact number of missing students had yet to be established, as some of the girls had managed to return to their homes.

Parents had earlier told the BBC that more than 200 students had been taken from the school.

Residents in the area reported hearing explosions followed by gunfire last night, said BBC reporter Mohammed Kabir Mohammed in the capital, Abuja.

Boko Haram at a glance

Founded in 2002
Official Arabic name, Jama’atu Ahlis Sunna Lidda’awati wal-Jihad, means “People Committed to the Propagation of the Prophet’s Teachings and Jihad”
Initially focused on opposing Western education
Nicknamed Boko Haram, a phrase in the local Hausa language meaning, “Western education is forbidden”
Launched military operations in 2009 to create an Islamic state across Nigeria
Founding leader Mohammed Yusuf killed in same year in police custody
Succeeded by Abubakar Shekau, who the military wrongly claimed in 2013 had been killed

Nigerian students living in fear
What is Nigeria’s Boko Haram?

“Many girls were abducted by the rampaging gunmen who stormed the school in a convoy of vehicles,” AFP news agency quotes Emmanuel Sam, an education official in Chibok, as saying.

Another witness, who requested anonymity, told AFP that gunmen overpowered soldiers who had been deployed to provide extra security ahead of annual exams.

A girl, who managed to escape and wished not to be named, told the BBC she and fellow students were sleeping when armed men burst into their hostel.

“Three men came into our room and told us not to panic. We later found out later that they were among the attackers,” she said.

The girls said she and her schoolmates were taken away in a convoy, which had to slow down after some of the vehicles developed a fault.

The attackers are thought to be from the Islamist group, Boko Haram
Around 10 to 15 girls seized the opportunity to escape.

“We ran into the bush and waited until daybreak before we went back home,” she said.

Nigerian media reported that two members of the security forces had been killed, and residents said 170 houses were burnt down during the attack.

Boko Haram emerged as a critic of Western-style education, and its militants frequently target schools and educational institutions.

This year, the group’s fighters have killed more than 1,500 civilians in three states in north-east Nigeria, which are currently under emergency rule.

The government recently said that Boko Haram’s activities were confined to that part of the country.

However, Monday’s bombings in Abuja prompted renewed fears that the militants were extending their campaign to the capital.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-27037181

Guinea Bissau elections given clean bill of health

Reuters

BISSAU

A man votes at a polling station in Bissau, April 13, 2014. REUTERS/Joe Penney

A man votes at a polling station in Bissau, April 13, 2014.

Credit: Reuters/Joe Penney

(Reuters) – Observers from the West African regional bloc ECOWAS on Monday said Guinea-Bissau’s weekend election was free and fair, and called on international donors to restart cooperation suspended in the wake of a 2012 coup.

Bissau-Guineans flocked to the polls in large numbers on Sunday to vote in long-delayed legislative and presidential polls meant to bring stability to the former Portuguese colony after years of putsches and political infighting.

No elected president has completed a five-year term in Guinea-Bissau, which has become a major transit point for smugglers ferrying Latin American cocaine to Europe.

“The election was conducted according to international standards and the election was peaceful, free, fair and transparent,” the ECOWAS observer mission said in a statement.

The mission noted a few isolated problems in certain areas, including a shortage of ballot papers and an attack by the national guard on some supporters of one candidate, but said these did not impair the overall conduct of the election.

The last election in 2012 was aborted when troops under army chief Antonio Indjai stormed the presidential palace days before a presidential second-round vote was due to take place, plunging the country into chaos.

Many in Bissau hope a successful transition to democracy can unlock donor funding for one of the world’s poorest countries, including 110 million euros in European Union aid frozen after a 2011 military uprising.

FRONT RUNNER VAZ

“(ECOWAS) urges all development partners to expedite the lifting of sanctions imposed on the country and to extend financial support towards meeting the urgent post-electoral task of reconciliation, reconstruction and reform,” said the mission led by the former interim president of Liberia Amos Sawyer.

An EU election observation mission also said the election was well-organised and conducted in a calm atmosphere.

Results are due by Friday. If no candidate wins an outright majority in the presidential ballot, a second round will be held between the top two.

The front runner of 13 presidential candidates is Jose Mario Vaz, a former finance minister running for the dominant African Party for the Independence of Guinea and Cape Verde (PAIGC).

Vaz’s candidacy is tainted by accusations from Bissau’s attorney general of involvement in the embezzlement of a $12.5 million (7.4 million pounds) grant from Angola, something Vaz denies. His main challenger is former World Bank executive Paulo Gomes.

Guinea-Bissau, home to 1.6 million people, has dozens of remote islands and a jagged coastline of mangrove creeks that have made it a paradise for drug smugglers.

Indjai was indicted last year by a federal grand jury in New York on cocaine and weapons-trafficking charges but he escaped a sting operation to catch him that netted a former navy chief. Both men deny involvement in drug trafficking. reuters

 

Nigeria – more than 70 killed in Abuja bus station bomb

BBC

The station was packed with rush hour commuters at the time of the blasts

More than 70 people have been killed in a bomb blast at a crowded bus station on the outskirts of Nigeria’s capital, Abuja, officials say.

The explosion happened as commuters were about to board buses and taxis to go to work in central Abuja, the BBC’s Haruna Tangaza reports.

Eyewitnesses said there were dead bodies scattered around the area.

Suspicion immediately fell on the Boko Haram Islamist militant group, which has staged previous attacks in Abuja.

However, most of its attacks have been in the north-east of the country.

Analysis

If this bomb was planted by Boko Haram, then it is worrying evidence that the Islamist militants are determined to expand their area of operation.

The Nigerian government had been telling the world that the attacks were now confined to a small area of north-east Nigeria. That may have been true but the intensity of the attacks there has reached a staggering level – with rights groups saying 1,500 people, mostly civilians, have been killed this year alone.

There were reports that 135 people were killed in Borno state on Wednesday and Thursday but there was no comment whatsoever from the government or the military. To some analysts, it seems attacks in the north-east are sufficiently remote to be ignored even though entire villages are being massacred, sometimes without any military response.

The Abuja attack cannot be ignored and may serve as a much needed wake up call to the entire nation that all is not well in Nigeria.

Officials earlier said two separate blasts had ripped through the terminal, but later said the damage may have been caused by just one bomb.

Abbas Idris, head of the Abuja Emergency Relief Agency, told the BBC that so far they have confirmed 71 people dead and 124 injured.

‘Red alert’

Police spokesman Frank Mba gave the same figures, adding that 16 luxury coaches and 24 minibuses had been destroyed.

Eyewitness Badamasi Nyanya said he had seen 40 bodies being evacuated; other eyewitnesses say they saw rescue workers and police gathering body parts.

Investigators believe the explosives may have been inside a vehicle, according to Charles Otegbade of the Nigerian Emergency Management Agency (Nema).

The blast ripped a hole 4ft deep (1.2m) in the ground of Nyanya Motor Park, some 16km (10 miles) from the city centre, and destroyed more than 30 vehicles, causing secondary explosions as their fuel tanks ignited and burned, the Associated Press news agency reports.

Ambulances have been taking the dead and injured to nearby hospitals.

In a statement, the police said they were on “red alert” and had increased surveillance at “all vulnerable targets within Abuja”.

A bystander reacts as she sees victims of a bomb blast arriving at the Asokoro General Hospital in Abuja (14 April 2014) A woman reacts as she sees victims of the blasts being brought to hospital after the attack
A military nurse helps victims of the blasts off an ambulance at the Asokoro General Hospital in Abuja (14 April 2014) Victims have been taken to nearby hospitals, including the Asokoro General Hospital seen here
People gather at the site of the blast at the Nyanya Motor Park (14 April 2014) The explosions were powerful, destroying a number of vehicles at Nyanya Motor Park

‘Terrible’

Eyewitness Mimi Daniels, who works in Abuja, said: “I was waiting to get on a bus when I heard a deafening explosion then smoke,” she told Reuters.

“People were running around in panic.”

Another eyewitness told the BBC: “I have never seen [anything] like that in my life. It was just terrible… We were just running helter-skelter. So somehow I think that they planted something inside one of the buses there.

“So there are many dead shot down at the scene of the accident. And as you can see now some of these casualties… we are hoping, we are praying they will be ok. We saw some ambulances bringing corpses to other hospitals.”

No group has taken responsibility for the attack, but Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan blamed Boko Haram.

Visiting the scene, he vowed that the country would overcome the insurgency.

This year, Boko Haram’s fighters have killed more than 1,500 civilians in three states in north-east Nigeria, says the BBC’s Will Ross in Lagos.

Boko Haram has hit Abuja several times before, including an attack on the United Nations building in 2011.

The Nigerian government had said the violence was now contained in a small area of the north-east.

But the latest bomb in Abuja could be worrying evidence that the Islamist militants are determined to expand their area of operation, our correspondent adds.

Satellite image showing Nyanya motor park

BBC

Nigeria – APC accuses Jonathan of breaking law over premature electioneering

Premium Times

APC blasts Jonathan over premature “election campaigns”

The opposition party calls for sanction against President Jonathan for breaking the law

The All Progressives Congress, APC, has accused President Goodluck Jonathan and his party of engaging in crass lawlessness by their serial violation of the country’s electoral law, under the guise of liberation, family or unity rallies across the country.

In a statement issued on Sunday by its Interim National Publicity Secretary, Lai Mohammed, the party said the President has exhibited a gross abuse of executive power by leading his party to prematurely kick-start the campaign for the 2015 elections, in violation of the law.

It said if the action is anything to go by, the 2015 general elections will be everything but free, fair and credible, and called on the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, to assert its independence, if it has any, by sanctioning the lawbreakers since no one is above the law.

APC warns that if INEC fails to act, it loses any moral authority to stop other parties from also hitting the hustings ahead of time.

”Hiding under nomenclature, this president has led his party to engage in brazen lawlessness and shameless impunity. They have gained an undue advantage over other parties, or beaten the gun, in athletics parlance. Therefore, they should suffer the consequences of their action, the least of which is a strong public rebuke, to be followed by stipulated sanctions if they persist.

”If nothing is done to check this lawlessness, Nigerians should brace up for more in the days ahead. What example is the President laying by violating the law? What signal is he sending to Nigerians about the need to respect the laws of the land? When a President brazenly violates the electoral law under the guise of some rally, has he not started election rigging? Has he not already started compromising the electoral umpires and the security agencies?

”We know the President’s conniving handlers and advisers do not appreciate that a higher standard of conduct is expected of the President of Nigeria, through his statements, actions and body language. Unfortunately, everything points to the fact that the President, by his serial violation, is telling Nigerians and the whole world loud and clear that the coming elections will neither be free fair nor credible!” APC said.

The party said when President Jonathan boasted in Enugu on Friday, at the so-called Unity Rally, to capture the South-east in 2015, he was engaging in electioneering, rather than reunification campaign.

APC advised President Jonathan to concentrate his energy on putting Nigerians back to work, ensuring the security of lives and property and stopping the massive looting of the common wealth under his watch.

”A President who cannot even commiserate with the families of innocent school children who were violently hacked down under his watch has no qualms about skirting around the scene of the dastardly act in the name of electioneering campaign. Yet he has the temerity to point accusing fingers at others. What a cruel irony!” the party said.  Premium Times

Ebola hasn’t reached Nigeria, but……

Leadership

Ebola Disease Not In Nigeria, But…

Ebola_Virus_Victim

The deadly Ebola outbreak in Guinea and its quick spread to Liberia and some other West African countries has set Nigeria on edge. The high fatality associated with this disease forced the World Health Organisation (WHO) to issue a red alert in the West Africa sub region. WINIFRED OGBEBO, in this piece, examines the situation on ground and writes that Nigerians are still not safe with Dengue fever.

The death of a 15-year old female undergraduate in Edo State last week of symptoms rumoured to be similar to those of the deadly Ebola virus disease and at a time the disease is wreaking havoc in some West African countries sent shivers down the spine of many Nigerians. The anxiety over this disease is understandable, going by its frightening record of high fatality.

For avoidance of doubt, the Ebola virus was said to be first associated with an outbreak of 318 cases of a hemorrhagic disease in Zaire in 1976. Of the 318 cases, 280 of them not only died, but died quickly. That same year, 284 people in Sudan also became infected with the virus with 156 dying also in quick succession.

In the recent outbreak, as at March 31, the number of confirmed and unconfirmed cases in Guinea has reached 122, with 80 deaths. In Liberia, there have been four deaths in a total of eight cases and in Sierra Leone two, both of whom died. All the victims were reported to have tested positive to the same species of Ebola Haemorrhagic Fever, namely Zaire ebolavirus

Just like the dreaded HIV which has defied cure since its emergence, Ebola virus too has no known cure. However, the Minister of State for Health, Dr. Khaliru Alhassan who addressed journalists last week in Abuja, denied any outbreak of Ebola disease in Nigeria. He said, “As a follow up to the report in a section of the media of an outbreak of Ebola disease in Nigeria, the Federal Ministry of Health wishes to inform the general public that laboratory investigation has revealed that it is a case of Dengue Haemorrhage Fever and not that of Ebola Haemorrhage as erroneously reported”

According to the minister, reports on the disease were misconceived, as there are no cases of Ebola disease in Nigeria, pointing out that Dengue fever was wrongly taken as Ebola disease.

But as good as this may sound, it should be noted that even Dengue fever, according to experts, also has no known treatment or vaccine for now. It can cause severe flu-like symptoms and in severe cases can be fatal.  Drawing comparism between the two deadly diseases, the director-general, Nigerian Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), Prof. Abdul Nasidi, who said Dengue fever is not as deadly as Ebola, explained that “Ebola kills mostly between 60-90 per cent of those who acquire it whereas with Dengue, the case of fatality is between one and two per cent but nevertheless, people can be unlucky and it can grab them as it happens.”

The health minister of state said Dengue fever is caused by a virus named Dengue Fever Virus (DFV) which is transmitted by mosquitoes, mostly in urban and semi-urban areas.

According to him, the activities of the mosquitoes (Aedes albopictus) that transmit this virus are being closely monitored nationwide by the Arbovirus Research Centre of the Federal Ministry of Health based in Enugu.

He said, “the symptoms of the disease include, headache, fever, exhaustion, severe muscle and joint pain, swollen lymph nodes and rashes. Other signs of Denger fever include bloody gums, bloody diarrhoea, bleeding from the nose and mouth, severe pain behind the eyes, red palms and soles differentiate it from malaria.” At the outset of the disease, the minister said it mimicks malaria and is often mistakenly diagnosed as malaria.

As one of the ways of avoiding this disease, the director-general of the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) has warned hunters to guide against coming in contact with bush meat killed during hunting and Nigerians to be extra-ordinarily careful with eating bush and smoked meat, as the Ebola virus could be contacted through indiscriminate eating of smoked meat.

Nasidi noted, “we have enhanced our surveillance activities on areas of high probability; areas where they eat bush meat, areas where you have a lot of bats and other tiny animals.”

He stressed that those who eat bush meat don’t get the disease, but those who hunt and process the meat as well as those who eat smoked meat are also prone to getting the virus.

According to the NCDC boss, it takes between 2- 21 days for Ebola virus to manifest in a patient. He said government through the NCDC had swung into action to guard against the disease by intensifying its surveillance activities.

He added that the nation’s health posts at the ports and medical centres had been put on high alert to screen travellers from countries with confirmed Ebola fever occurrence.

“Nigerian citizens travelling to these countries are advised to be careful and should report any illness with the above symptoms to the nearest health facility,” he further counselled.

Though the NCDC boss reassured that the country has an alert and surveillance system in place, this has not in any way allayed the fear of many Nigerians considering our population and the penchant of our people for travelling.

He said,   “we can manage Dengue virus even though it doesn’t have cure too like Ebola and it doesn’t have vaccine but it’s not as deadly. Proper management can save the life of a patient. That is why we are going to strengthen our surveillance now.”

Speaking on the nature of the surveillance at the ports, Nasidi said, “at the ports, they have a protocol that they use when they are on red alert and they use the protocol first and foremost because we don’t have the machines at the border. Most of the time, we rely on a patient being ill. Any patient that lands with fever or whatever, they will quarantine him until they make sure that he doesn’t have any of these symptoms.

“Secondly, we do handout right from the country of departure, telling them to report to us if there’s any patient that is sick on board. All the airlines too are alerted. They know that any patient that shows signs of being ill on arrival are always screened and isolated. So the ports here have their international air regulation protocols that they use,” he added.

Preventive measures 

Nasidi said that the preventive measures for Ebola are different from those for Dengue fever.  According to him, because Dengue virus is transmitted by mosquito, how one protects himself from malaria is the same way he protects himself from Dengue fever.

“Mosquitoes that can transmit Dengue bite mostly in the evenings. So you can protect yourself if you can sleep under the long lasting insecticide-treated nets, spray insecticide in your home and keep your compound and environment neat,” he advised.

He said mosquitoes which transmit the virus also multiply in fresh water, especially water gathered in containers, small drums or tyres around the house. “So when it rains, it’s good to drain trapped water from all these containers or tyres. So part of the way to keep your environment clean is to make sure you don’t have all these containers or small tyres around,” he further said.

For Ebola, the NCDC DG said the centre was enhancing its surveillance in areas of high probability like forest areas where they hunt bush meat, areas where there are lots of bats and other tiny animals.

“In this area and in this moment, if we see anybody at all, whether it’s malaria or not malaria, if you have fever, don’t treat at home to make sure that you don’t have any of the Ebola that we can pick early and manage,” he added. Leadership

Guinea Bissau – votes counted after big turnout in key election

Reuters

People queue to vote in Bissau April 13, 2014. REUTERS-Joe Penney

People queue to vote in Bissau April 13, 2014.

Credit: Reuters/Joe Penney

BISSAU (Reuters) – Vote counting began in Guinea-Bissau after a heavy turnout in Sunday’s legislative and presidential elections meant to bring stability to the West African state after years of coups and political infighting.

No major incidents were reported by the close of polls and monitors said they expected a record turnout. The electoral commission said turnout had reached 60 percent by 1430 GMT but did not give more detailed numbers.

At sunset, officials in Pefine, a neighbourhood in the crumbling capital Bissau, sat under a mango tree tallying ballots under the watchful eyes of residents and election observers.

Results are due by Friday. If no candidate wins an outright majority, a second round will be held between the top two.

“I’ve voted for Guinea-Bissau. This is the last chance, things must change,” said Augusto Francisco da Fonseca Regala, a 55-year-old architect, raising an index finger stained with purple ink to confirm he had cast his ballot.

“For two years, everything has been at a standstill. I hope this election will bring peace and stability so that we can get back to work and develop the country.”

The last attempt at an election, in 2012, was aborted when troops under army chief Antonio Indjai stormed the presidential palace days before a run-off was due to take place.

Indjai released two doves as peace symbols after voting early on Sunday, but made no comment on the twice-delayed poll, which took place under pressure from donors and regional powers keen to see an end to decades of conflict and instability.

No elected president has completed a five-year term in the former Portuguese colony, which has become a major transit point for smugglers ferrying Latin American cocaine to Europe.

The final turnout at polling stations, which were set up in schools, on sidewalks and in one abandoned cinema, was likely to be between 70 and 80 percent, according to one source close to the organisation of the election, who asked not to be named.

Jose Ramos-Horta, U.N. Special Representative in Guinea-Bissau, told Reuters earlier on Sunday that tensions seen during campaigning had eased.

NEW VOTERS

The frontrunner of 13 presidential candidates is Jose Mario Vaz, a former finance minister running for the dominant African Party for the Independence of Guinea and Cape Verde (PAIGC).

“We need to stabilise Guinea-Bissau. I cannot do this alone but with the help of everyone in Guinea-Bissau,” Vaz said.

The PAIGC party machinery makes it likely to secure a majority the 100-seat parliament but Vaz’s victory is far from certain because of public anger at traditional parties.

Many of the 800,000 registered voters are voting for the first time and are eager to usher in a new leadership.

Vaz’s candidacy is also tainted by accusations from Bissau’s attorney general of involvement in the embezzlement of a $12.5 million grant from Angola, something Vaz denies. His main challenger is former World Bank executive Paulo Gomes.

Guinea-Bissau is home to 1.6 million people and covers about 10,800 square miles (28,000 sq km). Weak state institutions, dozens of remote islands and a jagged coastline of mangrove creeks have made it a paradise for smugglers.

Indjai was indicted last year by a federal grand jury in New York on cocaine and weapons-trafficking charges but he escaped a sting operation to catch him that netted a former navy chief. Both men deny involvement in drug trafficking.

About 80 percent of the population depends on cashew farming, but post-election stability could help attract investors to untapped mineral resources including bauxite, phosphate and offshore oil.

Some 110 million euros in European Union aid, frozen after a 2011 military uprising, could be unblocked too.  Reuters