850 SOLDIERS WILL RETURN FROM LIBERIA SOON...SHALL WE BE BACK IN EBOLA DANGER ZONE?850 soldiers returning from Liberia to be quarantined

About 850 Nigerian soldiers on peacekeeping mission in Liberia are to be quarantined for 28 days when they return to the country in March 2015.

There are two battalions of the Nigerian Army in Liberia.

Investigations revealed that soldiers in one of the battalions were drawn from the 331 Artillery Regiment, Kontagora.

A source said on Sunday that the Army personnel were scheduled to return to the country in January but that their arrival would be delayed till March 2015.

According to the source, when they arrive in the country in March 2015, they will be quarantined in Gwagwalada, Abuja for 28 days before being allowed to go to their formations.

It was gathered that the soldiers returning from a similar mission in Sudan were not likely to be quarantined because Sudan had not recorded any Ebola case.

The source said that the Army authorities decided to ensure a painstaking observation of soldiers returning from Ebola infested countries because of the danger posed by the disease.

The source said, “You know that our soldiers in Liberia are to return to the country from two mission areas, Liberia and Sudan.

“The men of the Nigerian Army Battalion 43, in Sudan, will arrive in the country in December, and may be allowed to go their units on arrival in the country.

“But the arrival of their counterparts from Liberia, who were initially supposed to arrive in the country in January, will be delayed. The UN has not approved their movement so they will leave Liberia for Nigeria in March.

“Another thing is that even when they arrive in the country, they will be kept at a military barracks being built at Gwagwalada for 28 days before they are released to go to their units.

“I think the authorities are just being careful; there is no intent to demoralise anybody because we all know the dangers of this Ebola Virus Disease.

“With the arrangement, only medical personnel would be allowed access to them.

“You know that the World Health Organisation has declared Nigeria Ebola free so all efforts would be made to keep that status,” the source said

The Head of the Nigerian Army Medical Corps, Major-General Obashina Ogunbiyi, had said during a meeting of infectious diseases experts under the aegis of the Ebola Treatment Research Group in Abuja on Thursday that some Nigerian soldiers had been quarantined in Liberia following the death of a Sudanese who went to their camp to pray with them.

The Sudanese was said to have died two days after the prayer session and was believed to have died of the EVD.

The Ebola Virus Disease “has landed among our troops in Liberia after the death of the Sudanese. The Sudanese entered the troops’ camp to pray and two days later, he died. All troops were quarantined this morning (Wednesday)… We thought we were getting away but Ebola is still with us. Anyone of those soldiers can come home on holiday,” Ogunbiyi reportedly said.

Also, the Defence Headquarters said in a tweet on its twitter handle on Friday that “all necessary steps are being taken to ensure that no Nigerian soldier is infected with the deadly virus while serving in Liberia.”

The DHQ stated further in another tweet that the troops were quarantined for “preventive purposes and medical observation following the case of a Sudanese, a UN employee who was reported to have manifested … (the EVD).”

It was added that while no Nigerian soldier had shown symptoms of the disease, they were still confined to their camp.

Investigations further revealed that the Federal Government might not send troops to replace the two battalions in Liberia at the expiration of their mission.

It was learnt that the remaining two battalions in Liberia might not be replaced not necessarily because of the Ebola threat, “which though is a coincidence, but because the mission is winding down.”

When our correspondent contacted the Director, Army Public Relations, Brig. Gen Olajide Laleye, on the issue of the move to place returning soldiers from Liberia under observation for 28 days, he said that the Corps Commander Medical, Maj.- Gen Ogunbiyi, was the most competent person to speak on the issue.

He advised our correspondent to wait for a statement from Ogunbiyi on Monday.

Laleye said, “The Corps Commander, Medical Maj. Gen Ogunbiyi, will make a statement on it on Monday; you are advised to wait for the statement as I cannot comment on it.”

The Army spokesman also said issues relating to the deployment or withdrawal of troops to Liberia could only be decided at the policy level.

“The decision to send troops to Liberia was taken at the national level and the decision not to send troops can only be taken at the strategic level. I cannot comment on that,” he said.

Copyright PUNCH.

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