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Monkeypox: Army’s medical outreach triggers panic in S’East

All South-East states – Abia, Anambra, Ebonyi, Enugu and Imo – and part of the South-South – Delta State – were yesterday thrown into commotion over rumour of killer vaccine.

 

The rumour stemmed from a routine medical outreach initiated by the Nigerian Army for rural communities.

The rumour that a vaccine given to people at the outreach was responsible for the outbreak of the monkeypox in some states set off a chain of events which culminated in the frantic closure of private and public schools across the states.

Parents said they did not want to gamble with the rumour that the vaccines and drugs given the medical outreach were laced with lethal chemicals believed to have the capacity to infect children with monkeypox virus.

Some schools refused to send their pupils home, over what they believed was unfounded rumour. But angry parents stormed the schools to forcibly pick their children.

In Anambra, most public and private nursery, primary and secondary schools were forced to abruptly shut down as panic-stricken parents invaded the schools to forcibly take their wards away.

 

Panic erupted in Ekwusigo community in Ekwusigo Local Government Area of Anambra State as a result of alleged invasion of St. Patrick Church by soldiers purportedly injecting monkeypox-causing substance in school children.

This led parents to rush to schools to withdraw their children before midday.

The rumour led to the immediate closure of schools in Awka, Nnewi, Onitsha and Ekwulobia.

To quell the situation, the state governor called for the exercise to be stopped.

In Abia State, public and private primary and secondary schools in Umuahia, the state capital, were forced to release their students and pupils to their parents and guardians before the official closing time.

At noon, when the rumour broke out, parents and guardians besieged schools demanding the release of their children and wards.

In Ebonyi State, as early as 11:30a.m. many parents besieged schools to withdraw their children so as to prevent them from taking the ‘killer’ vaccine.

Parents whose children’s schools are fenced, scaled the fence to withdraw their children.

Some schools, including Oak Special School and Presbyterian Schools, however, refused to allow parents to withdraw pupils as they locked their entrance gates and continued teaching their pupils.

Policemen in five hilux vans were patrolling many schools in Abakaliki, the state capital, to douse the tension and arrest the rumour mongers.

At St. Patrick’s Urban Primary School, Abakaliki, a primary five pupil, Nwafor Chisom, told our correspondent that nobody or group came to the school to vaccinate the pupils.

The Headmistress of the school, Mrs. Chioma Okorie, described the rumour as unfounded and baseless.

She disclosed that policemen have visited the school following the rumour.

In Enugu State, the panic was triggered by rumours coming from neighbouring Anambra State that some school children who were vaccinated died in the process during a medical outreach being carried out in the state by the 82 Division of Nigerian Army, with headquarters at Enugu.

When our correspondent visited some schools in Enugu, parents and students were running helter-skelter.

In some of the schools, the authorities tried to douse their fear and prevent them from leaving the school by locking the schoolgate. But the students pushed hard and overwhelmed those attempting to put them in check. Stampede ensued as they ran out and headed home.

The schools visited include Urban Girls Secondary School, Enugu; WTC Primary School, Enugu; City Girls Secondary School, Enugu and Ekulu Primary School, Enugu.

In Imo State, a middle-age mother of four, who declined to give her name, at the Wetheral Road City School, Owerri, said: “You cannot be wielding a gun and syringe all at the same time. What will stop people from believing that those you did not shoot with the gun, you want to get with the syringe?”

The rumour was strengthened by sights of policemen, men of the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC) and officials driven in government vehicles who dashed into schools to pick up their wards long before closing hour. Thus suggesting that, neither security nor government officials were willing to leave anything to chance.

In Asaba, Delta State, schools closed abruptly because of the rumour that medical personnel aided by men of the Nigerian Army were going round to vaccinate schoolchildren.

For hours, there was commotion on the popular Nnebisi and Okpanam roads in Asaba as pupils who were stranded caused gridlock in their desperate bid to evade the vaccine.

However, governments of the concerned states moved swiftly to douse the tension and restore normalcy.

Governor Willie Obiano of Anambra State announced immediate stoppage of the medical outreach.

“I have contacted the Army authorities and advised for immediate stoppage of the medical outreach until wide sensitisation is conducted to reassure people of its intentions and benefits. The exercise has therefore been put on hold.” the governor said.

Governor Rochas Okorocha of Imo State said there was no case of monkeypox in the state or any ongoing medical outreach that could trigger the virus.

On their part, the Enugu State Commissioner for Health, Dr. Fintan Ekochin, and his Information counterpart, Ogbuagu Anikwe, dismissed the rumour of any vaccination either for monkeypox or any other decease by the military or any other organisation in the state.

In Abia State, Chief Emma Nwabuko, the Principal Secretary to Governor Okezie Ikpeazu, said there was no truth in the rumour.

Ebonyi State Commissioner for Health, Dr. Daniel Umezuruike, called on people to disregard the rumour and go about their lawful businesses.

Delta State Governor Ifeanyi Okowa said the unsubstantiated rumour of students and pupils being lethally injected by unknown persons was false and baseless, Zanna said appropriate measures had been taken and hence residents should not panic.

Meanwhile, the Federal Government said that it was unsure of the kind of disease which had hit at least seven states of the country, being referred to as monkeypox.

The Minister of Health, Prof Iseac Adewole, who stated this while briefing State House Correspondents at the Presidential Villa after the Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting, said government had already deployed scientists to the laboratory to establish if the disease was actually monkeypox.

The disease which, broke out in Bayelsa State, has spread to seven other states with 33 cases now established.

The minister said that the cases so far reported did not fit into the prototype of monkeypox. He added that the rampaging disease was, however, close to the pox family.

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Metro and Crime

Rituals: I pay N10,000 for virgins’ underwear – Herbalist

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A herbalist, identified simply as Ogbuegbunu, has disclosed that he used to buy virgins’ underwear for N10,000 to make rituals. Ogbuegbunu was arrested by vigilantes and youths of Abagana in Njikoka Local Government Area of Anambra State at the weekend. The suspect was allegedly sent packing from his former location at Enugwu-ukwu town, a town before Abagana.

It was learnt that Ogbuegbunu is a native of Aguluizigbo in Anaocha Local Government Area of the state. According to a witness, who spoke on condition of anonymity, trouble started when the boy engaged by the herbalist to be “stealing” virgins’ underwear for N10,000 for each was caught while trying to steal underwear by youths of the town.

“While questioning the boy he named the herbalist as an accomplice. He used to send the boy from Umudunu to go and steal children’s (virgins’) pants for him. The boy confessed that Ogbuegbunu used to pay him N10,000 anytime he did the work for him.

“The two of them were brought to Ekwuluomu shrine today (yesterday) to take an oath and from there to Aro shrine. “When they got to the herbalist’s house, they saw many names of those troubling him written on a letterhead. “There were so many other names including names of Abagana people with a lot of padlocks, keys and caskets, but thank God that people held him and ordered him to unlock those padlocks. After everything, they set those things ablaze and told him that he had to pack his things and leave Abagana.

“This was the same thing he did at Enugw Ukwu which made them to send him packing from the community some years ago,” the witness said. The source added that the virgin victims would over time develop strange ailments which would kill them, thereby increasing the herbalist’s wealth and clientele.

When contacted on the telephone, the state Police Public Relations Officer (PPRO), Nkeiruka Nwode, said she had informally heard about the story. The PPRO added that the matter had not been officially reported to her office. She said: “I have contacted the Divisional Police Officer (DPO) in-charge of the area where the crime supposedly happened, but he said he did not know about it.”

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Metro and Crime

Ex-convict poses as NNPC finance director on Facebook

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Police in Ogun State have arrested a former convict, Surajudeen Balogun, for allegedly impersonating a director in the state Ministry of Finance on a social media platform, Facebook. The 46-year-old Balogun was also accused of attempting to swindle a female police officer on the same Facebook. The state Police Public Relations Officer (PPRO), Abimbola Oyeyemi, confirmed the arrest of the suspect in a statement made available to journalists in Abeokuta.

Oyeyemi explained that Balogun, a fashion designer from Ijebu-Ode area of the state, posed on Facebook as an official of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) with the picture of the said finance director through which he had been defrauding unsuspecting members of the public. The PPRO said Balogun had earlier been arrested for similar offence when he duped a woman, Bimpe Akinmade, of N950,000 having claimed to be an NNPC official based in Port Harcourt, Rivers State. Balogun had allegedly asked the woman to lend him the said amount to secure the release of his brother who was reportedly detained at Ibara Prison with the promise to refund her whenever he returned to Abeokuta. Oyeyemi said:

“He (the suspect) came to meet the victim under the pretence of running an errand for the Port Harcourt-based man, collected the money and blocked the woman on his Facebook page. “He was later traced and arrested by the police, charged to court and sentenced to prison.

“As soon as he came out of prison, he started his nefarious activities again. Luck ran out on him when he was trying to defraud another woman on Facebook under the same guise unknown to him that the woman is a police officer. “The officer played along with him until Saturday, February 17 when he was arrested while trying to collect money from the woman.” Oyeyemi disclosed that the suspect owned up to committing the crime on interrogation. “He informed the police that he downloaded the picture of the finance director and used it as his DP (display picture) in order to deceive his victims,” the PPRO said.

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Herdsmen kill 50 in Nasarawa, says Tiv president

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  • Police parade herders for burning 15 houses

At least 50 people lost their lives in the herdsmen attacks on communities in the South Senatorial District of Nasarawa State. This came as police in Nasarawa State paraded two Fulani herdsmen at the weekend for burning down 15 houses belonging to the displaced Tiv persons in Obi Local Government Area.

The areas worse hit by the attacks and killings are Keana, Obi, Awe, Doma and Lafia. At least, 83 villages were razed down while property including farmlands and economic trees believed to worth billions of naira were destroyed since January. President of Tiv Development Association (TIDA), a socio-cultural organisation for the Tiv indigenes in the state, Mr. Boniface Ifer, made this known at the weekend while speaking with journalists in Lafia on the security situation in the Southern Senatorial District of the state. Ifer added that all the affected persons and villages are of the Tiv extractions.

He said: “We don’t know the exact number of causalities because we still have cases of missing persons whom we assumed are dead but because of security reasons, we cannot organise a search to recover their bodies. “I want to clear the air where some people are denying that there is crisis in Nasarawa State and that the people in the Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) camp are all from Benue State. I want to debunk that statement. Let me tell you that over 50 Tiv sons and daughters in Nasarawa State are already dead as a result of these herdsmen attacks.

Why are they claiming that my people are not affected?” Ifer disclosed that the military and police deployed in Nasarawa State on the orders of President Muhammadu Buhari had arrived the state but refused to move to the affected areas where people were being killed on a daily basis and houses being burnt down. He said: “We don’t know why the military refuse to move to the affected areas. We want the whole world to know that the military deployed in Nasarawa State have been stationed in one place in Lafia.”

The police also paraded a 42-year-old man, Danlami Usman, arrested with N2.4 milliom counterfeit currency at Mararaba in Karu Local Government Area. Parading the suspects along with seven others at the police command headquarters in Lafia, the state Police Public Relations Officer (PPRO), DSP Idirisu John Kennedy, explained that the two Fulani herdsmen – Bagu Anaruwa (42) and Rabo Anaruwa (22) – were arrested for conspiring and burning down 15 houses belonging to some Tiv men at Kuduku 11 village in Keana Local Government Area. He disclosed that a man, Nicholas Alua, and three other suspects all of Tiv by tribe, took advantage of the herdsmen/farmers crisis situation and criminally conspired and set on fire three thatched houses belonging to their kinsmen at Farin Ruwa village in Obi Local Government Area.

He explained that luck ran out on them when they were caught in the act. According to the police image maker, on February 11, Ijekeni Uhon of Gidan Nguinyi was arrested for setting on fire 25 houses belonging to some Tiv at Gidan Wakili in Obi Local Government Area.

The PPRO disclosed that Danlani Usman, found with N2.4 million counterfeit currency, was arrested at Mararaba in Karu Local Government Area when transacting business with the counterfeit currency. According to him, Usman was arrested by a team of detectives at Mararaba where he was transacting business with the counterfeit currency at night.

Kennedy disclosed that despite the effort made by the police in protecting lives and property of the displaced persons along border communities of Nasarawa and Benue states in the wake of the skirmishes between herdsmen and farmers with the deployment of five units of mobile policemen in the affected areas, the command continued to received reports of isolated killings and burning of houses that were deserted.

He disclose that the command had arrested 20 suspects in connection with the recent skirmishes that spilled over from Benue State to some border communities in Nasarawa State, saying that most of the suspects had already been charged to court. The PPRO, however, promised that the command would continue to engage the warring parties in dialogue. He appealed to them to sheathe their swords in the interest of peace.

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