EBOLA: Patrick Sawyer deceived us, ECOWAS to travel to Nigeria — Liberian Minister

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AN official, who admitted approving Mr. Sawyer’s travel, has said Patrick Sawyer, the late Liberian-American, who brought the
deadly Ebola virus to Nigeria, deceived and manipulated the
Liberian government and the Economic Community of West African
States, ECOWAS, to enable him travel to Nigeria.

Sebastian Muah, who until recently was the Liberian Deputy
Minister of Finance for Fiscal Affairs, said in an email to PREMIUM
TIMES that the late Mr. Sawyer deceived the Liberian government
into believing that he was “Ebola Free’.

Mr. Muah was responding to this newspaper’s exclusive report on
Tuesday indicating that he, on behalf of the Liberian government,
cleared Mr. Sawyer to head to Nigeria even when the
administration knew he was under observation for Ebola.

In his response, the former minister said Mr. Sawyer told his
ministry that he had no contact with his younger sister who died of
the disease on July 8 and that he had voluntarily subjected himself
for testing which showed he was free of Ebola.

Mr. Muah said even to secure employment as a Liberian
Government official, a position that qualified him for the trip, Mr.
Sawyer lied that he had quit his employment as Public Health
Manager of ArcelorMittal , an iron ore mining company in the
country.

The former minister said Mr. Sawyer told the same lies to
ECOWAS, and at a point, sidestepped the Liberian Minister of
Finance, dealing directly with ECOWAS on matters concerning the
trip.

On the whole, Mr. Muah blamed the slip that enabled Mr. Sawyer
to travel to Nigeria on a “broken system of communication” within
the Liberian bureaucracy.

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Nigeria was free of Ebola until July 20 when Mr. Sawyer arrived.
He became terribly ill on his flight and was rushed to the First
Consultant Hospital Obalende, Lagos, where he died on July 24.

Nigeria’s Health Minister, Onyebuchi Chukwu, said on Monday that
although the Liberian government has apologized for the
incidence, it was pertinent to note that Nigeria was free of Ebola
Virus until its importation by the Liberian-American.

Mr. Sawyer’s action, he said, has placed unnecessary stress on
Nigeria’s health system. An apparently angry President Goodluck
Jonathan also described Mr. Sawyer’s action as “madness”. Since
the Liberian’s death in a Lagos hospital, three other persons who
had contact with him have died of the virus.

At least seven others have also tested positive to the infection and
have been quarantined at a Lagos hospital. President Goodluck
Jonathan has since declared a national emergency on the disease
while the federal health ministry in conjunction with health
ministries in the 36 states are working to prevent the spread of the
virus, which has killed over 1,000 people in Guinea, Liberia, and
Sierra Leone.

Read Mr. Muah’s explanation in full below:

“Sawyer’s travel was made possible not by the GoL (Government
of Liberia). My office has a review and approval process for
ECOWAS related travel. Sawyer, if you must know, was asked not
to report to work even at the Ministry of Finance.

“The fact of the matter, this many of us now know, is when you’re
tested for Ebola right after contact, your test will come back
negative. Being a non-medical officer, and seeing his emails from
the time he was still supposedly employed by Mittal as their Public
Health Manager (which he was still employed until his death
deceiving us that he was no longer in their employ), he said he’d
was in NO direct contact and that he had submitted himself for
testing, but anyone can claim they’re “Ebola Free” if tested right
after contact (something his email claimed he had NOT made with
his sister [Direct contact with fluids]).

“Further, the fact that he requested e-tickets and I was NOT copied
on those communications says that he did not want me informed.
But I have a process of approval and believed that any such travel
would meet that approval process; hence my assertion as to
making the approval.

“But apparently, people were self-contracting on an “honour”
system of quarantining themselves. Because I did not get a watch
list to know who were to be quarantined or not. But shifting blame
is NOT a part of who I am, I believe institutions should be the
basis of functionality and not individuals.

“The system of approval for Travel was NOT followed and for the
record, Sawyer’s trip was not approved by the system I had in
place and hence did NOT meet my approval. My folks indicated to
me that no request was made through the system.

“He travelled because he did NOT inform the ECOWAS commission
who purchased his plane tickets and paid per diem for his travel;
and because we did not have this ticket information to actually
alert relevant authorities to stop such.

“Upon checking his government emails I was able to uncover that
he was communicating differently and directly with ECOWAS
Commission (both using his Yahoo and gov.lr ) and got an e-ticket
from the Commission’s travel Unit. He did NOT even inform the
ECOWAS Ambassador in Liberia, who was traveling with him about
his situation. His email to folks at ECOWAS only said he had lost
his sister.

“Further to that, he WAS in the employ of Mittal, this was
information I was NOT made aware. When there is a broken
system of communication and silo institutional structure, someone
intending to deceive can get away with such.

“The ticket below shows who actually paid for Mr. Sawyer’s travel
to Nigeria. No senior management at MoF saw Sawyer from the
inception of his letter until his demise. Key here is when there is
no strong integration around institutional communication, people
can dupe the system.

“In this case Sawyer for no reason whatsoever I can imagine
decided that he was going to travel while sick. A fundamental
challenge with the fight that we have to make against this Disease.
Ebola is a disease that can thrive on deceit, self-denial, pride,
envy, non-patriotic behaviour.”