EBOLA STIGMA: Nigerian unable to resume work after holiday to Nigeria


Ayodele Ogunnoiki

SECURITY guard was shocked after returning from a holiday to visit his mother in Nigeria to find he had been banned from work because his employers feared he had Ebola.

Sam Ayodele Ogunnoiki, 46, from St Austell, Cornwall came back from a three-week holiday there on Saturday to find a letter from his boss saying several members of staff had raised concerns about working with him following his trip.

   Mr. Ogunnoiki, who has worked for Stout Security LTD for eight years, was told by director Trevor Mannell that he had to allay colleagues’ fears that he was carrying the Ebola virus back with him and could not allow him to return to work until he had been back in the UK for at least three weeks.

  The letter told Ogunnoiki: “You have been in my employ for several years and I have always done my very best to look after you, frequently helping you out when you called on me for assistance. With our friendship in mind, I have spoken to you and expressed my very deep concerns about your trip to Nigeria.

   “Several members of staff have now voiced their concerns about the possibility of your carrying the Ebola virus back with you and have made it very clear that they are extremely reluctant to work with you on your return. One member of staff has even written a clear and concise letter stating the concerns of your work colleagues. In this case I have to support their concerns – especially as I have already voiced them personally to you.

  “In order to allay any fears that you are a carrier for this deadly virus, I feel I cannot allow you to return to work until you have been back in the United Kingdom for three weeks – which is the incubation period. I must also request that you visit your doctor on your return and get a clean bill of health before you can start work with us. I am very sorry about this Sam but everyone works in close proximity together and I have to put the concerns of the majority first.”

   Nigeria was declared disease-free on October 20 after a 42-day waiting period following a small outbreak of twenty cases of Ebola, which saw eight deaths.

  On Monday Ogunnoiki, who works as a security officer at Pendennis Dockyard in Falmouth was told by Mannell that the company had sent him an email stating they did not want him or anyone who had been in contact with Ogunnoiki since his return from the country working at the site.

  Ironically the government has tried to reassure locals in Falmouth over the imminent arrival of a ship in Falmouth Docks from Ebola-hit Sierra Leone.

   Ogunnoiki described his employers’ dramatic move as unbelievable and said he had been tested in Nigeria for the disease before leaving the country which had come back negative.

  He said his wife who is employed by the same company had been allowed to work despite having been in contact with him since he returned back from Nigeria, which made no sense.

  “Nigeria does not have Ebola but he said I have to be cleared. There is this stigma surrounding me now. It’s just ignorance and a nightmare because I cannot work. I’m a British citizen.

  “My wife does the same job as me and I saw her at the weekend and she has been allowed to work, but if she has been in contact with me she would have Ebola too.

There is no justification for this at all.”

   Ogunnoiki added that it was unlikely Stout Security LTD would rehire him to work again at Pendennis Dockyard in Falmouth. He said he has now been put on a zero-hour contract.

  “I doubt I’ll get any more work at the security firm. It’s a problem. I don’t know what I’m going to do for work now. I don’t want to go on benefits. But I doubt I’ll get any more work at the security firm. It’s a problem.”

   A spokesman from Falmouth and Truro Port Health Authority confirmed that no restrictions had been placed on Mr Ogunnoiki as Nigeria had been declared Ebola-free last month.

  They said: “A gentleman who has just returned from Nigeria contacted us with an inquiry and asked if we are imposing any requirements on him.

  “We said Nigeria is free of Ebola, so the answer is no.”

    But defending his decision to ban Ogunnoiki from working, Mannell said: “I did send Sam a letter saying anyone returning from any African countries for safety reasons cannot work for three weeks afterwards.

  “I know Nigeria is Ebola-free but I don’t know where he’s travelled. My problem is that Pendennis shipyard, which I have a contract with, sent me an email saying they cannot have anyone working there that’s been in contact with Sam. It’s causing me a problem because I have got so much work down there and I need Sam to work.”

   Mannell also confirmed that Ogunnoiki’s wife had been allowed to work – but said he did not know if she would be able to now.

   He added: “I have to be so careful with this and securing my work at Pendennis as they said they did not want him working or anyone else who’s been in contact. I am taking legal advice and have told Sam to do the same.”

   A spokesman from Pendennis Shipyard denied sending an email to Mannell telling him that Ogunnoiki and anyone who had worked with him from Stout Security could not work at the site.
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