By John Ikani
Encomiums has not stop showering on the Director-General of the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), Dr. Chikwe Ihekweazu over his appointment as an Assistant Director-General of global health body- World Health Organisation (WHO).
Ihekweazu’s appointment as the deputy in charge of Health Emergency Intelligence at the global health organisation, was contained in an official letter addressed to him by WHO’s Director-General, Tedros Ghebreyesus, on Wednesday.
While Mr Ihekweazu still serves as the head of Nigeria’s infectious disease agency, the letter disclosed that he will assume the new office on November 1, 2021, and will be in charge of WHO’s pandemic and epidemic response hub in Berlin, Germany.
“He will lead the work on strengthening pandemic and epidemic intelligence globally, including heading the WHO Hub for Pandemic and Epidemic Intelligence in Berlin,” the letter read in part.
Since news broke of Ihekweazu’s appointment, many Nigerians have since been sharing the story on social media describing it as one of the good things to come out of the country.
On Wednesday, a former Deputy Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and former presidential candidate during the 2019 general election, Kingsley Moghalu, spoke glowingly of Mr Ihekweazu, adding that they were both colleagues at the WHO in the past.
Mr Moghalu, who shared his congratulatory message on his Facebook wall, described the new appointment as a reward for hard work.
“Congratulations to Dr. Chikwe Ihekweazu of Nigeria on his appointment as Assistant Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO) in charge of the Pandemic and Epidemic Response Hub in Berlin. A very well deserved appointment.
“Proud of Chikwe, who handled Nigeria’s #COVID19 response brilliantly as Director-General of the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control. Chikwe and I were colleagues at WHO in Geneva years ago, and he has always been a dedicated and consummate professional,” he wrote.
Similarly, an official of the Nigeria Communications Commission (NCC), Omoniyi Ibietan, congratulated the new appointee and wished him well.
Ihekweazu was trained as an infectious disease epidemiologist with more than 20 years of experience working in senior public health and leadership positions in several national public health institutes, including the South African National Institute for Communicable Diseases, the United Kingdom’s Health Protection Agency, and Germany’s Robert Koch Institute.
He was appointed by President Muhammadu Buhari in August 2016 as the acting head of the NCDC, the agency responsible for the control and prevention of communicable diseases in the country.
As NCDC director-general, Ihekweazu has led the response to large outbreaks of infectious diseases such as yellow fever, Lassa fever and monkeypox.
Since the coronavirus outbreak in early 2020, Ihekweazu has led Nigeria’s public health response to the pandemic through the NCDC.
He has been serving on the WHO’s IHR Emergency Committee for COVID-19, chaired by Didier Houssin.
Mr Ihekweazu serves as a Member of the Africa Task Force for Coronavirus Steering Committee, where he chairs the Infection Prevention Control Sub-Committee.
He is also a Member of Nigeria’s Presidential Task Force on COVID-19.