Ebola fears hit Nigerian festival
Lagos - Organisers of one of Nigeria's most famous cultural festivals on Monday said they were warning outsiders to stay away because of fears about Ebola.
Tens of thousands of visitors from Nigeria and abroad were expected at this year's annual Osun Osogbo festival in the Osogbo, the capital of southwestern Osun state.
But with 12 confirmed cases of the deadly tropical virus in nearby Lagos, including four deaths, state culture and tourism commissioner Ayedun Sikiru Adetona said authorities had introduced curbs on visitors.
"We do not want to entertain any visitor this year during the festival," he told AFP ahead of the grand finale to the ancient Yoruba festival on Friday.
The Yoruba, who live predominantly in the southwest, are one of Nigeria's three main ethnic groups along with the Igbo in the east and the Hausa in the north.
"We want only Osogbo residents to attend," said the commissioner.
"We will be able to entertain or host visitors from Nigeria and from outside the country in the future after we have successfully battled this deadly virus."
Adetona said the decision was taken as a precautionary measure "to prevent the introduction of the Ebola virus into the state".
State information commissioner Sunday Akere added that road transport unions and members of the ethnic Yoruba militia group Oodua Peoples Congress had been told not to attend.
Both make up the bulk of the crowds.
"We have launched radio and television jingles to discourage people from attending the event this year. We have also urged hotels in the state not to admit visitors at this time," said Akere.
Anyone attending the event, which the Yoruba see as a traditional cleansing of the city and reunion with their ancestors, will have to undergo health checks.
That includes temperature testing, hand-washing with sanitiser and more rigorous policing of crowds to minimise bodily contact.
More than 20 000 people attended last year's festival and more had been predicted to attend this year.
The Osun river goddess is believed to be a deity that aids fertility for couples who drink water from the river.
The festival takes in the Osun Osogbo grove, a sacred forest and UNESCO World Heritage Site on the outskirts of Osogbo dotted with shrines and sculptures in honour of Yoruba deities.