By Suleiman Umaru
When officials of the Civil Engineering and Construction Company, CECC, arranged with the Authorities to send a 15-man Medical experts to Nigeria, to support the government in the fight against the Wuhan town in Hebei Province of the Asian country of China, emerged Coronavirus pandemic, popular, COVID they were applauded in several quarters.
The Team arrived the country on April 8, 2020, with one million Face Masks and other Medical equipment which were presented to the government to Combat the spread of the pandemic in the country.Barely, one month of being in the country, the impact of the 15-man Chinese man Medical Team believed to be experts in infectious disease, respiratory disease, intensive healthcare, cardiology, neurology, general surgery and anesthesiology appear not to have had been felt.
Contrary to assurance by Osagie Ehanire, the minister of Health that no member of the team, Comprising of Doctors and Technicians, will leave the Isolation center provided for them by the CECC, without being accompanied by an official of the Nigerian Center for Disease Control, NCDC, or security agencies personnel.
The minister may have shocked Nigerians recently, when he triggered off a controversy that the whereabouts of the Chinese Medical personnel are unknown, which calls to question the activities of the CECC, officials in Nigeria.
Security watchers believe that it is wrong for the minister to have said that they don’t know the whereabouts of the Doctors or to inform Nigerians that they had found out that some members of the Team were technicians and Staff of the CECC. Recall that on the Team arrival at the NNamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja, on April 8, 2020, the minister had said that among the 15- man Chinese Medical Team were Technicians.
It was therefore, very surprising that he could come out now to tell Nigerians that the government had found out that not all of them were Medical Doctors. Perhaps, what should interest Nigerians, was his revelations that ‘’there are many interests about the Chinese Medical experts and Technicians currently in the country’’. The minister was emphatic, ‘’there seems to be a lot of interests in these Chinese Doctors and I think they are on the CECC VISA’’.
There is no gain saying the fact that the Chinese firm are handling several multi-million dollar projects including the dual gauge Rail line under the close watch of Rotimi Amaechi, minister of Transportation which are supported by the Chinese government.
Indeed,Ehanire may have saved Nigerians lot of trouble if he had opened up why the Doctors and Technicians are still in the country. The Technicians may have had the backing of Amechi , the minister of Transportation to still be in the country because of the uncompleted Rail line project.
Although, the minister had said that the country had been able to learn a lot of things from the Chinese Medical Team through regular interactions on how their country were able to Contain the disease to help in tackling the disease in the country but Rauf Aregbesola, a former governor of Osun state and now minister of Interior, may have added to the Controversy about the Chinese Medical experts whereabouts when he revealed their mission and activities so far carried out between April 8,
2020, and now.
Aregbesola, who Corroborated Ehanire, the minister of Health’s views on the 15 man-Chinese Medical Team, disclosed that ’’ they are on the bill of the CECC to assist in building and equipping Isolation Centers’’ . Giving an insider information, the minister Confirmed that they are doing some works in the country in Conjunction with some Nigerian Companies , noting that ‘’they have agreed to support the government in its efforts to respond to the Coronavirus pandemic’’, an indication that it was not part of agenda.
He cited some of the projects which the Chinese Medical experts , turned technicians , had been involved in the country like the building and equipping of the Idu Isolation center at Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory, FCT and the Dome project handled by the oil Conlomerate, the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC in Conjunction with This Day.
The Osun state born Politician and Ahmed Bola Tinubu, a former Lagos state governor and All Progressive Congress, APC, National leader, political ally, maintained that they had participated in iretrofitting the Iju Isolation center at the FCT, and helped in installing the critical essential Medical equipment in the facility’’.
T 30-day VISA issued to the Team members at Beijing, the country’s Capital, by the Nigerian Embassy, may have expired, meaning that they ought to have returned back to their country more than two weeks ago ago. Aregbesola, the minister of Interior, disclosed that this may not have been possible because ‘’ there is a restriction on International Flights occasioned by the COVID 19 pandemic’’.
The questions on the lips of most people was: why didn’t Ehanire, the minister of Health disclose such vital information to Nigerians, but paving the way for Aregbesola, his Counterpart in the ministry of Interior to volunteer the information on the activities of the Chinese Medical Team or Technicians in the country and why they had remained in the country despite the expiration of their VISA.
In a related development, the House of Representatives had stepped into the matter and subsequently, demanded for a full details of the activities and whereabouts of the 15 –MAN Chinese Medical experts .They are not happy with the minister’s claim that’’ the Chinese Doctors are not guest of the government but that of the CECC, which invited them into the country’’.
In spite of the fact that the Chinese 15-man Medical Team are not really helping the government in tackling the COVID 19, pandemic, in the country, Sun Saixiong, the Chinese Embassy spokesperson in Nigeria, may have worsened matters when he said on Sunday, May 17, 2020, that’’ the country’s Medical personnel are still in the country because they are working with the country’s health agencies to save lives’’.
His claims appear worrisome as the number of infected COVID 1 9 patients had been on the increase since the 15-man Chinese Medical Team arrived the country on May 8, 2020. A report obtained from NCDC, showed that the number of confirmed COVID 19 Cases in Nigeria as at April 8, 2020, when the Chinese medical experts arrived the country were 276. Between the April 8, 2020 and now, the number of COVID 19, infected patients had continued to be on the increase on a daily basis instead of declining as obtained in other parts of the world.
, At present, the NCDC, report, shows that the total number of infected COVID 19 patients in the country had risen to 6,401. This is an indication that over the last one month that the Chinese Medical Team personnel had been in the country, the disease had become worse.’’
This is where buhari, the Katsina state born Nigerian President, Ehanire, the minister of Health, Chikwe Ihekweazu, Director General , NCDC and Boss Mustapha, Chairman, Presidential Task Force, PTF, on COVID 19, and Amaechi, the minister of Transportation may have to tell Nigerians why the country was still very much attached to China if there are no pecuniary interests.
This is because the spread of Coronavirus Pandemic in the country has become very worrisome in the past one month.