By Stephen Ubanna
Osagie Ehanire, minister of Health, appears to have bowed to pressure both within and outside the country to open up on the Chinese medical experts who had arrived the country penultimate Wednesday with some face mask and other medical equipment to help to contain the spread of the Coronavirus disease, described as very dangerous by Presidnt Muhammadu Buhari .
The disease which had emerged in Wuhan town in Hebei Province of the Asian country of China on December 31, 2019, according to the World Health Organisation, WHO,a United Nations, UN, Health agency, had spread to over 210 countries across the world including Nigeria where 318 victims were said to have contacted it and quarantined . This is in addition to seven casualties.
The Chinese Authorities were said to have claimed to have contained the pandemic which may have informed why the WHO, sponsored 25 global health leaders to the country to understudy the strategy and approach adopted in curbing the spread of the disease early this year.
Chikwe Ihekweazu, Director General , Nigerian Center for Disease Control , NCDC, according to the Katsina state born Nigeria President was among the global Health leaders who were sent to China on the ticket of the WHO. That may have opened a channel of discussion between the Chinese Authorities using the services of the Chinese Civil Engineering Construction Company, CECC, officials to penetrate the ministry of Health and NCDC, in order to win their support to allow Chinese medical experts to come and assist the country t in the fight against the spread of the deadly disease.
They had their way. In reaching an agreement with the Chinese Company to invite the country medical experts believed could help country in tackling the disease, the officials were said to have made a case to keep them in their own Isolation facility which the government officials had caved in.
The government take in the deal, according to the minister was to monitor the movement of the Chinese medical personnel which may be impossible. This is because the Nigerian Immigration Service, NIS or Security Operative may not be following them about to know what they are doing.
In spite of the fact that the Health minister had repeatedly said that the government did not invite or bring the Chinese medical experts into the country he may have shot himself on the leg when he declared: they were welcome as the country could use their help.
According to him, the country now have medical stockpiles, which many believe were donated by Chinese Company on behalf of the home government. Note that Chinese Companies had taken advantage of the health Crisis to start manufacturing face mask and other equipment that could be used in the containment of the disease even when other countries including the North American country of the United States, US, and the European countries of France, Germany, Italy, and Spain, including the Asian countries of Japan and South Korea, were not ready for it.
“There is almost no healthcare system in the world that is ready for COVID 19, except China”, the minister had said. About 900 Companies in the Asian country are currently manufacturing face mask with the support of Don Polymer, which supplies the fabrics for the production of the medical materials and other medical equipment to curb the health crisis.
The question on the lips of most people was that since China claimed that it had contained the disease and now have the materials and medical equipment to help other countries affected by the pandemic to do so, why not channel the support to the US, Italy, Spain, Germany, France, United Kingdom, UK, and South Korea are worse hit instead of Nigeria which case may not be as bad as these other countries.
The worry of many is that Nigerian is not the only country within the African Continent with trade link with China, as there are several other countries which also deserve the support of the Asian country. It is not surprising why political Observers would want officials of the CECC to extend a similar support to other countries in Africa because of their financial constraint.
The information making the rounds was that the CECC, officials, may have penetrated the Nigerian government officials at the instance of Xi Jiping, the country’s President who had promised to pump $344 million US, dollars, to revive the country’s battered economy which requires scores of tonnage of oil and gas imports to run the countries Industries.
Jiping, may have seen Nigeria, which is a member of the Oil Producing and Exporting countries, OPEC, as one of the major markets to get the required imports of oil and gas in order to restore the country back to life.
In a related development those who had expected to resume work or open their offices and shops for business on Monday, April 13, 2020, with the expiration of the first two weeks of the lockdown of Lagos, the FCT and Ogun state, by the President may have to forget it for now.
Garba Shehu, senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity may have dashed the hope of residents when he disclosed that the President had said that only the” scientific and medical Advisers would be the ones that would determine how long the present restrictions of movement put in place, to curtail the spread of the COVID19, will last”. This is an indication that the COVID 19 induced compulsory holiday may be indefinite.
Recall that Boss Mustapha, Secretary to the government of the Federation and Chairman, Presidential Task Force on COVID 19, had said that only the President could determine when to relax the restriction of movements in the affected states and FCT.
Perhaps, to ease the pain of the forced holiday on Nigerians necessitated by the disease, shehu , the Presidential Media Aide ,may have gladdened the heart of people when he revealed that 70,000 tonnes of grain from the National Strategic Grains Reserve had been released for distribution including an undisclosed cash payments to the supposed poor. He disclosed that the palliatives will continue to be made by the Federal, state and Local government Areas as well as the Abuja Area Councils as long as the lockdown continues. This is good news to Nigerians if it could be sustained at the various levels of government.
Only recently, Hameed Ali, a retired Army Colonel and the Comptroller General, Nigerian Customs Service, NCS, at the instance of the President handed over 158 trucks load of the Asian country of Thailand parboiled rice seized from smugglers across the country’s borders with Benin Republic, Niger and the Central African country of Camerron to Hajia Sadiya Omar Farouk, minister of Humanitarian, Disaster Management and Social Development for distribution to the needy and the vulnerable Nigerians.
The states, according sources, were said to have started collecting their allocations from the Government Warehouses across the country. But the fears being expressed in both official and unofficial circles was that the President good intentions may be abused as the relief materials may not get really et to the poor or the vulnerable Nigerians who were supposed to benefit from it as it may be diverted by government officials for their own pecuniary gain .