By Elizabeth Chukwuma
The undeclared war between Wuhan , in Hebei Province of the Asian Country of China, emerged Coronavirus and the world appear to have taken a new dimension as countries move to evacuate their citizens in their respective countries of residence. At present more than 1, 400,000 people across 203 countries in the world had contacted the disease while 80,000, victims had died between December 31, 2019 and now.Going by the World Health Organisation, WHO , records the worst hit by the COVIS 19 are United States, Italy, Spain, China, South Korea, Germany, France, United Kingdom, UK, New Zealand, and Iran .
Worried at the alarming rate which the deadly disease which had defiled human intelligence is spreading across International boundaries may have forced countries to embark on evacuation of their citizens in other countries . The North American country of the US, which has the worst case, Canada, Isreal and several other countries were said to have evacuated their citizens in other parts of the world.
President Muhammadu Buhari was said to have reached out to Presidents Patrick Talon of Benin Republic and Faure Eyadema, Togo, two countries in the West African Sub-region, including President Paul Biya, of the Central African Sub-Region country of Cameroon, to facilitate ease passage of Nigerian returnees. This is because of the recent shut- down of the five major International Airports in the country located in Lagos, Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory, Kano, eNugu and Omagwa, Rivers state to curb the spread of the disease in the country.
The Katsina state born Nigerian President may have known that he needed the support of these neighbouring countries at this trying and difficult times . Geofery Onyeama, the minister of Foreign Affairs may have alluded to this when he said ”the country is working with neighbouring West African countries including Cameroon to facilitate the return of the many Nigerians who were caught up abroad due to COVID 19 travel restrictions imposed by countries.
Recall that the Nigerian President had closed the borders across the country with the neighbouring countries of Benin republic , Niger and Cameron, last August, to stop smuggling of Contraband, particular, foreign parboiled and light arms and weapons which was a threat to the country’s security. The Nigerian President action had remained a source of friction between it and the three neighboring countries over the last eight months, forcing Paul Kiagame, President Of Rwanda and Chairman, African Union, to intervene, to restore peace in between the countries.
Given reasons why the government had not yet taken the bold initiative taken by the US, Canada, Isreal and several other countries to evacuate its Citizens from other countries, Oyeama, disclosed that it had been delayed to enable he government “ to sort out the logistics involved””. This may have informed why the minister, at the instance of the President had engaged the country Embassy in China and the High Commissioners in UK and France to work out the logistics.
The Ngerian foreign Affairs minister had said that the delay in evacuating the Nigerian citizens abroad was also informed by inadequate Isolation Centers in place to quarantine the many Nigerians returning back to the country for the mandatory 14 days as required by Law.
The bminister may have gladdened the heart of Nigerians when he said the protocols for evacuating the Nigerians in diaspora had been completed, noting that the country is in a much stronger and better position to bring back those interested in returning to the country now . There are indications that over 200 Nigerians living in the US, a country that is currently feeling the pinch of the disease have signifies their interest to return to the country.
Many believe that if the Nigerian government had a good working relationship with the neighbouring countries of Benin, Niger and Cameroon, there would not have been any problem of bringing back theNigerians living abroad to the country in trying times. They insists that that there would not have any need for Buhari to reach out to Talon , his counterpart in Benin or that of Togo to allow the Nigerians who had already boarded flights into their respective countries because of the shut -down of the country’s International Airports to enter the country in the spirit of the Economic Community of West African States, ECOWAS, freedom of movement, goods and services.
Many of the Nigerians in diaspora, according to sources, were said to be at the various borders with Benin, Niger and Cameroon, across the country, waiting for the authorisation of Beninoise and Togolese governments for them to come into the country.Already,there are reports making the rounds that there are 24 Nigerians who had left their base abroad and are now in a hotel in Togo, who would require the approval of the Beninese government to be able to travel through their territory to come into Nigeria. There are fears that Talon, the President of Benin Republic, may not want to give Buhari, all the necessary support that he needed this time around to facilitate the evacuation of the Nigerians in diaspora and those around the closed borders with the three neighboring countries because of the government policy.
This is where Buhari may have to look for ways to normalize the existing relationship with the neighboring countries which, though may be economic parasites in one hand but are also useful on the other hand, particular, in this trying and difficult times of the fight to curb the spread of the disease in the country.
There are fears in Diplomatic circles that the COVID 19, may linger on for a longer time to come because of the anger of President Donald Trump of the US with the WHO, the United Nations , UN, health agency in handling the pandemic. Trump’s grievances against the world health agency was based on the fact that it was funded largely by the US but the agency had paid all attentions to China to curb the spread of the disease in the country, leaving out other countries including the North American country.
The emotional outburst of the US, President against the Tedros Adhanon Ghebreyesus , the WHO, Director General, was a signal that the country may no longer the agency which might stall the research work going in different parts of the US, to find a cure disease as well as the production of the vaccines. for it.
Trump accusation may be right. Only recently, the UN, health agency sponsored 25 global health leaders, including Chikwe Ihekweazu, Director General, Nigerian Center for Disease Control, NCDC, to China , to understudy the approach adopted by the country to contain the disease, in order to implement it in their respective countries.
Meanwhile a 15-man medical and technical experts, sponsored by the Chinese Civil Engineering and Construction Company, CECC, handling several Construction projects including the $10 billion, dual gauge rail line funded by the China Development Bank , were said to have arrived the country to give a bite to the fight against the spread of the pandemic in the country.
The Chene medical and technical experts were said to have arrived the country on Thursday, April 8, 2020, despite the Opposition of the Leadership of the Nigerian Medical Association, NMA and the National Association of Resident Doctor of Nigeria. As at Friday, April 9, no fewer than 275 persons, going by NCDC, records were said to have contacted the disease. The NCDC report shows that Lagos and Abuja remain the epicenter of the disease in country with 145 and 54 cases respectively ,Ogun, 20, Edo 12, Oyo 11 and Bauchi , where Bala Muhammed, the state governor, is a victim, 8 cases.
Nyesom Wike , the governor of Rivers state who is worried that the number of Coronavirus victims in the state had risen to two may have taken the laws into his hand to curb the further spread of the disease by arresting a Caverton Chartered Helicopter pilots flying expatriates into the state for an Well drilling contract for the government.
Hadi Serika, the minister of Aviation, had faulted the governor’s action, stressing that it was wrong for the state government to have carried out the arrests of the Caverton Helcopters pilots within a Federal government owned property without clearance from the appropriate Authorities. The governor laimed that the Caverton pilots had violated his Executive Orders aimed at curbing the spread of the deadly Coronavirus in the state.
“Civil Aviation is on the exclusive list”, Serika had said. The Rivers governor ,may have drawn the battle line with the President by daring him to arrest the two Caverton Chartered Helicopters pilots at Port Harcourt International Airport, Omagwa, which was said to be beyond his powers as a state governor.
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