Lai Mohammed
Alhaji Lai Mohammed

OBINNA EZUGWU

Nigeria’s federal government has criticized the British government over its decision to impose travel ban on the country, as part of measures to curtail the spread of Omicron, a new Covid-19 variant first detected in South Africa two weeks ago.

The Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, who addressed a press on Monday over the development, said he hopes the U.K. government will immediately rescind the decision to put Nigeria on its travel red list.

Mohammed argued that the decision by the British government to put Nigeria on the red list, just because of less than two dozen cases of Omicron which, by the way, did not originate in Nigeria, is unjust, unfair, punitive, indefensible and discriminatory.

He said, “As you are aware, Britain has put Nigeria on its red list and banned foreign travels from our country. This is as a result of the discovery of Covid-19 cases, Omicron variant, in Nigeria. Britain now joins other countries, including Canada, which have taken a similar action against Nigeria over Omicron.

“Let me say straight away that it’s up to the Presidential Steering Committee (PSC) to respond to this action by the British government and others, and I have no doubt that the Committee will respond appropriately.

“However, as the Spokesman for the Federal Government, I can say, without mincing words, that the decision by tye British government to put Nigeria on the red list, just because of less than two dozen cases of Omicron which, by the way, did not originate in Nigeria, is unjust, unfair, punitive, indefensible and discriminatory. The decision is also not driven by science.

“How do you slam this kind of discriminatory action on a country of 200 million people, just because of less than two dozen cases? Whereas British citizens and residents are allowed to come in from Nigeria, non-residents from the same country are banned. The two groups are coming from the same country, but being subjected to different conditions. Why won’t Britain allow people in both categories to come in, and be subjected to the same conditions of testing and quarantine? This is why this decision to ban travellers from Nigeria, who are neither citizens nor residents, is grossly discriminatory and punitive.

“Gentlemen, let me use this opportunity to highlight the fact that travel ban, the type that has been slammed on some African countries, is a knee-jerk reaction that can only be detrimental to our quest to most conclusively tackle this pandemic. Instead of these reflex responses that are driven by fear, rather than science, why can’t the world take a serious look at the issue of access to vaccines, and ensure that it is based on the principles grounded in the right of every human to enjoy the highest attainable standard of health without discrimination on the basis of race, religion, political belief, economic or any other social condition.

“Many developed countries have used the advantage of their enormous resources or relationship to sign agreements with manufacturers to supply their countries with vaccines ahead of making them available for use by other countries. Even before the clinical trials were completed, millions of doses of the most promising vaccines have been bought by Britain, US, Japan and the EU. Some of these countries bought doses five times the size of their population, while others, mostly in Africa, have little or no access to vaccines. This is the real issue to address, instead of choosing the easy path of travel bans, which the UN Secretary General called Travel Apartheid. Let the world know that no one is safe until everyone is safe.

“Gentlemen, in the wake of the discovery of Omicron, the PSC has reviewed its International Travel Protocol. The revised protocol, which came into effect yesterday (5 Dec. 2021), is aimed at further reducing the risk of importation and exportation of COVID-19, especially the variants of concern. Under the revised protocol, passengers arriving in Nigeria are expected to provide evidence of and comply with the following rules:

– COVID-19 PCR test to be done within 48 hours before departure

– Post-arrival Day 2 COVID-19 PCR test

– Self-isolation for 7 days (for unvaccinated and partially-vaccinated individuals)

– Day 7 post-arrival exit PCR test (for unvaccinated and partially vaccinated
individuals).

8. On the other hand, out-bound passengers are required to provide:

– Valid evidence of full vaccination against COVID-19

– Negative PCR test result within 48hrs from the time boarding.

“These are science-driven actions, rather than those based on emotions and other extraneous reasons. However, if any country is not satisfied with them, why not simply subject Nigerians arriving in their country to their own PCR tests and proven conditions, like quarantine, instead of banning them outrightly?

“We sincerely hope the British government will immediately review the decision to put Nigeria on its red list and rescind it immediately. Nigeria has handled the Covid-19 pandemic with utmost responsibility and based on science, and has rightly earned global accolades for its efforts. Nigeria does not belong on any country’s red list.”

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