There have been growing concerns (especially among its citizenry) on the ability of the Federal Government to properly handle preventive measures against the fast-spreading Coronavirus disease (COVID-19).
This perception stems largely from the fact that health facilities in the country are in a poor state to handle basic health challenges of everyday citizens, not to talk of a pandemic. Many Nigerians are of the opinion that if developed countries like the United States, Russia, Canada, and many others in Europe with world-class facilities and medical personnel are taking drastic measures as placing a ban on social gatherings, closing schools and shutting airspaces against countries and their nationals with a high risk of infecting its citizens, nothing should stop us from doing same.
In Africa, Ghana and Kenya were the first two African nations to announce new measures prohibiting travelers from countries affected by Covid-19, while Senegal and Kenya also announced school closures. According to news medium The Intercept, “the Democratic Republic of Congo imposed quarantine measures on travelers from Italy, France, China, and Germany. After restricting travelers from high-risk countries to quarantine, Mauritania deported 15 Italian tourists and Tunisia deported 30 other Italians for violating theirs. Rwanda, Uganda, Mali, and others have imposed similar quarantine measures for European travelers, while across the continent, passengers are screened for their temperature at international airports.” If the countries on the continent are taking these hardline measures, what stops us with a larger “prone” population from following suit?
Nigeria’s Minister of State for Health, Olorunimbe Mamora has said that the ‘giant of Africa’ has no plans on restricting any country’s nationals from entering our territory but would be intensifying screening on passengers from eight countries which he described as places with high risk of widespread community transmission – China, Iran, South Korea, Italy, Germany, Japan, France, and Spain, stressing that “each country will be in position to know when to put restrictions in place in relationship with the situation on ground.”
This development was however before the confirmation by the Federal Ministry of Health this Tuesday that the country has recorded a third case, after a 30-year-old Nigerian female who returned from the United Kingdom on Friday, observed self-isolation after she developed symptoms and contacted the National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) who said she tested positive. Worriedly, the United States and the United Kingdom (in particular) where she travelled from, despite having high ongoing transmission and cases, are not part of the countries earmarked for intensive passenger screening.
What could be the fears of the Nigerian government? The economy? Retaliation? Whatever the concerns may be, we should remember that our citizens often have to prove their health status to even get a visa to travel to Europe and the United States, and just like the recent “Trump policy on immigration which blacklisted Nigeria and five other countries over terrorism,” these governments will hurriedly take drastic measures where the need arises to safeguard its people.
In the old long doctrine governing the actions of states globally, national interest remains paramount and the core duty of government as enshrined in the Constitution is the protection of lives and properties. Our government has to act and act fast before we shoot ourselves on the foot.
Dear citizens, it is also not the time to be quiet. Observe precautions, pray (if you will), but express your opinion to those who you have put in charge of protecting you. A screech in time saves 180 million!
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Temidayo Taiwo-Sidiq is a Political Journalist, Analyst and Social Change Advocate with major interest in Nigerian Politics, Governance and Sports.