*No plan for evacuation – FG
*60 Nigerians in town hit by virus, says Chinese govt
Nigerians currently in Wuhan, the Chinese city where coronavirus broke out two weeks ago, are appealing to the federal government to evacuate them.
As of Monday morning, the virus had killed 362 people in China, as many countries have been evacuating their citizens as a result of the crisis.
The Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, had said 16 Nigerians in Wuhan have not indicated interest to return home.
But the Chinese Ambassador to Nigeria, Zhou Pingjian, told newsmen at a briefing in Lagos yesterday that 60 and not 16 Nigerians live in Wuhan.
“I know we have Nigerians in Wuhan; our Embassy in China has confirmed that we have about 16 Nigerians in Wuhan and they are in touch with them. They have, however, not indicated their interest to come home.
”They will, however, contact our embassy if they like to come home,” Mohammed had said at a briefing in Abuja.
However, a Nigerian resident in Wuhan said that there were over 50 Nigerians in the city at present, adding that they were all willing to leave China because of the situation.
The businessman, who did not want to be named, expressed fears that things could get worse, noting that “when this virus broke out, the Nigerian embassy in China contacted us and asked us to form a group on WeChat (a multipurpose messaging social media app) where all Nigerians who are in Wuhan could communicate on the latest development.
“We told them that none of us had contacted the virus but we were worried and needed to be evacuated. But they told us to exercise patience since no country had evacuated its citizens because of the outbreak.
“We then asked them to provide us with face masks and some items that we could use, especially those of us who have children. Purchasing items have been difficult since the outbreak of this epidemic.
”The masks are no longer available in stores that open briefly on a daily basis and if you go online, they are very expensive. We are 57 Nigerians in Wuhan and government has banned public movement without masks. We expected the embassy to assist us with this but nothing of such happened.”
Another Nigerian resident in Wuhan said they were worried that the Nigerian embassy in China was not handling the situation properly.
He said other countries have started evacuating their citizens because of the situation but noted that Nigerians do not know their fate.
“The other day we read in the news that we are just 16 Nigerians in Wuhan; this is a pure lie. We are over 50 Nigerians here as I speak to you. We have been abandoned by government; we called the consulate in Shanghai, no response, we reached out to consulate in Guangzhou still no assurance.
“The situation is getting out of hand. There is a Nigerian here who just came on a visit; he was about returning home when this virus broke out here; now he is trapped. There is a student who was sick and was finding it difficult to get adequate treatment here; plans were being made to move him out of China before this issue of coronavirus outbreak, now he is also trapped.
”There are people with children here, how does the government expect them to cope when the city is virtually on lock down? We are stranded here; the federal government should please rescue us… shops are closed, banks shut, we find it difficult to get the things we need. Although, we are not out of cash or foodstuff, we don’t know how long this situation will continue,” he said.
He said they had written to Abike Dabiri-Erewa, chairperson of Nigerians in Diaspora Commission (NIDCOM), seeking help but noted that no form of assistance had been rendered.
Contacted, Abdur-Rahman Balogun, spokesman of NIDCOM chairperson, he said there were no plans by the federal government to evacuate anyone from China.
“Let them come if they are willing to… we have made arrangements for their safety in China but if they want to come on their own volition, no problem,” he said.
Asked why there were no plans for evacuation, he said: “Discuss with foreign affairs if it has to do with evacuation.”
Meanwhile, the Chinese embassy in Nigeria said yesterday that there were 60 Nigerians living in Wuhan, the Chinese city where coronavirus broke out.
Chinese ambassador to Nigeria, Zhou Pingjiang, who disclosed this at a media briefing in Abuja, also said there might be 40,000 or 50,000 Chinese nationals in Nigeria, adding that most of them were in Lagos.
He said that contrary to reports, Nigerians in that part of his country were 60, and that they were all adhering to the advisory issued by the World Health Organisation, WHO.
“According to our check with your embassy (in China), there are 60, not 16 Nigerians, that are in Wuhan now. Your embassy has maintained regular communication with them. At this moment, no one risks much movements,” he said.
The ambassador said the Chinese government was taking relevant steps to contain the virus and keep residents safe.
“We give the health of the Chinese citizens and foreign nationals, including our Nigerian friends, equal treatment.
“Nigeria has taken measures more than as required in emergencies and that is commendable. And there is no Chinese national in Nigeria that is affected by the virus,” he added.
Asked about measures taken to ensure there was no case of the virus imported from China, Pingjian said the embassy was asking Chinese nationals to follow the travel advisory issued by the World Health Organisation.
He said: “For the Chinese nationals who went back home for the festivals, apparently, they wish to get back home as scheduled.
“But I can tell you, not only for Nigeria, even those from other countries, are reconsidering their plans, especially if it is not so urgent so as to reduce the risk involved.
“But if it is necessary to travel, once they follow the travel advisory, we still feel it is normal for people to travel beyond the borders.”
Ambassador Pingjian said that as of 7:00 am yesterday, there were 17, 205 reported cases of coronavirus in China, while 21, 558 were suspected of being with the virus in Chinese Mainland.
He quoted the Chinese National Health Commission as reporting 361 deaths from the virus, while 475 had been discharged from hospital after recovery from the ailment..