*Draws redline with China
*As over 40 health workers test positive
*10, 000 Nigerians tested so far – NCDC
*Abuja Court convicts Imam for lockdown violations
The Federal Government on Thursday said it has drawn the red line with China over allegations of continued racial discrimination against blacks and Africans, particularly Nigerians resident in Guangzhou Province and other parts of the Peoples Republic of China.
Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr Geoffrey Onyeama disclosed this in Abuja during the daily briefing of the Presidential Taskforce on COVID-19.
There have been reports that Nigerians and other blacks were been forced to undergo a second round of COVID-19 tests while they were also barred from accessing certain services in China. There have also been videos showing Nigerians and other blacks being physically assaulted by Chinese mobs.
The warning came as the Federal Government advised health workers who are in the frontline of the onslaught against COVID-19 to be more cautious in handling the pandemic, lamenting that over 40 health workers in the country have so far contracted the virus while in the line of duty.
The federal government also explained its inability to make testing compulsory for all Nigerians, saying while more resourced countries have not been able to do that, Nigeria has not exhausted its current daily testing capacity of 1, 500 people as only an average of 600 people are currently tested daily.
The disclosure came on a day that a Mobile Court in the Federal Capital Territory FCT, convicted an Islamic cleric, Malam Isa Ismail and two others for their willful violation of the lockdown order.
Red line with China
Onyeama noted that the Federal Government has engaged the Chinese authorities both at the Consulate and Federal levels in China to ensure that Nigerians are treated with utmost respect and dignity.
He said; “On the medical assistance being provided by China especially in the context of the cases of discrimination or racism that have been taking place in the country, we have been engaging with the Chinese Government at various levels. At the level of our Consulate in Guangzhou which is where these cases of racism have been taking place, and also at the federal level in Beijing with our Ambassador and our Embassy there.
“Now, we have made it clear to the Chinese Government in no uncertain terms, unequivocally, that under no circumstance would we accept racial discrimination against Nigerians or indeed Africans or Blacks in China; that, that is a red line for us.
“They have in turn told us that there is no case of that ongoing but clearly we are seeing videos, I have received reports and we have told them it is unacceptable and we are also engaging with other African countries to work together and decide on the punitive steps and measures that we would take because of this situation.
“In addition, I have directed our Consulate in Guangzhou to systematically detail every single case of discrimination and every single case of loss or damage suffered by any Nigerian and we will pursue each of the cases very robustly with the Chinese Government if it requires compensation and damages etc. So, for us, like I said, it is a red line and we are going to fight it to the very end.
“We are extremely disappointed because we have excellent relations with the Government and People of China that such a thing can happen at this stage. When there were calls for travels to be banned to China, when they had the outbreak in Wuhan, we went along with the advice of the World Health Organization WHO not to place a ban on China and we showed real solidarity because we have also had our own experience of epidemics with Ebola and so on.
“But really, we are deeply wounded by what has happened to Nigerians and other Africans in China. Of course, the government has given us explanations but really, it is something we never expected and we will pursue it to its final conclusion and we will not make any compromises in doing so.
“There have been some comments in the public domain as if we are held somehow hostage by the fact that we have received a lot of economic cooperation from China in the past. But I can assure you that where this is concerned, we are going to pursue it to the very end irrespective of whatever economic cooperation that we have with China because in the world of today, we absolutely will not and cannot tolerate any form of racism or discrimination against Blacks, against Africans, and as the largest black and African country in the world, it behoves on us to be in the frontline of defending the dignity of Blacks and Africans everywhere in the world”, Onyeama added.
Infected health workers
Minister of Health, Dr Osagie Ehanire on his part urged health workers to abide by all necessary precautionary measures in order to guarantee their own safety in the line of duty.
“I applaud our health workers on the frontlines of the COVID-19 pandemic, the government will continue to provide you with the necessary Personal Protective Equipment PPE and I urge you to take all necessary precautions for your own safety. Please, do not treat any patient without using adequate PPE, frontline health workers must undertake refresher training on IPC.
“This warning has become necessary due to the number of health workers who have tested positive for COVID-19 – they are over 40 now – or others who have had to be quarantined in the last two weeks due to exposure and are therefore not able to contribute to the healthcare sector efforts. I urge you all to remain vigilant in the line of duty and maintain a high index of suspicion for COVID-19”, he stated.
10, 000 Nigerians tested so far
Director-General of the Nigerian Centre for Disease Control NCDC, Dr Chikwe Iheakwazu said Nigeria was not in competition with any other country when it comes to testing, adding that no country has made COVID-19 tests compulsory for its citizens.
He said; “I do not think any country, even the most resourced ones in the world, have made testing mandatory. We have a very good strategy for testing. Yes, the numbers are always being thrown at us, Ghana, South Africa etc, but we are not playing a numbers game. These are people, they are human beings.
“Before we test anyone, we go through a risk assessment to make sure it is appropriate to test you. Up till recently, we had 5, 000 tests, but in the last week, we have gone up from 5, 000 to 10, 000.
“So, if from the beginning of the outbreak to last week we tested 5, 000, then in the last week, we have tested another 5, 000 and we are going to continue our testing rapidly. We have just gotten the first set of reagents for high throughput testing.
“So, I think there will be a change in the numbers, but to be honest, I am not playing a numbers game with testing. We have a strategy, we will stick to that strategy and we are going to make sure we deliberately increase the number of tests but while testing the right people at the right time”, he stated.
Earlier, Chairman of the PTF and Secretary to the Government of the Federation SGF, Mr Boss Mustapha said the Federal Government was closely following the situation in Kano State.
He said; “The situation in Kano is still being assessed and monitored closely. Based on preliminary findings, the PTF has directed the NCDC to send an enhanced support team, mobilize resources for contact tracing and immediately ensure that necessary steps are taken in conjunction with the State Government to contain the spread of the pandemic in Kano and stop the city from becoming the next epicentre.
“The PTF has continued to collaborate with the Governors in the various states and the outcome of the conversation with the NGF will form a critical part of the recommendations to be made to Mr. President in the coming days”, he added.
Court convicts Imam
Meanwhile, a Mobile Court in the Federal Capital Territory FCT has convicted an Islamic Cleric for organizing prayers in contravention of the sit-at-home order of government.
Chairman of the FCT Enforcement Team, Mr Ikharo Attah, said the cleric, Malam Isa Ismail and two others were arrested at a popular Mosque in Wuse 2 District for disobeying government’s directives on large congregational prayers.
He said; “The FCT Mobile Court sitting at Eagle Square today convicted an Imam of a popular Mosque in Wuse 2 District for holding worship in contravention of the lockdown rules.
“Imam Isa Ismail and two other worshippers were convicted and fined N2,000 each with community service. They will be cleaning the neighbourhood for 24 hours, to serve as a deterrent to others.
“Several motorists were also arrested and arraigned before the mobile court. Since the mobile courts started sitting, about 500 violators have been convicted. Many of them were fined and released after paying the fines.
“Based on the discretion of the court, the convicts were fined and released, because sending them to Custodial Centres would undermine the government’s efforts at decongesting the Centres and other detention facilities across the country. Moreso, many of the convicts were first-time offenders”, he explained.