Health Opinion

COVID19: An Irregular Migrant

By Khadijah Shehu Bamalli

Migration has been loosely described as movement from one point to another. But such movement whether regular or irregular in tune with modern day parlance, must be focussed and purposeful.

Recent global event has however redefined the concept of migration in terms of the diasporic nature of the coronavirus disease. As at the last count, the disease is now in 77 countries including Nigeria.

One might want to disagree since coronavirus itself is not a person and irregular migration according to IOM is a movement of ‘persons’ that take place outside the laws, regulations or international agreements governing the entry into or exit from state of origin, transit or destination.

However, you will all agree with me that right from the outbreak of the coronavirus in Wuhan, China, the Nigerians in Diaspora Commission alongside major stakeholders had contributed a lot in curbing this endemic especially as it affects Nigerians trapped in the affected countries.

The chairman CEO of Nigerians in Diaspora Commission, Hon. Abike Dabiri-Erewa in a statement on Jan 29, 2020 advised Nigerians in Wuhan to be wary of the virus and adhere to all medical advices and also assured them of the commitment of the Nigerian Mission in Beijing and the Federal Ministry of Foreign Affairs to the welfare of Nigerians in Wuhan.

When the spread of this virus got intense, several countries began evacuation of its citizens from Wuhan, this sparked various reactions from the public via different social media platforms.

One of several others which got the attention of NiDCOM was an alleged statement from NIDO (East China) which claimed to have written a letter to NiDCOM which was said to contain a request of evacuation of Nigerians from Wuhan.

NiDCOM in another statement issued on Feb 3, 2020 cleared the air by revealing that it did not receive such correspondence from
NIDO East China but saw it on different social media outlets.

The statement stated that NiDCOM has been in constant touch with Nigerian Students Association in Wuhan
(NSAW) whose President is Okoye Chiamaka and Vandi Kamaunji (Secretary
General), several Nigerians resident in China as well as Nigeria Mission in
Beijing and also stated that it will continue to coordinate with the Ministry as it awaits further instructions as directed by the Hon.
Minister of Foreign Affairs on this particular situation.

While Nigeria did not evacuate its citizens from Wuhan, (probably to avoid migration of the virus) the government however made constant interventions coordinated by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs with other Governmental Agencies to ensure that Nigerians in Wuhan are protected from the dreaded coronavirus disease.

These interventions made tremendous impact on the Wuhan diasporans who wrote down their appreciation in a statement on Feb.27, 2020.

The statement which was signed by the acting President of NIDO China, Barr. Justina Obaoye Ajala sent to Hon. Abike Dabiri-erewa expressed appreciation to the Government of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, for immense support and encouragement and generous financial support.

He also appreciated the leadership of NiDCOM, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Embassy of Federal Republic of Nigeria in China for the role they played in facilitating the financial support which was very timely.

While Nigerians in Wuhan, mostly Students, are safe from this virus, this dreaded virus miraculous landed in Nigeria despite all preventive measures through an Italian who came to Nigeria on a business visit.

But credit must be given to the Federal government for rising up to the challenges and curtail the ‘migration’ of this virus in the country.

The government did not relent in ensuring that all borders are manned by the health personnels with provision of necessary medical kits as well as preventive awareness campaigns to restrict the migration of the virus into the country.

The efforts to a large extent has yielded positive outcomes as only one Nigerian thus far has tested positive to the corona virus.

This is one ‘migrant’we all must come together to curtail its movement, growth and spread. We must all collaborate with government agencies saddled with the responsibility of preventing its spread, educating the general public on our personal hygiene and other necessary things we must all do to ensure that an unwanted migrant was not allowed to settle down in the country.

Khadijah Shehu Bamalli contribute this piece from Nigerians in the Diaspora Commission (NIDCOM) Media and Public Relations Unit, Abuja.

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