Time is running out, and 72 Nigerians stranded in Wuhan, the epicenter of the deadly coronavirus, are running out of options, and are pleading for help from President Muhammadu Buhari.
“I am writing you this open letter to bring to your attention the situation of things with the Nigerians living in Wuhan and to seize this opportunity to convey our express desire to be evacuated out of Wuhan. Currently, there are 72 Nigerians trapped in Wuhan, 62 adults, and children among whom are students, workers, and business persons,” he wrote.
“Since the outbreak of this virus, 702 people in total have died in Wuhan. It was reported that 86 people died yesterday, Friday, February 07, 2020, and from all the news reports that we monitor daily, its infection rate continues to soar. A city-wide lockdown has been in place since Thursday, January 23, 2020, which implies all residents have to stay indoors.
“The mood of we, Nigerians caught up in this situation has been of anxiety which is borne out of the fear of getting infected to running out of essential supplies and utilities or being unable to get medical care for other ailments unrelated to the Coronavirus. The mood here is fast turning to frustration, helplessness, and despondency because of our failure to receive diplomatic support to be evacuated. The lock-down has led to a closure of all commercial means (rail, road, and air) to leave the city. The Chinese authorities through its various communications to the foreigner community in the city have asked us to contact our embassies if we choose to leave.
“Your Excellency, when this epidemic started to cause widespread panic in the city, officials at the Embassy in Beijing, and the office of the Chairman/CEO of the Nigeria in Diaspora Commission (NIDCOM) reached out to our community. Their message to us at that time to encourage us and keep us calm that they and by the extension, the Federal Government was monitoring the situation just as many other countries were doing.
“However, as the situation began to worsen, we started to see concrete moves from other countries to evacuate their citizens. We immediately communicated our request to also be evacuated to the embassy. Later, we were asked to write to the Minister of Foreign Affairs. All these we have done and our hopes have been high up that we would be evacuated. To provide some sort of relief for us, fellow Nigerians in other cities in China pooled for us some cash and non-cash support, we also received the personal donation from our lead envoy in China, His Excellency, Ambassador Baba Ahmad Jidda for the sum of twenty thousand yuan. However, Your Excellency, Mr. President, it saddens us that days and weeks have gone past, following several attempts through official channels and unofficial channels (social media) to get a favorable response from authorities responsible for our evacuation, we are yet to receive any concrete response from the government.
“I would also like to bring to your attention Mr. President, that, our matter was taken to the House of Representatives, but our lawmakers, probably, out of their ignorance on our travails, laughed and jested over our matter. Eventually, they rejected the bill seeking to demand Nigerians stranded in Wuhan to be evacuated. On that same day, the Egyptian government evacuated its citizens, 350 of them out of Wuhan, three hundred and fifty Mr. President. Upon their arrival in Egypt after a 36 hours direct flight, they were all lodged into a single hotel for a 14-Day observation and quarantine. Do the Egyptian government place more value on the lives of its citizen than the Nigerian government does? Do the Moroccans or the Sudanese or the Algerians who have all evacuated their citizens place more premium on the lives of their citizens than Nigeria does?
“I am not unmindful of the fears in minds of average Nigerians that all their compatriots currently residing in China particularly Wuhan may have been infected with the Coronavirus and should therefore not be brought back to the country at this time. This feeling is understandable but it is based on ignorance. When we had the incidence of Ebola in Nigeria, it did not imply that everyone in the country had been automatically infected with Ebola. For the records Your Excellency, Mr. President, there is no record or case of any Nigerian infected with the virus. However, I fear this clean record may not linger long if the infection rate of this virus continues to soar. It is not our responsibility to allay the fears of our compatriots back home but it is our right to cry out and seek help from our government when we find ourselves in situations as precarious as this.
“I hope Mr. President that now that you have read directly from a source in the thick of things, you will use the power of your good office to give the directive for our evacuation”.