‘We are trapped here’ — Nigerians in Chinese town hit by coronavirus beg FG for evacuation
Some Nigerians who are 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. Many countries have been evacuating their citizens as a result of the health crisis.
But last week, Lai Mohammed, minister of information, said 16 Nigerians who are in Wuhan have not indicated interest to return home.
“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,” he had said at a press conference in Abuja.
However, a Nigerian resident in Wuhan told TheCable that there are over 50 Nigerians who are in the city at the moment. He said they all are willing to leave China because of the situation. The businessman, who did not want to be named, expressed fears that things could get worse.
“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,” he said.
An empty street in Wuhan
“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 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.”
‘NO HELP FROM THE EMBASSY’
The man said all efforts to reach Ahmad Jidda, Nigerian ambassador to China, and Bakori Aliyu Usman, an official of the Nigerian embassy in Beijing who contacted them in the early days of the outbreak, have ended in futility. Another Nigerian resident in Wuhan told TheCable that they are worried that the Nigerian embassy in China is not handling the situation properly.
He said other countries have started evacuating their citizens because of the situation but 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,” he told TheCable.
“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.”
Shops under lock and key because of the epidemic
He said they have written to Abike Dabiri-Erewa, chairperson of Nigerians in Diaspora Commission (NIDCOM), seeking help but no form of assistance has been rendered.
‘NO PLAN FOR EVACUATION’
When TheCable contacted Abdur-Rahman Balogun, spokesman of NIDCOM chairperson, he said there are no plans 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 are no plans for evacuation, he said: “Discuss with foreign affairs if it has to do with evacuation.” Two days ago, the Nigerian embassy in China told Nigerians in the Asian country that the federal government is committed to their safety.
Lawal Bapah, minister, public communications at the embassy, urged them to be more vigilant in the face of the current outbreak of coronavirus.
“Representatives of all Nigerian associations, such as Nigerians in Diaspora Organisation (NIDO-China) and the Association of Nigerian Students in China (ANSIC) as well as Nigeria-China Bilateral Education Agreement Scholars Association (BEASA-CHINA) are enjoined to remain calm,” he said in a statement. “They should abide by all public health announcements and instructions issued from time to time by various Chinese authorities to prevent themselves from the current scourge.
“Specifically, Nigerians in Wuhan are strongly advised to keep indoors while restricting their movements and to take all necessary precautions and strictly adhere to all medical precautions and instructions issued by Wuhan Municipal authorities and their respective academic institutions. They should also avoid crowded and closed areas as well as close contact with people who might likely be carriers of the dreaded virus.
“They should always wash their hands and face regularly, maintain personal hygiene and wear surgical masks, especially when stepping out from their respective accommodation. And to use face masks whenever the need arises to guard against the spread of the disease.”
Bapah also asked Nigerians to maintain regular contact with the embassy through some telephone lines but a citizen based in China said nothing meaningful has been achieved through that means.