Coronavirus: Chinese medical team still in Nigeria – Officials

Geoffrey Onyeama, Nigerian foreign minister says South Africa must act decisively.
Geoffrey Onyeama, Nigerian foreign minister says South Africa must act decisively.

The Chinese embassy and the China Civil Engineering Construction Corporation (CCECC) say the Chinese medical team controversially invited to support Nigerian efforts against COVID-19 is still around in the country.

They spoke in response to the suggestion by the Nigerian government through the Federal Ministry of Foreign Affairs that the team has returned home to China.

When the Ministry of Foreign Affairs was contacted over the recent evacuation of Nigerians from China despite the temporary suspension of the exercise, the ministry explained that “the aeroplane that took the Chinese medical team back to their base could not just come empty like that.”

The ministry’s spokesperson, Ferdinand Nwonye, later said categorically that the Chinese medical team had left Nigeria.

Also, Nollywood actress, Omotola Jalade-Ekeinde, whose husband is a pilot, shared the news of the departure of “the Chinese people who flew in some time ago” on her Instagram page, with a tagged picture of her husband, Matthew Ekeinde, the flight crew and the Chinese passengers.

This reignited the controversy trailing the whereabouts of the medics that pitted some Nigerians against the Nigerian government, specifically the Ministry of Health.

The Minister of Health, Osagie Ehanire, had said the medical personnel “are not guests of the federal government but CCECC, a construction company.”

Some Nigerians and medical associations had kicked against the decision to invite the medical experts.

When the team arrived with medical equipment sponsored by the CCECC in Nigeria on April 8, Mr Ehanire had said “they came to share their experiences in fighting the COVID-19 pandemic.”

The Chinese company said the support was part of its corporate social responsibility in fighting the pandemic in Nigeria as well as preventing its outbreak among its staff by providing expertise on the management of the virus.

Controversial ‘Exit’

The Chinese embassy debunked the claim that the medical personnel had left the county ‘unnoticed.’

The spokesperson for the embassy, Sun Siaxiong, who spoke with PREMIUM TIMES on Sunday, said the report of them sneaking out of Nigeria was untrue. She said the Chinese medical personnel “are still much around here in Abuja.”

“It is untrue that they have left Nigeria. Their coming to the country was to assist the CCECC to prevent the pandemic outbreak in the company and also to extend their hands to Nigeria in experience sharing and management of COVID-19 pandemic,” he said.

The Executive Director, CCECC Nigeria, Lian Jianfeng, also refuted the claim.

Mr JianFeng said the medical team had complied with all known immigration and health protocols and would continue to do so until there is the reopening of international commercial flights to China.

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“They are still in Abuja. The team are waiting for the re-opening of the international commercial flight from Abuja,” he told PREMIUM TIMES.

He added that the Chinese people recently evacuated were ‘a special group’ whose flight was organised by the Chinese government.

“The flight organised by Chinese government was for the special group: aged below 14 or above 60 and some other particular people. The numbers were limited. And the flight departed from Lagos,” he said.

PREMIUM TIMES reached out again to the spokesperson for the Foreign Affairs ministry, Mr Nwonye and Mrs Jalade-Ekeinde, about the Chinese embassy’s refutation of their claims.

Mr Nwonye said he had no comment. “I have told you all I know or am I in your law court to answer this?” he questioned.

Mrs Jalade-Ekeinde did not respond to mail and text messages sent to her contact at the time of this report.

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