The Minister of Foreign Affairs, Aminu Wali, on Friday protested the continued discrimination and profiling of Nigerians by some countries over the outbreak of the Ebola disease in West Africa.
At an interactive session with members of the diplomatic corps, Mr. Wali named 22 countries that had targeted and discriminated against Nigerians, since the index case of Ebola in Nigeria.
He said it was regrettable that discrimination against Nigerians persisted, in spite of the World Health Organisation, WHO, declaration that Nigeria was Ebola-free.
He said it was regrettable that some countries had chosen to flout WHO rules and protocols on preventing the spread of the virus, through deliberate policies of stigmatisation and discrimination.
He said the foreign ministry has received unpleasant reports that Nigerians have been targeted and discriminated in Bahrain, Cote d’Ivoire, Equatorial Guinea and Cameroon.
Other countries discriminating against Nigerians are Cuba, Gabon, China, Egypt, Hong Kong, Kuwait, Qatar, Sri Lanka, Turkey and Zambia.
Also in the list are Mauritania, Sao Tome and Principe, South Africa, United Arab Emirates, Ukraine, Namibia, Seychelles and South Sudan.
The minister expressed dismay that even top government officials on working visits abroad had suffered discriminatory practices by the countries.
He noted that it was “intriguing’’ that it took time for the international community to acknowledge the valiant and effective measures taken by Nigeria to contain the spread of the deadly virus.
“It is therefore, my hope that this briefing will assist in expunging any negative notion about the Ebola Virus in Nigeria,’’ he said.
Mr. Wali called on the international community to increase assistance to the countries afflicted with the deadly virus.
He pledged that Nigeria would continue to assist neighbouring countries and share its experience on the successful control of the virus with the rest of the world.
A Nigerian, Suleiman Mohammed, who is the Honorary Consul to Mongolia, recounted how he was detained for six hours in Seoul after alighting from his flight.
He said he was detained for several hours by the immigration authorities in South Korea alongside with Nigeria’s ambassador to South Korea, Amb. Desmond Akawor.
Mr. Mohammed said the incident happened on September 9.
He added that he was subjected to the same treatment when he was transiting through South Korea even after he had shown no symptoms of the virus.
In his remarks, the High Commissioner of Trinidad and Tobago partly blamed the discrimination against travellers from West Africa on the international media and ignorance.
“From Trinidad and Tobago and the Caribbean, there is mass hysteria and ignorance on this issue (Ebola).
“The international media is constantly reporting that there is Ebola in West Africa and some people think West Africa is a country and not a region and in the Caribbean that understanding is not clear.’’
He cited an incident where union workers at a port in Trinidad and Tobago refused to board an oil-tanker that berthed in his country from Gabon.
He said there was hysteria that the vessel that arrived from West Africa may have been exposed to Ebola.
Meanwhile, South Sudan has refused entry to Nigerian Foreign Service officers deployed to the country because of Ebola.
In his contribution, the South Sudan Ambassador to Nigeria, Parmena Mangar Riak, claimed that after the WHO certification on Oct. 20, some Nigerians received their visas to travel to the country last week.
Dean of the Diplomatic Corps and Cameroon Ambassador to Nigeria, Salaheddine Abbas-Ibrahima, claimed that many countries had lifted restrictions on travel from people from Nigeria after the WHO certification.
He assured the minister that “in a matter of days” there would be total lifting of the ban on restrictions of travel by Nigerians by the remaining countries.
The ambassador who did not name the countries that had relaxed the ban said that Cameroon would take advantage of the Ebola information centre, established by the Federal government.
He said the centre would serve as a source of information for countries to plan their national response to the deadly virus.