Some members of the House of Representative have said the travel ban slammed on Nigeria by the United Kingdom over the Omicron variant of COVID-19 is not an issue of racism but a call on the Nigerian government to fix the country.
The lawmakers stated this while contributing to a motion of urgent public importance moved by Ndidi Elumelu (PDP, Delta) on Tuesday.
They said if Nigerian leaders had fixed the country, the travel restriction would not have had any impact.
Last week, the UK Health Minister, Sajid Javid, announced that travellers from Nigeria and some other countries who are not citizens of the country and Ireland, will be restricted from entering it from 6 December following the outbreak of the Omicron variant.
Mr Elumelu, in the motion, called for the intervention of the House to resolve the travel restriction.
He noted that the ban “does not exempt over 8,000 Nigerian travellers that have bought air tickets to visit Nigeria during this festive period, as the restriction would affect their re-entry into the UK after holidays.”
He faulted the manner the UK handled the process of restriction without ”proper consultation with the Nigerian Government”.
But the lawmakers argued that if Nigerian leaders had fixed the country, the travel restriction would not have had any impact.
Nnoli Nnaji (PDP, Enugu), while contributing to the debate, said if Nigerian healthcare and education sectors were fixed, Nigerians would not be travelling around the world to access these services.
He made references to the recent diplomatic rows between Nigeria and other countries, including South Africa, Ghana and UAE, saying the ban by UK was just a way of telling Nigerians to fix their country.
“We also need to understand that this thing is a wake-up call for Nigeria. What they are trying to tell us– it is not just about the UK, all over the world, they are trying to block us, they are trying to tell us to go to h..l, to go and fix our country,” the lawmaker said.
“The problem we are having is that we are not fixing this country and that is why we are having all these problems. At some point we had issues with Ghana, they blocked us, at some point we had issues with South Africa, they blocked us. Just last year, we had an issue with UAE, they blocked us; even our darling UK has now blocked us.
“It is not about racism, it is about telling us to go and fix our country. We have to sit down and fix our education, fix our health so that we don’t have a lot of people travelling out for medical check-up and educational support. I believe that we should sit and find a way to solve our problems so that we won’t be getting this kind of insult from other countries.”
Luke Onofiok (PDP, Akwa-Ibom), also echoed the position of Mr Nnaji on the need to fix Nigeria as a response to the latest ban by the UK and other countries.
“Our greater concern is the need for introspection. If we had built our country to be the giant of Africa, where we all join hands with the leadership to make sure that the right things are done, the right facilities are being put in place and we make sure that there is a right assessment for any indices whether in the healthcare or education or even in tourism that leads our people to go into other countries if believe that we will not be much bothered with these challenges that we are faced today,” he said.
Garba Datti (APC, Kaduna) urged the federal government to reconsider Nigeria’s membership of the Commonwealth of Nations. He argued that despite the ”special relationship”, the UK continues to treat Nigeria with contempt.
“The UK has always been treating Nigerians with maximum contempt. Just like the Secretary of the United Nations said, this is a travel apartheid.
“We have been in the Commonwealth, I don’t know the benefit we derive as members of the Commonwealth. In support of this motion, let us review our membership of the Commonwealth,” he said.
After the debate the House resolved to mandate its Committees on Health and Foreign Affairs to interface with the Federal Ministries of Health, Foreign Affairs and the Presidential Task Force on COVID 19 on the best way of resolving the issue.
Omicron travel restriction.
Announcing the ban, Mr Javid had said citizens of the UK and Ireland are to isolate in a managed quarantine facility approved by the government.
So far, Nigeria has recorded cases of the B.1.1.529.
Several countries, even within the European Union have recorded cases of the new variant, but the restrictions are majorly targeting African countries.
Consequently, the UK government has stopped issuing visitor’s visas to citizens of countries on the United Kingdom red list.
The restriction by the UK came some days after Canada also announced similar restrictions on Nigeria and other African countries.
The decision of the western countries to ban African countries has attracted critism from around the world,.
UN Secretary-General, Antonio Gutierrez, described it as “travel apartheid.”
The federal government, through the Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, had also rejected the policy, describing it as “knee jerk, apartheid, discriminatory, punitive, unfair, indefensible and unscientific.”
Also, the Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF) had condemned the travel ban, calling for rescission of the policy. The governors had described hastily and arbitrary.
The Senate on Tuesday also rejected the ban.
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