February 23, 2020

CORONAVIRUS: Accessing food becoming difficult for trapped Nigerians — Mbisiogu, NIDO Coordinator

CORONAVIRUS: Accessing food becoming difficult  for trapped Nigerians  — Mbisiogu, NIDO Coordinator



…Says those in Wuhan yet to receive FG’s financial support

By Charles Kumolu, DEPUTY EDITOR

Coordinator of Nigerians in Diaspora Organisation, NIDO, in Guangdong Province, China, Mr. Festus Mbisiogu,in this interview, gives an update on the condition of trapped Nigerians in Wuhan City and over 10,000 others in Guangdong Province

We learned the Federal Government has reached out to Nigerians in Wuhan. Can we know the specifics?

I just spoke to the student union President in Wuhan which is the epicenter of the epidemic and she said their condition is still bad. She said things are the same since they first started raising the alarm for evacuation.

The worst of it is that accessing food has been so difficult for them. It is becoming more difficult. They now order food online which would be delivered at the gate of their houses. On the fund provided by Nigerian government, she said someone from the Nigerian Embassy in Beijing chatted with her, promising to call her on phone.

As of when we spoke, she said they were yet to receive the money. Abike Dabiri posted on her twitter handle that the federal government has released funds for them. I learned the money would go through the Nigerian Embassy in Beijing. As it stands today, the students are still insisting on evacuation because they got information that the city government may prolong the stay at home till April or June.

They are just uncomfortable with the prospects of staying at home for three months. They commended the government for the fund sent but are saying that what they want is evacuation. They are living in fear.

What about other Nigerians in other cities?

In Guangdong Province where we have about 10,000 Nigerians, they are suffering. Some of them, who are doing business and pay their rent monthly, are no longer doing business because of the stay at home. They are all indoors.

They are complaining of hunger and other difficulties. Some of them do businesses with partners in Nigeria but everything is stagnant now, no airline is even going there. They are also calling on government to remember them, saying that the concern should not only be about those in Wuhan. Over 15,000 Nigerians reside in China. Of this figure, 80 percent are in Guangdong Province. Wuhan has nothing less than 100 people. About 10,000 people in Guangdong are affected by the sit at home.

The NIDO President in China, Mrs. Justina Ajala, told me that the same situation is happening in Beijing. She said they have been indoors without going to the office. Even our embassy staff there are living in fear because they don’t know who may be having the virus. It is a complicated issue. Most Nigerians there no longer want to stay. They want to be evacuated so that they can return after the end of the epidemic.

My own business is in Guangdong Province and none of my staff has resumed work. No office is working in Guangzhou. My office and every other office in the city are not working. Government is containing the spread by prolonging the sit at home but nobody is sure of when it would end. If not for the sit at home measure of the Chinese government, more than 100,000 people would have died. The measure is working. In Guangdong City where my business is, they have recorded close to 2000 infections but no Nigerian out of the 10,000 there has been affected. The rate of infection is reducing because of the stringent measures taken by the Chinese government.

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Is NIDO still assisting the affected people?

Some donors are sending money to them. I have also done so on my part. But the people in Wuhan who the money is meant for are saying that they want evacuation, not funds. Even the Nigerian Ambassador to Beijing donated money to them from his purse. I am commending the federal government by supporting them because they need food and drugs to stay healthy. I also want to stand with the students who want to be evacuated.

On economic impact

It is having negative impacts on Nigeria’s economy. I said it in our last discussion that it was going to hit Nigeria’s economy hard. A few days ago, Chairman of NAFDAC raised the alarm that if the situation continues, Nigeria may find it difficult assessing drugs, because 70 percent of the drugs we use is from China. Even India is suffering the effect economically as a result of the drugs imported from China. For us, the effects would be felt because 80 percent of what we use is from China. People cannot get new supplies for products because nothing is working in China now. We hope this does not continue.

China needs all the help since Coronavirus poses public safety threat to the world. In what ways can Nigeria assist China?

I know that other nations have supported in various ways. I am aware that many African governments have donated masks to the country. The population of China is huge and there is shortage of masks that people use in covering their mouths. Why they are calling for help in that area is because the factories that produce them no longer operate because of the sit at home order. Other countries are sending the masks. I don’t know if the Nigerian government has done so.

What China needs is the masks and probably food items because people can’t go to their places of business. Nigerian government should consider sending the items to China. Some African countries have donated to Wuhan City. A doctor in China told a friend of mine to assist in sourcing for the masks in Vietnam or any country. Other countries should assist China because Coronavirus poses a threat to the world.