Nigeria: COVID-19 - We Didn't Ask Madagascar for Cure, They Gave Us - Govt

Wormwood and other herbs dried into an infusion (file photo).
15 May 2020

The Federal Government said yesterday it did not beg Madagascar to supply its COVID-19 syrup to Nigeria, explaining that the country donated the elixir which was accepted in the spirit of African brotherhood.

The government also announced that it has put in place measures to rethink its National Response to COVID-19, saying emerging developments indicated there was need for a change in tactics.

These were disclosed Thursday in Abuja during the daily briefing of the Presidential Task Force, PTF, on COVID-19.

Government added that while it would continue to look inward to see how it could defeat the pandemic, it would, however, also look outward since COVID-19 remained a global disease.

It asked state governments and security operatives to also allow farmers access to their farms as the planting season begins, saying food security was critical to national security.

The Minister of Health, Dr Osagie Ehanire, told journalists to refrain from asking him about the whereabouts of a 15-member Chinese Medical Team which entry into Nigeria on April 9 generated a wave of backlash from Nigerians.

Elixir from Madagascar

Chairman of the PTF and Secretary to the Government of the Federation SGF, Mr Boss Mustapha, dismissed speculations that Nigeria might have asked Madagascar for a supply of its COVID-19 organic, instead of promoting local researchers for a cure.

He said: "The issue of Madagascar. Let me explain that Nigeria did not ask Madagascar for any solution. That has to be very clear because I have seen some narratives out there giving credence to a line of story.

"That, for me, is only distractive. Nigeria did not ask. The Madagascan government decided to airlift quantities meant for African countries and so that of West Africa was airlifted to Guinea-Bissau. So, all the members of ECOWAS have their commodities off-loaded in Guinea-Bissau and that was the one I referred to, that we were making arrangements to evacuate.

"But the impression out there was as if we abandoned homegrown solutions and were looking for Madagascan solution. We did not ask for it, but it was taken in the spirit of brotherly love, or African brotherly love.

"We have asked our ambassador there to establish the location, the quantity etc. He has done that. We have to make an arrangement for its freighting out of Guinea-Bissau. There are no flights, so there are so many things we have to consider.

Food security

Mustapha reminded states and security operatives that farmers were essential workers who should be allowed to access their farms in order to guarantee food security.

He said: "You will recall that when the new measures were rolled out and published, we ensured that certain economic activities pertaining to food production and distribution were exempted. This, for the avoidance of doubts includes farming activities.

"We recognize the fact that we are in the planting season and the nation cannot afford to prevent our hardworking farmers from going to their farms. We, therefore, use this medium to re-emphasize that farmers fall within the list of exemptions and urge state governors, Local Government Authorities and security agencies to please allow them carry out their activities. Our food security is critical to our national security.

Displeased with returnees

"The PTF reported the progress made with the evacuation of some Nigerians from the UAE, UK & USA. We also informed you about the mandatory quarantine protocol. Nigerians have in recent days been served with different audio-visual clips by some of these returnees.

"The PTF is saddened by the conduct of some of the returnees who fail to adhere to the conditions attached to their quarantine. I strongly urge them to obey the rules in the facilities and also urge their friends and relations to recognize the contagious nature of the disease by desisting from visiting them. Complying is in the interest of the visiting relation and in the overall public interest."

Rethinking Nigeria's Response

Director General, Nigeria Centre for Disease Control NCDC, Dr Chikwe Iheakwazu, said Nigeria could not isolate itself in the fight against COVID-19, being a global outbreak.

Iheakwazu said: "It has become clearer to all of us that we will have to live with this virus for a long time to come and living with it means not only saving lives from the virus but also saving lives from all the other things that afflict us. So, we must keep our primary healthcare working.

"The work of the National Primary Healthcare Development Agency has become more important than ever before. There is nothing more important that we should do than look inward but we must also remember that this is not a Nigerian outbreak.

Stop asking me about Chinese doctors

Ehanire said he would really be grateful if Nigerians stopped asking him about the whereabouts of the Chinese medical team.

He said: "On the Chinese doctors, I want to first explain that not all of them were doctors and I think that I heard that some of them are technicians but they are staff of CCECC. The Ministry of Health is not their host. So, we cannot always explain what happened to them or where they are.

"There seems to be a lot of interest in these doctors but they are staff of the company and I think they are on the company visa. So, I will be very happy if you do not ask me about where they are because they are not really our guests in that sense.

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