Editorial: Dealing with defaulters of covid-19 protocols at Nigeria airports

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By the fall of September 2021, the Presidential Steering Committee (PSC) on Covid-19 announced a ban it placed over 2,000 Nigerians and foreigners from traveling abroad and into the country. The Committee said the ban was necessary following the alleged evasion of the Coronavirus Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) test at the nation’s international airports.

The PSC had in May 2021, issued a Travel Advisory for Passengers arriving in Nigeria from Brazil, India and Turkey, some of the countries tagged high-risk due to the prevalence of the coronavirus pandemic in those countries, in order to mitigate the risk of importation of variants of concern and breaking the chain of transmission to the population. According to the measures, passengers arriving from/or that have visited any of the three countries within fourteen (14) days prior to the visit to Nigeria, were required to follow mandatory arrival quarantine and testing protocols in designated facilities.

In spite the government’s directives, some Nigerians and foreigners flouted the measures. The National Incident Manager (NIM) of the PSC, Mukhtar Muhammad believed that the pasting of the names of these 2000 Nigerians and foreigners at all major federal medical facilities where medical experts were assigned to give care to those that had travelled into the country during the COVID-19 third wave is enough deterrent.

Even if their passports are seized and confiscated for a year, as Muhammad had said, it is not enough punishment, considering the untold hardship the pandemic has caused Nigerians who cannot even afford to travel out of the country.

While we commend the government for taking such measure, we hold categorically that such retributive measure is nothing but a tap on the wrist for such grievous flouting of medical protocol during a global battle with COVID-19 pandemic.

IMPACT NEWS recalled that the sudden spread of the virus in the country was as a result of some Nigerians and foreigners alike disregarding government directive to observe some travel protocols in order not to endanger the health and lives of Nigerians. Till this moment we regret that the Federal Government has refused to deem it necessary to prosecute such, perhaps because they are highly placed and families of those in power.

We make bold to say, that the spread of the disease in the country was caused by the elites, who believe the laws of the country are at their base. We wonder what effect pasting of names would have on the defaulters.

We also wondered if the government had by any means questioned how these defaulters amounting to whooping 2000 evaded the immigration and health officials at the airports. These Nigerians and foreigners are not ghost, and it definitely takes two to tango. For the defaulters to have passed through these officials and escaped proper checks, in a clime where laws are respected and hold in high regards, heads would have rolled but for Nigeria, it is otherwise.

The Chairman of the PSC and the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Boss Mustapha, during one of the Committee’s media briefing, said the government is already conducting investigation on the fraudulent activities perpetuated at the international airports by officials extorting money out of those who also wish to evade quarantine requirement.

We urge the Federal Government not to rest on its oars and ensure that the public officials behind the extortion are prosecuted according to the Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Act, while the defaulters are also not shielded. This is the proper deterrent that would speak volume.

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