The Nigerian Government has reacted to the decision of the United Kingdom, UK, to put Nigeria on its red list over the Omicron variant of COVID-19.
Lai Mohammed, the Minister of Information and Culture, expressed hope that the UK government would immediately review and rescind its decision.
Addressing a press conference in Abuja on Monday, Mohammed said the UK government’s decision was unjust, unfair, punitive, indefensible, and discriminatory.
The minister said the decision was not driven by science.
According to Mohammed:
“As you are aware, Britain has put Nigeria on its red list and banned foreign travels from our country. This is as a result of the discovery of COVID-19 cases, the Omicron variant, in Nigeria. Britain now joins other countries, including Canada, which have taken similar action against Nigeria over Omicron.
“Let me say straight away that it’s up to the Presidential Steering Committee (PSC) to respond to this action by the British Government and others, and I have no doubt that the committee will respond appropriately.
“However, as the spokesman for the Federal Government, I can say, without mincing words, that the decision by the British Government to put Nigeria on the red list, just because of less than two dozen cases of Omicron which, by the way, did not originate in Nigeria, is unjust, unfair, punitive, indefensible and discriminatory. The decision is also not driven by science.
“How do you slam this kind of discriminatory action on a country of 200 million people, just because of less than two dozen cases? Whereas British citizens and residents are allowed to come in from Nigeria, non-residents from the same country are banned.
“The two groups are coming from the same country, but being subjected to different conditions. Why won’t Britain allow people in both categories to come in, and be subjected to the same conditions of testing and quarantine?
“This is why this decision to ban travelers from Nigeria, who are neither citizens nor residents, is grossly discriminatory and punitive.
“Gentlemen, let me use this opportunity to highlight the fact that travel ban, the type that has been slammed on some African countries, is a knee-jerk reaction that can only be detrimental to our quest to most conclusively tackle this pandemic.
“Instead of these reflex responses that are driven by fear, rather than science, why can’t the world take a serious look at the issue of access to vaccines, and ensure that it is based on the principles grounded in the right of every human to enjoy the highest attainable standard of health without discrimination on the basis of race, religion, political belief, economic or any other social condition.
“Many developed countries have used the advantage of their enormous resources or relationship to sign agreements with manufacturers to supply their countries with vaccines ahead of making them available for use by other countries.
“Even before the clinical trials were completed, millions of doses of the most promising vaccines have been bought by Britain, US, Japan and the EU.
“Some of these countries bought doses five times the size of their population, while others, mostly in Africa, have little or no access to vaccines.
“This is the real issue to address, instead of choosing the easy path of travel bans, which the UN Secretary General called Travel Apartheid. Let the world know that no one is safe until everyone is safe.
“We sincerely hope the British Government will immediately review the decision to put Nigeria on its red list and rescind it immediately.
“Nigeria has handled the Covid-19 pandemic with utmost responsibility and based on science, and has rightly earned global accolades for its efforts. Nigeria does not belong on any country’s red list.”