Abuja (People’s Daily) -- Controversy and expressions of widely divergent opinions greeted the announcement by Nigeria's Federal Minister of Health, Dr Osagie Enahire, that an 18-member team of Chinese medical experts, including doctors and nurses, are expected in the country to assist in the current fight against the dreaded COVID-19 pandemic.
In addition to the technical team, items such as personal protective equipment (PPE) and ventilators are also expected to arrive from China as assistance to the Nigerian government. The commodities are being provided by the Chinese government in collaboration with the Chinese community living and working in Nigeria.
Such gestures are not new in inter-state relations during emergencies. But there already is apprehension in some quarters largely due to the misinformation disseminated by both the conventional and social media. Nigeria is among about 80 countries selected by Chinese authorities to benefit from medical assistance in the fight against global COVID-19.
Recently, Chinese billionaire and chief executive of Alibaba, Jack Ma, also delivered some medical items and PPEs to the Nigerian government as part of his personal contribution to humanity in the fight against COVID-19. It will be recalled that China itself was being assisted by some members of the international community during its fight against the dreaded scourge which originated in the country’s Wuhan province.
In time of emergencies, countries need one another. And it is for that reason in 2014 during the Ebola outbreak in most parts of West Africa, China became one of the first countries to offer assistance to affected countries until the disease was defeated. At that time, China supplied resources including medical experts and scientists, as well as medical supplies.
According to Hongzhou Lu, one of the Chinese healthcare providers who participated in the exercise in Sierra Leone, the major work done by Chinese experts to combat Ebola in Sierra Leone included regular training of local healthcare providers, attending meetings of WHO experts and visiting treatment centers. This, he said, helped in establishing rules and protocols for fighting the cross-border spread of the disease and preparing medical facilities to admit Ebola patients or those suspected of having the disease.
A global pandemic requires a global response. For, this way, a scourge can be more quickly and easily defeated. Indeed, such an approach is being encouraged by the WHO.
Therefore, the latest Chinese gesture to Nigeria is not unusual or out of place. This is because in recent times the world has witnessed various exchanges of medical personnel, PPEs and other commodities between countries in an effort to defeat a ravaging common enemy that is threatening humanity.
The media is awash with reports of how, during the current pandemic, Russia sent medical assistance to Serbia; Cuba and Ukraine sent doctors to Italy; the United states assisted Ukraine with cash, the UAE assisted Pakistan with medical equipment etc. These are all part of a global response by countries to help one another in a time of need.
China’s offer of assistance to Nigeria, therefore, is not strange and need not be controversial. The world is a global village and people should not be swayed by negativity. In fact, Nigeria needs the Chinese now more than ever because of the experience the Chinese can share.
The entire world witnessed their suffering, the devastation and loss of lives when COVID-19 struck in China. The world was also a witness to their in the valiant efforts to battle against the disease.
The expertise, courage and determination demonstrated by the Chinese in defeating the pandemic is an attestation to the quality of experience China can share with countries grappling with COVID-19. Already, China is supplying many countries around the world with masks, ventilators and medical experts.
Meanwhile, the DG of Nigeria's National Orientation Agency, Garba Abari recently in a radio program cleared the air on claims by some Nigerians that Nigerian authorities are "importing" Chinese doctors to directly take charge of the fight against COVID-19. He explained categorically that the Chinese medical team would be in Nigeria for the purpose of sharing their experience on how the COVID-19 was handled in China.
"Whatever medical team made available to the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) will be faltered and applied to address the peculiar challenges of the country on handing on handing COVID-19 pandemic," he said.
Similarly, chairman of the House Committee on Foreign affairs in Nigeria's parliament, Yusuf Buba Yakub, in a statement, called on Nigerians to take into consideration the bilateral relations, friendship and cooperation agreements between Nigeria and other nations of the world, including international conventions and protocols that bind our nation with other countries across the globe.
The chairman further frowned on some pieces of information being shared by Nigerians without regard to their veracity or otherwise. He added that such actions contribute to spreading falsehood, misinformation, panic and anxiety amongst Nigerians.
(Lawal Sale Maida is a Global Affairs analyst who writes from Abuja)