Governors of the 36 states of the federation have rejected the ban imposed on Nigeria by Canada and the United Kingdom.
In a statement on Tuesday, Chairman of the Nigerian Governors’ Forum (NGF) and Ekiti State Governor, Kayode Fayemi, said it was unfair that Nigeria was listed among countries placed on the travel ban, despite having few cases of the variant detected less than a week ago.
The Nigerian governors said they viewed the action by Canada and UK as precipitate, unfair and discriminatory, and asked the World Health Organisation (WHO) to wade in.
“The NGF, therefore, urges the WHO to intervene in this matter by setting uniform standards that are acceptable to all for banning countries across the globe.
“Omicron still remains relatively unknown globally as it is not yet clear whether it is more transmissible from person to a person compared to other variants including Delta.
“It is very discouraging to note that there are several countries that have reported cases of Omicron similar to or higher than Nigeria’s, that have not been banned from entry to the UK and/Canada.
“Confirmed Omicron cases as of December 3rd, across some countries are Nigeria (3 ); Australia (7); Brazil (3); Germany (9) Israel(4); Italy (9) and Netherlands(16). There is also no evidence that harsh, blanket travel bans will protect the countries that impose them.
“It is ironical that this ban comes at a time when the DG of the WHO, Tedros Ghebreyesus, has advised that ‘rational proportional risk reduction measures’ be taken by countries such as screening passengers prior to departure and/or upon arrival in a country or enforcing a quarantine period.
“As we know, vaccine hesitancy is quite high and for many reasons including disruptive announcements like this which could exacerbate distrust of the vaccine and heighten hesitancy.
“World leaders and stakeholders in the West need to remember that with the COVID-19 pandemic until everyone is free, no one is free. Variants will continue to appear and spread across the globe as long as global herd immunity has not been achieved.
“We call on countries to be guided by science and fairness in setting the criteria for updating their red list. We encourage both public and private stakeholders to continue to support vaccination efforts and address hesitancy. We encourage Nigerians not to be discouraged and to get vaccinated as soon as possible.
“As a platform for the 36 democratically elected governors of the country, the NGF believes it reserves the right to speak for its people. Besides, the NGF was proactive and ahead in the Polio eradication program in Nigeria, in the country’s response to the Ebola virus, and lately in the response against the coronavirus pandemic,” the governors said.
By Saawua Terzungwe,