The Federal Government on Monday demanded that Britain rescind the ban imposed on Nigerian travellers over Omicron variant of COVID-19, saying that putting the country on the red list is “unjust, unfair, divisive, indefensible and discriminatory.”
Addressing a press conference in his office in Abuja, Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, wondered why residents who travel to Britain will be allowed into the country to quarantine and test while Nigerians are not allowed the same treatment.
He said it is wrong to impose such punishment on a population of 200 million people because of a few cases of Omicron variant that did not originate in the country.
While leaving the decision on whether to respond in kind to the Presidential Steering Committee (PSC) on COVID-19, Mohammed described the ban on African countries as a knee-jerk reaction which is capable of affecting the efforts to control the virus on the continent. He said rather than ban countries, developed world should look critically into the issue of vaccine equity, noting that “unless everyone is safe no one is safe.”
The minister added, “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, Omicron variant, in Nigeria. Britain now joins other countries, including Canada, that have taken a similar action against Nigeria over Omicron.
“Let me say straight away that it’s up to the 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.
On the recent visit of South African delegation led by President Cyril Ramaphosa to Nigeria despite South African having just confirmed the Omicron variant in the country, Mohammed said the visit was not stopped because the Federal Government did not want to act in hysteria and panic.
He said cancelling the South African delegation would have lent credence to Britain’s action on Nigeria.