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Travellers, NCDC and COVID-19 ‘scam’ at airports | The Guardian Nigeria News

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The outbreak of the dreaded COVID-19 pandemics in 2020 got here with its enormous challenges. Aside from tens of millions of dying recorded throughout the globe, the pandemic pressured many companies to go below. Nigeria was not not noted.

To cease the unfold, Nigerians, each younger and outdated, rose in unison to help authorities’s initiatives and stringent protocols. The nation was virtually shut down, as motion was restricted. Authorities launched and enforced the obligatory use of face masks, social distancing and pleaded with Nigerians to enhance on their private hygiene.

The following stage was the plea to residents to go for mass vaccination. Though, some skeptics dragged their ft, because the conspiracy concept surrounding the vaccines raised main issues concerning the uncomfortable side effects people might need after vaccination.

Nevertheless, many Nigerians heeded the recommendation and took the vaccines. Some have taken as much as three jabs to spice up their immunity in opposition to COVID-19.

But, the producers of the vaccines have confessed to the truth that getting vaccinated was no assure to being free from an infection or contraction of COVID-19. This has made those that don’t imagine within the vaccines to changing into extra hardened, in any case, of what use is it, if getting vaccinated can not assure 100% immunity.

The hardest facet of the battle in opposition to COVID-19 in Nigeria is that of going to be examined to find out one’s standing.

Nigerians are made to pay by way of their nostril to get examined. That is accomplished with the specific directive of the nation’s anti-COVID-19 company, the Nationwide Centre for Illness Management (NCDC).

Earlier than one travels out of Nigeria, she or he have to be examined 24 hours to departure date. One has to cough out as a lot as N50, 400, relying on which diagnostic centre you employ. In case you are travelling along with your spouse and kids, it’s a must to pay identical quantity per head.

On return, the identical particular person is subjected to paying one other N50, 400, however whether or not you returned with a COVID-19 certification that explains you might be freed from the illness from the nation you might be getting back from.

Earlier than one boards a Nigeria-bound aircraft, you will need to present proof that you’ve been examined and the outcome adverse. But, NCDC officers wait to ‘extort’ N50, 400 from you on arrival in Lagos, Abuja, Kano, Port Harcourt and different worldwide airports throughout the nation.

Diagnostic centres are spreading in each nook and cranny of Nigeria, with the personnel smiling to the banks on day by day foundation. That is in sharp distinction to what obtains in Cameroun, Nigeria’s japanese neighbour.

Earlier than I departed Lagos for Cameroun to cowl the thirty third Africa Cup of Nations, which Senegal received on February 6, I did my COVID-19 check at a diagnostics Centre in Ikorodu. The outcome got here out adverse the following morning, the day of my flight to Cameroun.

Aimed with my adverse COVID-19 outcome,
I walked into the arrival corridor at Douala Worldwide Airport not anticipating any problem from any quarter for the reason that outcome covers me for twenty-four hours.

An official on the counter initially requested for my Yellow Card, which I produced. Then, he pointed to a piece, the place well being officers, wearing white uniform, had been ready.

On getting there, a woman directed me to sit down down, and with out a lot questions, introduced out the COVID-19 check instrument. Who’s paying for this? I requested, pointing to the adverse COVID-19 outcome I acquired in Lagos lower than 24 hours in the past.

“No fee,” the girl replied. “Simply sit down and do the check.”

Not like the state of affairs in Nigeria, the place it’s a must to watch for about 12 hours earlier than getting the outcome, my COVID-19 check outcome inside Douala airport got here out inside 5 minutes. It was stamped adverse.

I proceeded on my journey to Garoua, a metropolis in far north of Cameroun, the place the Tremendous Eagles performed their group matches.

All journalists and followers, together with members of the varied Supporters Golf equipment, needed to do one other COVID-19 check earlier than all of the matches performed in Garoua. It was free, and it took lower than 5 minutes for every of the outcomes to return out.

The free COVID-19 check to all Nigerian journalists, Supporters Membership members and followers, who had been a part of the AFCON in Cameroun, made me surprise why NCDC officers in Nigeria have to exploit their fellow residents dry within the identify of COVID-19 check.

After spending tens of millions of {dollars} to get their amenities and personnel prepared for the AFCON event, I used to be anticipating the federal government and folks of Cameroun to make use of each avenue to take advantage of cash from all guests by imposing excessive sum of money on all important issues, together with the COVID-19 check. But it surely was not so.

I used to be questioning how a lot the NCDC, and its designated laboratories would have raked, if the AFCON event had taken place in Nigeria.

Lest I overlook, I keep in mind the billions of naira Nigerians of goodwill, company organisations, Foundations, the WHO, the European Union and quite a few Western governments donated to Nigeria to battle COVID-19. The place have these donations gone into?

What quantity of fabric is used for a five- minute check that ought to price a lot in Nigeria? How come COVID-19 check is free in Cameroun and value as a lot as N50,400 in Nigeria? Is it that Cameroun is richer than Nigeria? Who owns the laboratories?

Equally intriguing is the 12-hour delay earlier than outcomes are introduced. From what I witnessed in Cameroun, the place COVID-19 check outcomes had been obtained even earlier than you bought up from the seat you had been examined, there could also be many fraudulent actions surrounding the train in Nigeria.

Earlier than my journey to Cameroun for protection of the AFCON event, I learn on pages of newspapers how the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board (JAMB) returned N3.5 billion to the Federation Account from the surplus generated from its operations through the conduct of Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination (UTME).

In accordance with the report, JAMB additionally returned N3.5 billion to the federal government following the gross sales of ePINs to UTME candidates, bringing the entire remittance by the board to N7 billion.

If JAMB, which receives N3, 500 for ePIN bought to candidates might return such enormous sum of money into the federal government’s account, how a lot has NCDC returned to the federal government from the N50, 400 it will get from each traveller on COVID-19 check?

Tremendous Eagles in coaching forward of their Spherical of 16 match, which they misplaced to Tunisia through the AFCON event in Cameroun Photograph/twitter/NGSuperEagles

When was such cash remitted, if there’s any, and into which account? How a lot has been generated?

Final week, a gentle drama occurred on the Nnamdi Azikiwe Worldwide Airport, Abuja, as officers of the NCDC allegedly humiliated gamers and officers of the Tremendous Falcons over COVID-19 check fee.

The Tremendous Falcons, who had simply accomplished the nation proud by securing a ticket to the 2022 Africa Ladies’s Cup of Nations after defeating the Woman Elephants of Cote d’Ivoire in Abidjan, had been held hostage for over 4 hours contained in the airport.

The nine-time African champions had departed Abidjan a couple of hours after the match, which they received 1-0 and arrived on the worldwide wing of the Abuja airport at midnight solely to be held hostage by the NCDC officers, who allegedly insisted that each one gamers and officers should endure one other spherical of routine assessments and pay a sure sum of money earlier than they might be allowed to go away the airport regardless of them being armed with their COVID check outcomes accomplished lower than 24 hours in the past.

“This can be a nationwide staff that has introduced honours to Nigeria by successful the African ladies’s Nations cup a document 9 instances,” a member of the Falcons’ technical crew stated bitterly.

“These gamers simply defeated their Ivoirian counterparts to qualify for the Nations Cup and all they acquired on arrival is that this inhuman remedy from officers of the NDDC. I believe these women deserve a greater remedy,” the staff’s official acknowledged.

The Sports activities minister, Sunday Dare, and prime officers of the Nigeria Soccer Federation (NFF) had been sad with the state of affairs, which grew to become topic of debate in each native and worldwide media organisations. Some media outfits merely tagged it ‘Pleasure in Abidjan, agony in Abuja.’

Again to my story and travail within the arms of NCDC’s officers throughout protection of AFCON event.

After the Tremendous Eagles had been knocked out by Tunisia within the spherical of 16, I relocated from Garoua to Douala to proceed my protection of the event. The AFCON quickly entered its house stretch and we (few Nigerian journalists left in Cameroun) had been wanting ahead to returning house.

My journey agent forwarded a directive from an airline saying intending passengers should present proof of a adverse COVID check from the nation the flight is originating from (on this case, Cameroun) and on arrival in Lagos, the passengers will undergo one other check on the airport.

I then requested whether or not the airline or the NCDC that gave the order would bear the price of the check. The agent stated it will be at my expense (the passenger). I requested once more, what could be the results of refusal to pay or perform one other check in Lagos? Her response? “They are going to seize your passport for six months.”

Numerous issues began to run by way of my mind. How can a reporter, who went for a global task, spent all his cash and managing on the right way to get the following meal, reserve N50,400 to be given to the NCDC officers on arrival, when one already had a adverse results of COVID-19 check from the nation the flight is originating from?

Is it proper for one to proceed to really feel the ache of corruption and poor management even when one is much away from house? No one was round me to offer quick reply.

A day to my departure from Cameroun, I took a taxi to a laboratory at Gyneco-Obstetrics and Pediatric Hospital, which is positioned in Littoral Area in Douala for my pre-departure check.

“It’s free,” a woman on obligation, stated.

The outcome got here out adverse at about 8.06 am within the morning, a couple of hours to my departure to Lagos by way of Lome, Togo.

On the Gnassingbe Eyadema Worldwide Airport in Lome, the place I spent about three hours on transit, there was no point out of COVID-19 check outcome, neither was I instructed to make any fee.

However the state of affairs modified quickly on arrival on the Murtala Muhammed Worldwide Airport, Lagos. Some hefty NCDC officers, sporting robust faces like people who find themselves making ready for a warfront, had been readily available to obtain all of the passengers.

“The place is your receipt of fee for COVID-19 check? One among them requested me, spreading out his two arms to stop me from taking a step additional.

I rapidly introduced out my telephone to indicate the ‘aggressive’ NCDC official the adverse results of the check, which got here out adverse in Douala lower than six hours earlier.

“No, it’s a must to pay your cash earlier than you may be allowed to step out of this place,” he insisted, directing me to step backward.

I obeyed, and the ready recreation began. Thirty minutes, one hour, and no NCDC official had been able to hearken to any story from anybody and not using a receipt of fee.

Some individuals, who couldn’t bear the ready recreation, coupled with the warmth contained in the airport, paid the cash, however no check was performed.

I insisted on not paying any kobo since I already had my adverse check lower than six hours in the past. At some extent, I used to be able to go tough with any official, however a woman in her mid 50s seen my anger and politely stated: “Oga, you’ll be able to go.”

One of many travellers, who stated he parted with the sum of N48, 500 to NCDC officers on the airport, rained curses on these ‘manipulating the system’ for his or her egocentric curiosity in Nigeria.

“It’s actually unhappy that in our nation, some Nigerians have all the time seemed for an avenue to take advantage of their fellow residents, particularly vacationers. Everywhere in the world, the worth of the PCR has been diminished considerably.

“Within the nation the place I’m resident, early final 12 months, the fee was about an equal of N50, 000; however steadily the worth was diminished. As at September 2021, after I was touring to Nigeria, I paid an equal of N12,000 for the pre-departure PCR. However attending to Nigeria, I paid over N40, 000 and on my return, I paid simply an equal of N5, 000. Disgrace on our authorities,” he stated.

Members of the Tremendous Eagles Supporters Membership…in Garoua (Photograph by Daniel BELOUMOU OLOMO / AFP)

Two of my colleagues, who departed Douala airport with their adverse COVID-19 check outcome on the identical time with me, however on a special flight, equally parted with N48, 500 every on arrival in Lagos. They didn’t endure any check.

The concern of ‘intimidation and harassment’ by NCDC officers in Lagos over fee of N50, 400 really had pressured another Nigerian journalists, who lined the AFCON event, to desert their return ticket for highway journey by way of Yola.

One among them stated in a chat with The Guardian: “I can’t afford to pay one other N50, 400 for COVID-19 check in Lagos, therefore I made a decision to journey by highway to Yola.”

In August final 12 months, after I travelled to Nairobi, Kenya, to cowl the World U-20 Athletics Championship, I had a tough encounter with the identical ‘cash acutely aware’ NCDC officers on return to Lagos.

I additionally did my pre-departure COVID-19 check in Nairobi a day earlier, solely to be held hostage by NCDC officers, who insisted I need to pay N50,400 on the airport in Lagos.

The controversy being generated by this ‘daylight exploits’ however, the Nigeria Centre for Illness Management (NCDC) appears not able to again down.

Talking with The Guardian on the problem through the week, the Head, Threat Communication Division, NCDC, Dr. Yahya Disu, acknowledged these accusing the physique of sharp practices are unaware of how they function.

“Let me begin by saying that Nigeria doesn’t pressure anyone to do a COVID-19 check earlier than you journey in another country. That’s strictly the protocol of the nation you might be travelling to. You might be solely required to do a pre-departure check when you’re coming into Nigeria.”

Dr. Disu continued: “On the preliminary stage, when the Federal Authorities lifted journey ban, the requirement was for anyone coming into the nation to do the check 72 hours earlier than your arrival. It was later diminished to 24 hours. Then, it was the federal government that was bearing the price of the check, which was primarily for the sick individuals.

“When the federal government re-opened the bounders, it was the general public that got here up with the thought of individuals paying for the check to allow them do their companies. If you understand you need to journey for enterprise, assembly or cowl any occasion outdoors the shores of Nigeria, it’s a must to bear the fee in order to cut back the monetary burden on authorities.

“I need to repeat that testing for travellers particularly is completed in non-public laboratories and personal laboratories do cost for it. We don’t understand how a lot they cost for the check. However if you happen to go to the NCDC web site, you will notice the non-public laboratories authorised for testing in Nigeria listed on the market, and the laboratories inside our community.

“Now, I would like Nigerians to get the message clear that no matter sum of money they pay for the check doesn’t go into NCDC’s account. It goes straight into the account of the varied laboratories. We don’t have any enterprise with the cash. It’s purely the affair of the laboratories. They use the cash to pay their employees and maintain different essential points. The enterprise of the NCDC is to ensure individuals adjust to the varied protocols put in place by the federal government to reduce the probabilities of individuals bringing COVID-19 into our nation.”

Dr. Disu, nevertheless, admitted that the platform often despatched to travellers to fill for his or her pre-departure check belongs to NCDC. “The platform belongs to NCDC, however as I defined, the cash paid goes to the varied laboratories.”

Requested why NCDC officers on the varied airports connect a lot significance to the fee of cash, as an alternative of focusing their consideration on monitoring and stopping individuals with signs of COVID-19 from getting into the nation, Dr. Disu stated:

“Our officers are often on the airport to make sure that individuals adjust to the protocols, together with the fee of cash. It’s because, if individuals don’t pay, there is no such thing as a assure they’ll do the check as soon as they go into their varied locations. Each Nigerian has a job to play so far as the battle in opposition to the unfold of COVID-19 is anxious. In case you are absolutely vaccinated, that’s, take the primary and second jabs earlier than coming into the nation, it’ll go a great distance in lowering the unfold of COVID-19,” Disu acknowledged.



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