The Speaker of the Kano State House of Assembly, Hamisu Chidari, is one of more than 200 travellers who were recently declared ‘wanted’ by the Nigerian government for allegedly violating new protocols put in place to halt the spread of coronavirus in the country.
Mr Chidari had reportedly returned to Nigeria via the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja, from Saudi Arabia through an Ethiopian airline on May 17, 2021. He was, however, said to have reportedly presented a coronavirus test result “which was found to be fake” by the health authorities in Nigeria.Sources who are privy to the development but declined to be quoted, described the speaker’s conduct as “embarrassing and condescending.”
One of the sources, who spoke with a PREMIUM TIMES on the phone, said; “From the airport, he was conveyed to the National Women Development Centre along with others where they were expected to be observed for seven days before they could be certified to be free to mingle with Nigerians. And if otherwise, they could be referred for further procedures.
“But when the speaker got to the centre he said he did not like the place and offered to isolate himself at the Nicon Luxury Hotel in Abuja. But he never did. He betrayed the authority’s trust by escaping to unknown whereabouts since that day and so he couldn’t be observed.
But the spokesperson to the Kano State House of Assembly, Uba Abdullahi, who offered to help get his reaction said though he was unsure of the speaker’s itinerary within the stipulated period, “he would have expected the committee to have called on the speaker personally before making public the allegation”.
On Sunday, Mr Abdullahi said he would reach out to the speaker “for his own side of the story” and promised to get back to PREMIUM TIMES. He is yet to do so as of Monday morning when this story was filed.
He, however, said; “The presidential committee, since they are effective in all ramifications across the country, why didn’t they call him first of all? And the subsequent issue is that since he came back from such a trip, why didn’t you as a journalist ‘corresponded’ directly to him? So, now that is how many days that you said he did not respond, you are trying to respond.”
Mr Abdullahi later advised the reporter to visit him in Kano “directly so that we can talk.”
But when he was asked to reply via the telephone channel, the spokesman said he would try to find out the details from officials of the assembly “who might have the details of the information required”.
“But you should know that the parliamentary staff association is on strike and it would be difficult to get any official. So I will have to see the speaker himself, and also the clerk of the house. So I will get back to you,” he added.
Meanwhile, when asked whether the committee reached out to the speaker before making public the allegation, the spokesman for the office of the SGF, Willy Bassey, said his office was only requested to make the list public.
“I wouldn’t know who are on the list, and I am not sure many people did. I think it only reflects the sincerity of the committee in executing the task,” he said on the phone.
The director of port health service at the federal ministry of health, Jeffery Okatubor, also declined comment on the matter, saying he would need to secure the approval of the ministry’s permanent secretary before he could make any comment.
Mr Chidari was elected the speaker on December 15, 2020 following the resignation of his predecessor, AbdlAziz Gafasa.
On May 1, the Nigerian government issued a fresh travel advisory for passengers arriving the country from three countries that were described as “restricted” following the discovery of new variants and subsequent spike being recorded in the coronavirus infections in these nations.
The countries are Brazil, Turkey and India.
The protocol, which took effect on May 4, noted that “passengers arriving from/or that have visited any of these three countries within fourteen (14) days prior to the visit to Nigeria, are required to follow mandatory arrival quarantine and testing protocols in designated facilities.”
The precautionary measures, the committee said, were necessary steps aimed at mitigating the risk of importation of variants of concern and “break the chain of transmission to the population.”
But on May 23, the committee described as shocking, the decision by some identified travellers to evade the protocols.
The statement read in part; “The Presidential Steering Committee (PSC) has, however, observed that while most of the arriving passengers dutifully observed the guidelines, some (Nigerians and foreigners) have violated them in contravention of the provisions of the CORONAVIRUS (COVID-19) HEALTH REGULATIONS PROTECTION, 2021.
Accordingly, the underlisted persons who arrived in Nigeria between 8th May 2021 and 15th May 2021 through the Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Lagos and Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja, and whose names and passport numbers are displayed, have been declared Persons of Interest (POI) on account of posing considerable danger to overall public health and for the violation of Nigeria COVID-19 travel protocol by evading the mandatory 7-day quarantine for persons arriving from restricted countries.”
The government, therefore, called on Nigerians to beware of the individuals, declaring them as persons of interest who “constitute an immediate health hazard to the society.”
“They must therefore transport themselves safely, to the nearest state public health departments within 48hrs of this notice for immediate evaluation and call the Port Health Services, Federal Ministry of Health on 08036134672 or 08032461990 for further directions,” the statement added.
‘Punishment awaiting offenders’
The committee said the offenders would not be treated with kid gloves, accusing them of frustrating the efforts of committed Nigerians in the fight against the spread of the disease.
The committee, therefore, said the concerned violators shall face regulatory sanctions including but not limited to, “disabling their travel passports for a period not less than one year; cancelation of visas or permits of foreigners that have abused our hospitality; and prosecution under the 2021 Health Protection Regulations.”
Lagos blows hot
Meanwhile, the Lagos State government has reeled out punishment awaiting the identified offenders who reportedly entered the state through the Muritala Muhammed International Airport.
Addressing journalists at the weekend, the state’s commissioner for health, Akin Abayomi, said any Nigerian found on the list would have his or her passport deactivated for a minimum of one year, and in the case of foreigners, their resident permits would be withdrawn and that they would be deported.
Mr Abayomi added that all the violators would also face the penalties of the Coronavirus Pandemic Law 2021 of Lagos State, which could lead to one-year imprisonment term and a fine of N500,000.
He said; “We have isolated 433 passengers in our various accredited hotels and facilities; 262 are in isolation and 154 passengers have been discharged with a negative COVID-19 test. Nine have tested positive and successfully isolated to prevent community transmission. Of the remaining 135 passengers, 119 have refused isolation and 16 are unaccounted for.
“The families of those that have refused to be isolated should appeal to their loved ones to return for testing and isolation