By Mathew Dadiya, Abuja
The Federal government Wednesday, announced entry ban into the country for travellers from 13 countries namely: China, Italy, Iran, South Korea, Spain, Japan, France, Germany, Norway, the United States of America, the United Kingdom, Netherlands and Switzerland.
The Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Mr. Boss Mustapha, had earlier announced the ban and the Minister of Interior, Rauf Aregbesola also announced the cancellation of the visas, while briefing State House correspondents after the Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.
Aregbesola said that the decision was reached during the FEC meeting with the approval of President Muhammadu Buhari as a precautionary measure to curtail the spread of COVID-19 pandemic.
According to him, the entry ban and visa cancellation will last for four weeks subject to the assessment of the level of the pandemic.
Mustapha had told newsmen earlier that the affected countries were those with over 1,000 cases of COVID-19.
“The Federal Government of Nigeria is restricting entry into the country for travellers from the following 13 countries; China, Italy, Iran, South Korea, Spain, Japan, France, Germany, Norway, the United States of America, the United Kingdom, Netherlands and Switzerland. These are all countries with over 1,000 case domestically.
“All persons arriving in Nigeria who might have visited these countries, 0fteen days prior to such arrival, will be subjected to supervised self-isolation and testing for 14 days. The Federal Government is temporarily suspending the issuance of all visas on arrival,” Mustapha said.
He also counseling all Nigerians to cancel or postpone all non-essential travels to these countries.
He also urged Public Health Authorities of countries with high burden to conduct diligent departure screening of passengers and also endorses this travel advisories to their nationals to postpone travels to Nigeria.
The SGF said the restrictions will come into effect from Saturday, 21st March, 2020 for four weeks subject to review.
Aregbesola said: In addition to the measures announced by the secretary to the government of federation, the federal government of Nigeria is restricting entry into the country for travelers from the 13 countries.
These are all countries with over 1,000 case of the virus domestically.
”What this really means is that we are suspending issuance of visas and we are canceling all visas already issued to citizens or travelers from these nations.It will take effect from Saturday, March 21st and will last for four weeks for the time being, while development will dictate what will happen thereafter.”
He said that the government was considering other measures and would be made public at the appropriate time.
Asked if the government was outrightly banning flights from the affected countries, Aregbesola said: “precisely yes. Beyond that we are suspending insurance of visa from citizens and travels from those nations as well as canceling already issued visas. So there is no ambiguity at all, it is clear. We are no longer allowing flights from those citizens for now.”
On Nigerians abroad returning home, he said: “Well, I am not a lawyer but flights from those nations can no longer enter Nigeria with effect from Saturday.”
On possible job loss of ground staff or salary slash, the Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed said: “This is a national emergency. We are talking about national interest now and I believe that what is most important for us is to save millions of Nigerians not just from their own jobs but save their lives. I think if put on the balance it’s clear which option should be adopted. Of course it will bring some hardship as it is bringing in other parts of the world but when you put it on the balance the option is very clear and the interest of Nigeria is paramount and superior to any other personal interest.”
On why implementation of flight ban will wait till Saturday despite the danger posed by the various, Mohammed said: “Because normally there is what is called NOTAM – Notice To All Airmen. If you want to issue a kind of restrictions like this you give notice more than 24 hours to all airmen so that they will know when to position their flights and for safety and security reasons.
“For instance if an aircraft as taken off now you cannot ask it to go back mid air.”
On if there will be restrictions in religious gathering, the information minister said there is a presidential Taskforce on COVID-19 and a multi-sectoral emergency operation committee by the National Center for Disease Control (NCDC), who have been daily briefing Nigerians as to the development of the virus.
He said: “As it is necessary announcement will be made regarding social distancing, personal hygiene as at when due.
“But the message is that Nigerians should take ownership of this pandemic and we should self-regulate. A lot of decisions have been taken by other countries which shows that when there is national interest and the safety of people, all other matters pal to insignificance. But we will let you know when such decision will be taken.”
On when the President will address the nation, Mohammed, when it is appropriate Mr. President will address the nation. But I think what you want to hear from Mr. President are the kind of things we are telling you. This is not to preempt or second guess Mr. President, I think he will do the needful.”