Flight Restrictions: HURIWA Applauds FG; Says It Is Racism To Subject Nigerians To Restrictions

The leading civil rights advocacy group; Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria (HURIWA) has praised the decision of Federal Government of Nigeria to restrict airlines from Canada, the United Kingdom, Saudi Arabia and Argentina into the country.

HURIWA, in a media statement signed by the National Coordinator; Comrade Emmanuel Onwubiko recalled that following the discovery of the new Omicron coronavirus variant in late November, the European Union and countries in the Americas and Asia had announced flight restrictions to many African countries, including Nigeria.

HURIWA also revealed that the hitherto flight restrictions was in total condemnation by many experts as being discriminatory, which the World Health Organisation (WHO) did advise that countries should apply an “evidence-informed and risk-based approach” when deciding on travel measures related to Omicron, including possible screening or quarantine of international passengers, adding that blanket bans do not prevent its spread.

Describing as unfortunate, the knee-jerk reaction of these countries to the Omicron strain, HURIWA noted that that the Federal Government of Nigeria led by His Excellency, President Muhammadu Buhari, GCFR has gotten it right this time by issuing reciprocal restrictions on these countries that had restricted travel by Nigerians because of the Omicron variant of COVID-19.

While calling on other African countries to toe the line of Nigeria, HURIWA stated that it is reprehensible to subject Africans to restrictions because of a variant that did not originate from the continent when Western countries with similar or more cases are not subjected to similar restrictions.

“Instead of adopting sound public health policies, the West is once again resorting to colonial-time practices to isolate Africa. This is more than public health; it is about worldviews in international relations, and our dignity matters. Our leaders have done well to protect it this time rather than travelling around the world with a begging bowl for foreign assistance,” HURIWA extolled.

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Furthermore, HURIWA observed that these kneejerk decisions of the Western Nations were taken when there was still little information on the transmissibility and severity of the Omicron variant, or indeed on its origins, which according to the civil rights group do not reflect a sound public health policy, but long-held prejudices that continue to deny African citizens the right to mobility and the right to healthcare.

“The roots of these blanket travel bans, which the WHO already said will not prevent Omicron spread, go way back to colonial times and reflect twisted perceptions and marginalisation of Africa and Africans.

“It would be recalled that during colonialisation, race-based segregation was imposed across Africa in order to keep “white” officials separate from Africans who were considered to be “carriers” of diseases, such as plague, smallpox, syphilis, sleeping sickness, tuberculosis, malaria, and cholera.

“Seemingly, travel bans are the “modern” versions of these policies and have been often used against Africans. 40 years ago, when the AIDS epidemic broke out, travel and residency restrictions were imposed on people with HIV, despite there being no public health rationale. These restrictions led to deportations, denial of entry into countries, loss of employment, denial of asylum, and increased stigma and discrimination, which disproportionately affected Africans.

“More so, it was this perception that Africa is a “source of disease”, that had driven Western efforts, especially by the media, to “blame” the Omicron variant on South Africa, before enough evidence of its origin was made available. Contradictions in this theory – such as European countries detecting cases of the variant in people who had not travelled to South Africa – have not stopped this drive.

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“The rush to place Nigeria and other Africa countries on travel red-list suggests that African countries have now become the epicentre of COVID-19, when this is far from reality. This not only draws attention away from Western public health failures and rising numbers of infections, but also erases the efforts of African health authorities and local health systems to contain the spread of the virus”, HURIWA explained.

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