Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila

The House of Representatives, Nigeria’s lower legislative chamber has expressed grave concerns over the sudden disappearance of 15 Chinese health workers, comprising doctors and nurses  and three other technical workers, saying it would be left with no other choice than to summon the Chinese Ambassador, Zhou Pingjian.

The house is alarmed by a recent statement credited to the Minister of Health and a top member of Presidential Task Force on COVID-19, Dr. Osagie Ehanire, where he claimed he does not know the whereabouts of the Chinese experts, who came to the country on the invitation of the PTF to assist in the fight against COVID-19, describing such as serious threat to national security.

Member of the house, Dachung Bugos, who spoke in an interview monitored on Channels TV, disclosed that the legislators are even more worried by the response of the Minister of Information, Lai Mohammed, who claimed that team merely came to help convert the Thisday Dome donated to the Federal Government as an isolation centre, describing it as a national embarrassment.

He expressed worries that the same government officials, who stoutly defended the invitation of the doctors even when some indigenous medical practitioners opposed the move, are now denying any knowledge of their whereabouts, which suggests that some might be wrong somewhere, warning that the house would not sit and watch helplessly.

   According him, in the face of the prevailing circumstances, the house will have no choice but to summon the Chinese Ambassador to come and explain to Nigerians where his citizens, who he went to the airport to welcome gleefully, arguing that if he (the Ambassador) suspected that the whereabouts of the his citizens are not clear to him, he would have raised the alarm.

“We need to summon them to tell us where they have been, we need to know their qualifications, their manifest, who they have interacted or interfaced with because it is necessary we investigate all these because their sudden disappearance is a major source of concern to our national security.

“Three days before the arrival of the Chinese doctors on April 8, 2020, precisely on April 5, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila asked members of the taskforce relevant questions on the visit of the doctors and he was assured that all measures had been put in place for their arrival and stay and later the same people are telling Nigerians that they do not know the whereabouts of the same doctors they invited should be worrisome to any well-meaning Nigerian”, Bugos also said.

He described as a national embarrassment claims by the Minister of Information that the Chinese medics came to convert the Thisday Dome to an isolation centre, which he said simply means that Nigeria is not serious as she could fix isolation centres for her citizens.

Recall that the Minister of Health had Thursday last week, requested reporters not to bother his ministry over the whereabouts of Chinese medical experts who came into Nigeria to support the fight against COVID-19.

Ehanire, while responding to questions at the daily briefing of the PTF said the medical personnel are not guests of the federal government but CCECC, a Chinese construction company.

Some Nigerians had kicked against the federal government’s decision to invite the medical experts, saying the country had enough doctors to tackle the COVID-19 pandemic.

For instance, the Nigerian Medical Association NMA described the move as “a thing of embarrassment to the membership of the association and other health workers who are giving their best in the fight against COVID-19 pandemic under deplorable working conditions.”

But Ehanire had however, insisted then that the experts would be sharing their experience after making progress in the fight against the virus.

“The Chinese medics will be providing technical support to Nigeria in its fight against COVID-19, and also sharing experiential strategies of how their country curtailed the spread of the virus,” he had said.

When asked by a reporter about the whereabouts of the invited Chinese, Ehanire said he would be glad not to be asked about the whereabouts of the medical team.

“I want to explain that first of all, I think not all of them are doctors and I heard that some of them are technicians but they are staff of CCECC.

“The ministry of health is not their host, so we cannot always explain what happened to them or where they are,” he said.

He had also noted that there seems to be a lot of interest in these doctors but they are staff of a company. I would be very happy if you do not ask me where they are.

“They are not really our guests in that sense but we have been able to learn some things from them. We shared ideas of what they did in their country in managing COVID-19.”, the Minister had also said last week.