News filtered in that some Chinese health workers are coming to Nigeria to team up with their Nigerian counterparts in the battle against COVID-19. According to the Director General of National Orientation Agency (NOA), Garba Abari, the 18-man Chinese medical team is coming to Nigeria to share their experience with the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) on how China handled and subdued COVID-19 epidemics. According to him, these Chinese experts are not coming over to Nigeria to take over the jobs of Nigerian health workers.
This announcement came as a shock to Nigerian health workers. It was instantly criticised and rejected by Nigerian Medical Association (NMA) and Nigerian Association of Resident Doctors (NARD). According to the NMA president, Dr. Francis Adedayo Faduyile, the intention of the federal government (FG) to invite Chinese medical officers is an embarrassment to NMA members and other health workers that are in the frontline of the battle against COVID-19.
Dr. Faduyile said that FG did not consult the association before taking that decision and as such, failed to take cognizance of the law regulating the practice of medicine in Nigerian as enshrined in the Medical and Dental Council Act. He also asserted that the members of the Chinese medical team, if at all they come into the country, will not be allowed to have access to any Nigerian patient unless they are certified and authorized by the Medical and Dental Council of Nigeria. Dr. Faduyile insists that either FG withdraw its invitation to the Chinese health workers or the NMA will review the participation of its members in the fight against COVID-19.
The stand of NMA may be seen as bordering on self-esteem and the desire to be acknowledged. It is quite unfair that the FG failed to notify the association of its intention to bring in foreigners to work side by side with the members. This is truly an oversight by the FG though it could be resolved immediately if necessary actions are taken. But then, the stand of NARD threw more light on why Nigerian medical workers are uncomfortable with working with the Chinese team.
According to Dr. Sokomba Aliyu, the NARD president, the following are cogent reasons why the NARD members stand against Chinese medical teams being allowed into the country:
- Health Hazard: According to Sokomba, it is suicidal for FG to open Nigeria’s international borders to Chinese nationals. He said that Italy made that mistake and it “proved socio-economically suicidal” for the country. He did not go further on how this could happen but further reasons given by him could give one a glimpse into what he meant.
- Unreliability: Sokomba said that the “crafty Chinese scientists” could not be trusted because they “unreliably and covertly” managed information around the disease from the onset. He said that the Chinese refused to release information on the origin, characteristics and other virulent features of the virus, which could have helped other nations to prepare themselves very well to battle the epidemics when it hits them. For this reason alone, Sokomba insists that Chinese scientists and medical professionals cannot be trusted to come near Nigerian patients.
- Conspiracy Theories: As Sokombo asserts, one of the conspiracy theories flying around holds that COVID-19 is “a tool for both socio-political and economic manipulation and dominance”. When one places this theory side-by-side with the Chinese refusal to release much needed information before this disease became pandemic, one could not but wonder if the Chinese health workers could be trusted truly.
- Unemployed Health Workers: Sokombo insisted that Nigeria has a lot of unemployed health workers that could be hastily employed by the FG so that there will be more professional hands in the battle against the ailment. He said that most countries battling this disease accelerated the graduation of their final year medical students and did not seek for help from the Chinese health workers. He said that it is insensitive for the FG to import health workers from China when there are Nigerians that could do the work perfectly well, if given the opportunity.
- Suspicion: Sokombo expressed his suspicion towards the intention of the FG in bringing in the Chinese when the Nigerian health sector has not yet been overwhelmed. He said that if the FG had recruited all available health workers and there is still need for more, bringing in Chinese to fill the gap wouldn’t have been suspicious.
Considering the arguments given by the FG, the NMA and the NARD may make it difficult for ordinary Nigerians to take a stand right now. Everyone knows that COVID-19 spreads like wildfire when it runs out of control. For that reason alone, Nigerians wouldn’t mind if their medical officers obtain professional advice from experienced medical officers that have combated the disease and won. But thinking about the arguments given by the NARD president is enough to send fear down our spines. The question that is hard to answer now is, “What if these Chinese professionals came and accelerated the spread of the disease?”
Of course it may just be fear from the conspiracy theories flying around that is making us hold back. Or it could be our suspicion because of how China denied the whole world information on the disease. Whatever the reason might be, there is nothing wrong with the medical practitioners in Nigeria being pensive about the coming of this Chinese medical team.
It will therefore be to the best interest of all if FG could find a common ground between their invited guests and Nigerian health workers so as to avoid a face-off between the FG and the Nigerian health workers or between the Nigerian and the Chinese health workers. The experiences of the Chinese health workers are needed but they mustn’t come to Nigeria to share it. They can do that through Global MediXchange for Combating COVID-19 (GMCC), a platform opened by Jack Ma for medical practitioners to compare notes and share knowledge about Coronavirus. Besides Nigeria does not have a severe case of COVID-19, and the Nigerian doctors are managing the existing cases very well. In other words, Nigeria is not yet in dire need of these Chinese professionals.