A former All Progressives Congress (APC) aspirant in the 2019 presidential election, Chief Charles Udeogaranya, has called on President Muhammadu Buhari to ease travel restrictions allow flights between Nigeria and some countries, declaring that it is better to ‘fight COVID-19 with our belly full than on an empty stomach.’
Chief Udeogaranya, who is a social commentator, wants Buhari to consider easing travel restrictions so that Nigerian businessman and manufacturers can source goods and essential parts to keep the business community alive while the fight against COVID-19 pandemic progresses, insisting that countries like the USA had long taken that path.
‘Let’s fight COVID-19 with our belly full than on an empty stomach,’ he declared.
‘I commend our federal and state governments and the international community for their efforts at fighting COVID-19, regardless of the myriads of criticism and setbacks.
‘But most importantly, I appeal to President Muhammadu Buhari and the Federal Government of Nigeria to consider the expeditious re-opening of the Nigeria-China business space without delay.
‘The prolonged lockdown of business travel to China amounts to a complete shutdown of your citizens’ main source of livelihood.
‘I am particularly concerned about China because that’s where many in the manufacturing sector import most of their affordable machinery and service parts; that is also where the many importers and those in the distributive trade source most of their goods and merchandise.
‘Nigeria as a government must reckon that China is the biggest creator of jobs in Nigeria in terms of the percentage of Nigerians in the business world that trades in products made in China or made in Nigeria with Chinese machinery, which also flows into many African nations; they import their goods from the Asian country and then distribute in Nigerian and in various African countries.
‘If you observe closely, Nigerian businessmen and women have taken over goods and commodities distribution all over Africa and have since given the Indians and Lebanese, who used to be giants in that field a good run for their money; and now, many of them have been chased out of the distributive market on the continent. Little wonder some of them have also attracted commensurate envy, but take solace only in the huge foreign exchange they bring home.’
Udeogaranya advised the Federal Government to set up a committee to oversee the gradual easing of the travel ban, saying: ‘I would advise that a high-powered ministerial team comprising representatives of the Ministries of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Commerce, Health and the Central Bank of Nigeria and other relevant agencies, be formed to select a few nations that are deemed safest for now with regard to COVID-19 pandemic as a good business destination for Nigerians. Equally, it might be a good idea to create a health sub-unit of the team to cater to the good health needs of the travellers who might be infected. In the same vein, this special ministerial team, when created, is expected to work collaboratively with embassies of various destination countries of choice with a view to developing an agreeable pact on how best to fast track the reopening of international travels between Nigeria and the affected nations of which China is probably the one on the list where common goods can be sourced.
‘It is also worthy to note countries like the USA have adopted a similar measure. Although the USA earlier issued an international travel ban, it still operates minimal flight schedules to China,’ he noted.