The controversy over the invitation of the 15 Chinese medical experts to Nigeria took a new dimension on Tuesday as the Minister of Interior, Rauf Aregbesola, said they were in the country to assist in building and equipping isolation centres.
This is contrary to the disclosure by the Minister of Health, Osagie Ehanire, last month that the Chinese medics, comprising doctors, nurses, laboratory technicians and public health managers, were coming to the country to share their knowledge, skills and real-life experiences of fighting COVID-19 with Nigerian health personnel to strengthen the management of cases.
In what appeared to be a recant, Ehanire, last Thursday, said the Chinese medics, who arrived in Nigeria on April 8, were not guests of the Federal Government, but staff of the China Civil Engineering Construction Corporation (CCECC).
Asked about the whereabouts of the Chinese medics, Ehanire had said: “I want to explain first of all that I think not all of them were 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 can’t always explain what happened to them or where they’re.”
But at the briefing of the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 in Abuja on Tuesday, Aregbesola said: “Indeed, 15 Chinese nationals came to Nigeria on 8th of April.
“They’re here on the bill of the CCECC, a Chinese company doing some works for us in Nigeria.
“In conjunction with some Nigerian companies, they agreed to support us in the effort to respond to the pandemic.
“At Idu isolation centre in Abuja, they participated in retrofitting and equipping the isolation centre.
“They equally worked on the Dome project that was handled by the NNPC Construction in conjunction with ThisDay.
“So, those are the locations in which they came to work, both in retrofitting the Idu facility and installing critical essential medical equipment.”
He said the Chinese team came to Nigeria on a 30-day visa issued in Beijing and were still in Nigeria because of the restriction on travel occasioned by the COVID-19 pandemic.