Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, on Friday in Abuja announced that the Federal Government would not stop Nigerians from travelling to China or any other country where coronavirus has manifested.
He made this known while addressing newsmen shortly after a meeting of the inter ministerial and multi-sectoral committee on coronavirus held at the Ministry of Health headquarters.
The announcement comes two days after the Minister of Health, Osagie Ehanire, issued a travel warning advising Nigerians to put off any trip to China or countries affected by the widely spreading disease.
But Mohammed said that rather than impose travel ban, there will be travel advisory that will help Nigerians who wished to visit China to do so without any encumbrances to their health and wellbeing.
“We know it is a bit difficult to ban people from travelling. Another thing is that this is not a basis to stigmatise people who come from there. Even if we have Nigerians who are there, unless they indicate interest that they want to come home, we can’t force them.
“I know we have Nigerians in Wuhan; our Embassy in China has confirmed that we have about 16 Nigerians in Wuhan and they are in touch with them. They have, however, not indicated their interest to come home. They will, however, contact our embassy if they like to come home,” he said.
The minister said there was need for the general public to be enlightened and for Nigerians travelling to be absolutely transparent.
“We need a lot of public enlightenment. We need to let people who travel know that there is the need for absolute transparency and absolute honesty when they are filling out forms.
“Some people don’t take the forms seriously and they do mislead authorities when they are asked to declare their status.
“One of the major advantages of the declaration of global emergency for coronavirus by WHO is that they understand that combating it can be really expensive and there are states that cannot afford it.
“But there are partners that can help such countries. But right now, we are in the stage of working together inter-ministerially to make sure we address the epidemic,” he said.
The coronavirus committee is made up of several line ministries, including Health, Aviation, Transport, Information and Culture, Police Affairs, Internal Affairs, Agriculture and Federal Capital Territory (FCT).
Also, the committee involves various government agencies and parastatals as well as state governors where international airports are located, Lagos, Enugu, Rivers and Kano.
The World Health Organisation has declared the coronavirus as a public health emergency of international concern.