Aidoghie Paulinus, Abuja

The Charge d’Affaires of Nigeria in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Ibim Nkem Charles, has drawn the attention of the Federal Government to a case of a Nigerian, Felix Austin Oyarekhua, who tested positive for COVID-19 in the country.

Oyarekhua, an indigene of Edo State and a staff of Rescue International, a non-governmental organization, according to the envoy, tested positive at Goma Province Region of Democratic Republic of Congo and presently quarantined at a facility in Goma.

In a letter dated April 2, 2020, and addressed to the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ambassador Mustapha Sulaiman, Ibim wrote that Oyarekhua, according to the information received by the mission, was said to have travelled to the DRC by Rwanda Air from Nigeria on March 18, 2020, through Ghana and moved to Goma by road from Kigali, Rwanda.

“It is important to inform that prior to his being checked into the facility, he had gone to hospital for medication after he complained of chest pain. Mr Austin complained that no doctor or nurse attended to him since his arrival at the centre.

“The host government has like every other affected country, taken appropriate measures to contain the virus, one of which was to declare on 27 March, 2020, a four week stay at home order, but shortly thereof, the order was lifted due to the possible fear of increase in prices of household commodities. There is therefore the possibility that the coronavirus pandemic could widely spread in Kinshasa at a later period. There are therefore plans by the host government to, from April 5, 2020, declare curfew across the nation,” Ibim wrote.

Explaining the possible dangers Oyarekhua will be exposed to if the government does not act fast, Ibim said Goma is the capital of North Kivu Province in Eastern DRC and is located on the northern shore of Lake Kivu, a border from East to the city of Gisenyi, Rwanda. He added that from Kinshasa, it is a two hours flight and there is no road connection being a distance of 1,572.8 kilometers.

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Ibim further explained that Goma is noted for violent volcanic eruptions in DRC and it is bedeviled by Ebola, measles and cholera, including the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, while also saying that Goma is noted for rebel attacks by the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), a rebel group in Uganda.

“It may interest headquarters to note that host government has placed embargo on intercity movements and all flights, including local and international, have been banned except for cargo planes with medical or food supplies. To fight the virus, host government only earmarked $1.8 million for a population of about 89.5 million and recently, the US assisted the country with a $6 million humanitarian fund for COVID-19 pandemic.

“Headquarters is aware that DRC is a hardship post and unfortunately, medical services are ill-equipped and underfunded. Trained staffs are in very short supply and most medical facilities lack safe water and sanitation. It will therefore not be surprising if Mr Felix Austin Oyarekhua is abandoned and neglected. As at today, DRC has recorded 123 cases of coronavirus victims, 11 deaths, and three recoveries. It is a case of at least, four to eight victims discovered on a daily basis,” Ibim explained.

The Nigerian envoy however suggested that the only way to assuage or save the life of Oyarekhua was to “liaise with the relevant authorities at headquarters for his possible medical evacuation to a quarantine centre in Nigeria.”

“Should the above recommendation be accepted and the need to contact the relevant persons in the Goma City, headquarters may wish to reach out to Brigadier General Samad Akesode, Telephone number: +243997068928, a Nigerian Commandant with the United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission base in Goma. Mission is equally liaising with his organization’s representative in DRC, Mr Borry Jatta (Field Director), Telephone Number: +243822669871 to equally consider and commence evacuation processes of Mr Austin within the month,” Ibim further wrote.

When contacted, the spokesperson, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ferdinand Nwonye, confirmed the Nigerian Mission in DRC had written to the ministry regarding Oyarekhua.  “Yes, the ministry is aware. The mission has already stepped in. They have written to the ministry to that effect,” Nwonye said.

Asked if the government was going to take action, Nwonye further said the Nigerian Mission in DRC was on it and already following up with the case.