The Senate has urged the Federal Ministry of Foreign Affairs to liaise with the Ghanaian Government to strengthen bilateral relations between both countries to prevent the maltreatment of Nigerians entering Ghana.
This is contained in the recommendations of the Senate after it considered a report by the Joint Committee on Health (Secondary and Tertiary); Primary Health and Communicable Diseases; and Foreign Affairs at plenary on Wednesday.
The report was based on a “Motion for the Urgent Need to Conduct Investigation on the Allegation of Fake COVID-19 Test Results Being Used to Defraud Nigerians in Ghana, and the Obtainment of Fake COVID-19 Vaccination Cards.”
The Chairman of the Joint Committee, Sen. Yahaya Oloriegbe, presented the report to the Senate.
In his presentation, he recalled that the investigation was necessitated by allegations that the Ghanaian authorities diagnosed Nigerians who travelled to their country with testing positive for COVID-19 even after testing negative in Nigeria.
He said it was alleged further that Nigerian travellers to the country were committed to isolation for two weeks at N70,000 equivalent daily, an amount running into millions of naira.
According to him, investigations revealed that Nigerians were possibly exploited at the Ghana International Airport going by explanations by the Presidential Steering Committee on COVID-19.
He said Boss Mustapha, Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF) and the Chairman of the Presidential Steering Committee on COVID-19, told the investigative panel earlier, that Ghana conducted Rapid-Ag testing on arrival at the airport.
This, he said, had less sensitivity and specificity compared to the PCR test done in Nigeria.
“For this reason, it is expected that the Rapid-Ag Test will correctly classify Positive PCR tests but may fail to correctly classify all negative PCR test results.
“The Ministry of Foreign Affairs would need to establish and report back whether the reported case is an isolated event or systemic error or a fraud,” Oloriegbe said.
On the allegations of fake COVID-19 vaccination cards and test results, he said that the SGF had stated that for the purpose of international (outbound) travels, COVID-19 PCR tests were conducted by accredited laboratories.
He added that this was verifiable on the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) platform through a QR Code.
The Joint Committee Chairman disclosed that the NCDC verification portal which hosts all validated PCR tests for outbound passengers would be made visible to airlines so that certification can be done for airline staff.
Oloriegbe further said that the PSC utilised the services of security operatives to deal with passengers who blatantly refused to comply with travel protocols for both in-bound and out-bound passengers.
He, however, decried that in spite of those measures, some “high-ranking officials” or those “connected” sometimes threatened the staff on duty and found a way to escape.
Sen. Oloriegbe said that the Presidential Steering Committee on COVID-19, which appeared before the panel, sought the support of the National Assembly.
He said that the intention was to ensure that all high-profile persons who failed to comply with existing protocols were prosecuted, accordingly.
The Senate, in its resolutions, therefore, urged the Federal Ministry of Health and the Presidential Steering Committee (PSC) to develop an exit protocol for all outbound passengers.
According to the Senate, this will enable the authentication of the vaccination cards and also ensure that PCR tests certificates are conducted at the airport.
It also called on the Health Ministry through its Port Health Services Department to link PCR results platforms with the airline platforms to ensure effective coordination and detection of any fake PCR test results.
The Senate also urged the Federal Ministry of Foreign Affairs to liaise with the Ghanaian Government to strengthen bilateral relations that would prevent a re-occurrence of any ill-treatment of Nigerians entering Ghana.
The federal lawmakers also urged the Presidential Committee on COVID-19 to continuously update its travel protocol as the epidemiology of the disease changed and to also promptly brief Nigerians on the changes.