Nigerians in Diaspora speak on COVID-19

By Eniola Ajayi, California


The state of Nigerians in the Diaspora has come into spotlight as the World battles the Covid-19 pandemic.

Worst hit by the global pandemic is the United States of America which has now overtaken China in coronavirus cases with more than 190,000 reported cases and over 3,000 deaths.

From California, Voice of Nigeria’s Correspondent, Eniola Ajayi reports that amid the rising cases of COVID-19 across the US, there is no available information that Nigerians in the Diaspora have been affected.

National emergency
Although almost all the 50 states in the US have declared a state of emergency, just as President Donald Trump had also proclaimed a National emergency,COVID-19 cases keep rising across hospitals in the country.

From California to Texas, New Hampshire, Maryland, New York and Indiana; a cross section of Nigerians who spoke with Voice of Nigeria affirmed that available statistics at their disposal was yet to suggest that any Nigerian had died from the virus in the US. Rather they gave accounts of how Nigerians in the diaspora were on the frontlines of covid-19 response.

A resident of Southern California, Mr David Ilugbuhi says from his network of close friends and acquaintances, he is yet to see or hear of anyone being affected by the virus.

David Ilugbuhi has no doubts that Nigerians are not doing badly.

“As far as I know, no Nigerian has been admitted into any hospital due to the scourge,” he stated.

Ilugbuhi who works with Burson Cohn & Wolfe, a PR firm based in Los Angeles, says the only noticeable change is the fact that he now works from home due to the Stay-at-home order given by the Governor of California, Garvin Newsom.

Apart from California, more than 20 states have so far issued a“stay at home order,” as part of measures to break the chain of COVID-19.

The “stay at home order”has now led to the shutting down of many businesses and institutions such as malls, schools and religious places as well as recreational and entertainment parks.

Freeway advocacy to stay at home. All roads no longer lead to Disneyland

Dr Reginald Obiamalu who relocated to the United States from Nigeria in 1987, says he belongs to many diasporic organisations and online platforms and believes that the major change being experienced by Nigerians in the wake of the pandemic, has to do with the fact that majority now works from home.

Dr Obiamalu is a school Principal in Los Angeles District,the county with the highest COVID-19 cases in California and offers free community service to the Nigerian Embassy.

Although he now works from home until schools are reopened; his friends who are nurses are allowed to still go to work because of the essential services they provide.

“I belong to many organisations and platforms, the information I have from those platforms is not different from that fact that all of us now work from home; but for my friends who are nurses, they are allowed to go to work because of their essential services,” Dr Obiamalu stated.

Dr Obiamalu who also assists the Nigerian Embassy officials whenever the embassy visits Southern California for E-passport processing, said he decided to be a rallying point for Nigerians in Southern California in the spirit of service to his kinsmen.

“Many people think I work with the Nigerian embassy, what I do for the Embassy in Washington and New York whenever the officials are here is purely a community service after I got a call from the embassy in the spring of 2012 asking for my help.

“You know there is no Nigerian embassy here in California, before now, whenever the officials were here, they used to have problems with the Police because it was always chaotic;so the embassy asked for my assistance and since then, I have been offering my help purely as a community service,” he explained.

Nigerians are on the frontline
Mrs Olajumoke Ogunbayo from the State of New Hampshire on her part,affirmed that Nigerians were already on the frontlines in the heat of the pandemic.

According to Mrs Ogunbayo, “many Nigerians here are health workers and since this outbreak, they have been very busy, so we can only pray for them as they render their services, but so far, I have not heard of any Nigerian being confirmed to be positive or dead due to this.

Mrs Olajumoke Ogunbayo says Nigerians in New Hampshire are fine.

The mother of three is also studying to be a nurse in the US east coast’s State of New Hampshire.

Speaking in the same vein is Mrs Temitope Omolewa-Oyewole from Maryland, she also attested to the fact that Nigerians who are medical personnel have had their hands full.

In her words, “I have quite a number of my church members who are nurses, they are all assisting with this situation but so far, I have not heard that any Nigerian either in my church or in the Nigerian community here has been infected.”

For Texas-based Aanuoluwa Ayandipe, although a State of Emergency has been declared by Governor Gregg Abbot, Texas is not on full lockdown as appreciable human and vehicular activities are still noticeable to some extent.

Miss Ayandipe, a nursing student at the Houston Community College and attends a predominantly Nigerian church, affirmed that none of her acquaintances or any member of the Nigerian community in her axis had so far been hospitalised or quarantined.

Aanuoluwa Ayandipe is studying to be a nurse in Houston Texas.

“I haven’t heard or see any Nigerian being affected, other than the fact that people have to stay at home or restricted in movement to an extent, even the restriction is relative from person to person because people still move or drive around to do some things,” she reiterated.

Her school has since closed due to the pandemic and it is still dicey whether the school will be reopening anytime soon.


Mrs Arinola Williams spoke to VON from NY

New York situation
Another Nigerian- Mrs Arinola Williams who gave an account of the situation in New York said many Nigerians like her were affected by the lockdown and now had resorted to working from home.

Mrs Williams, an insurance marketer also chose to tow the spiritual path by quoting from the book of Psalms chapter 91; she was confident that she and other would pull through this trying season.

On the state of Nigerians in the diaspora in New York, which is now the epicenter of the pandemic, she noted that she was yet to know of anyone of Nigerian descent being reported to have contracted the virus.

The story is not different in Indiana, as another Nigerian- Mrs Adejoke Adekola stated that despite the rising cases of coronavirus infections, there was yet to any report of a Nigerian being hospitalised.

Mrs Adekola believed that various advocacies from government agencies and groups for the people to stay at home and maintain proper hygiene could go a long way in breaking the chain of COVID-19.

A Nigerian quarantined

Further inquiries at hospitals in Orange County revealed that a Nigerian was quarantined on return from Nigeria, however, the person whose identity was not revealed, has been discharged and had since returned to work.

A Nurse who spoke with Voice of Nigeria under the condition of anonymity revealed that the quarantined Nigerian was a co-worker and that the quarantine was necessary because the individual recently returned to the United States from Nigeria.

She reiterated that it appeared that the anti-malaria vaccination often administered on Nigerians and by extension other Africans had some measure of potency against coronavirus; judging from the fact that no Nigerian or African has been seen or heard with COVID-19 cases so far.

According to her, this is yet to be sufficiently proven owing to the fact that COVID-19 cases are now springing up in Africa as well.

St. Joseph Hospital, California
Another Nurse at St Joseph hospital in the City of Orange, who also preferred anonymity, told Voice of Nigeria that the virus had nothing to do with the skin colours, despite the fact that no African had been seen by him to have been affected.

CDC inquiry
Notwithstanding the account of various individuals, inquiries were made to the US Centre for Disease Control, (CDC), however, the automated response received says that the agency is currently overwhelmed with a plethora of inquiries at the moment.

Below is an excerpt from the mail received from the CDC;

“Thank you for your submission to CDC-INFO. CDC recognises public concern about the coronavirus disease 2019 outbreak. The federal government is working closely with state and local partners, as well others, to respond to this serious public health threat. This is a rapidly evolving situation. CDC will provide updated information and guidance on its website as soon as it becomes available.”

“CDC-INFO is experiencing an extremely high number of calls and e-mails related to COVID-19. Response times will be longer than usual due to the large number of inquiries. As a result, we may not be able to get to every inquiry. We are working hard to address the most urgent information needs. If you are a healthcare provider with an urgent question, please call 800-CDC-INFO (800-232-4636) or TTY 888-232-6348 for timely assistance. We appreciate your patience.”

Although the numbers are increasing almost by the seconds, as at the time of filing this report, about 190,000 cases have been confirmed across the US with the number of deaths above 3,000; New York alone has almost 80,000 confirmed cases.

Cases in California have surged past 8,400 just as more than 6,000 persons have recovered from the COVID-19 infection across the United States.

On Friday 27th March 2020, fully equipped US Navy Ship (USNS) with 1,000 beds and over 800 Navy medical personnel arrived Los Angeles to support the coronavirus response.

The USNS has begun taking patients into the vessel as a result of overflowing in hospitals.

Globally, about 870,000 cases have surfaced with over 40,000 deaths, a little above 160,000 persons have recovered from the dreaded monster.

While medics and hospitals are inundated with cases, frantic efforts are still being made to find a cure for the venomous virus, as the search continues and a cure needed like yesterday, the numbers are still counting.


Mercy Chukwudiebere