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Govt Runs into Hitch with Citizen Evacuation

Nigeria yesterday 15 May 2020 suspended further repatriation of citizens stranded overseas, citing inadequate quarantine facilities and escalating costs of managing evacuees.

Thousands of Nigeria are currently stranded in many countries abroad as governments shut their airports to commercial traffic in desperate measures to halt the spread of the Coronaviris.

Foreign Affairs Minister, Geoffrey Onyeama, said yesterday that halting further evacuations has become inevitable after 620 citizens were successfully airlifted into the country from the USA, Dubai and the UK.

“We want to take some time to process the ones we have at the moment before we admit others coming back, because we don’t have the capacity at the moment.

“This is a challenging situation especially because the funding resources are not available,” the Minister said in a Tweet.

Enugu Metro has learnt that funding – for both evacuees and the government- has become the major issue in the entire process.

Many of the stranded citizens have found it challenging to meet the high costs imposed by the Federal Government as a condition to ferry them home.

Less than half of the over 700 Nigerians who registered with the Mission in the United States have been unable to return because they could not pay the airfare.

To compound matters, Government further raised the bar asking those who are serious about returning to fund their quarantine and hotel bills at the point of departure, and to also foot the bill for airport transportation and quarantine in Nigeria.

All returnees are being airlifted to Lagos and Abuja Airports and will be let off after a 14-day quarantine to find their way to their various destinations in Nigeria.

Apart from the additional financial burden that this will impose on them, they would also have to find a way to beat security to get to their states of residence as they must pass through states that have shuttered their boundaries.

Investigations by Enugu Metro show that most citizens stranded in the United States who had wanted to return were put in a fix when the cost of a one-way ticket was initially advertised for between $1,300 and $1,700, only to be presented with a bill $1,900 (N735,319) at the point of purchase.

Nigerians returning to the UK who managed to secure seats on the British Airways flight that brought in evacuees and took away British Nationals said they paid as much as £540 (N252,949.00) for the one-way ticket.

COVER PHOTO: Boss Mustapha, Secretary to the Federal Government and Head of Presidential Task Force on Covid-19