… more citizens cry out from across the world
Nigeria today, 10 May 2020, made good her promise to evacuate nationals trapped in the United States when a chattered Ethiopian Airlines plane took off from Newark International Airport and landed at Nnamdi Azikiwe Airport Abuja, bearing 160 passengers.
The passengers, including eight infants, are the first batch of evacuees among those that have indicated interest and are willing to self-sponsor their trip home under Nigerian Government’s special flight arrangement.
On arrival at Nnamdi Azikiwe, the citizens were whisked off to various designated quarantine centres in town to observe a mandatory 14-day period.
“They will be tested for Covid-19 and re-tested at the end of the quarantine period,” Foreign Affairs Minister, Mr. Geoffrey Onyeama assured, in a Tweet that he sent out to announce their arrival.
There are an estimated 700 Nigerians stranded in the United States, following the country’s ban on international travel in the wake of the Coronavirus pandemic that is ravaging the world.
Nigerian Embassy officials in the US had indicated that adults who wanted to join the chartered flight will have to pay between $1,300 and $1,700 for a one-way economy class ticket to Abuja.
The evacuations began on Wednesday 6 May with 256 passengers flown in from Dubai through Emirates Airlines.
It was followed on Thursday with Nigerians evacuated from London ferried in through British Airways.
Govt Apologises to UK Evacuees
The Foreign Affairs Minister has also apologised to the first set of evacuees from the UK who landed in Lagos on Friday 8 May aboard a British Airways flight from London.
“We apologize profusely to those passengers who had to spend more time in Lagos than was planned and in conditions that were not comfortable,” he said.
Mr. Onyeama explained that the passengers were originally intended to land at Abuja but the flight went instead to Lagos, its original destination, thereby disrupting the government arrangement for their reception and quarantine.
Government later reached out to local airline, Airpeace, to have them airlifted to Abuja.
He also announced that about 100 Nigerians from Benin Republic and Togo were also successfully brought in from across the border.
Nigerians Cry Out From Around the World
Nigerians stranded overseas have been pleading for evacuation under government supervision, the only way they can ever hope to escape their entrapment in Western Countries where the virus is causing more deadly harm.
In reply to enquiries from stranded Nigerians in France who wanted to go to Benin Republic on a scheduled Airfrance flight if government guarantees to cross them at the border, the Minister indicated that the BA debacle has taught them not to enter into complicated arrangements going forward.
He said the process has now been improved and going forward, the Missions will engage with different airlines, to negotiate terms of direct flights to intended destinations, and will give priority to Nigerian airlines.
“We will then make the necessary arrangements regarding landing permissions and quarantine,” he said.
Evacuees Complain About Steep Airfare
Some of the evacuees have voiced their complaints about airfare for the special flight arrangements.
In the US, intending returnees complained that they were being asked to pay over $1,900 for the flight, rather than the $1,300 to $1,700 advertised by the Mission in New York, while those who flew with British Airways back to London from Lagos said they paid a whopping £540 to join the flight.