COVID-19: Nigerians in Thailand reject payment before evacuation order
•Writes Foreign Affairs Minister, SGF, others
Nigerians residing in Bangkok, Thailand appear set for a showdown with the Nigerian Ambassador to the country, Ahmed Nuhu Bamalli and the Foreign Affairs Minister, Geoffrey Onyeama over the directive that stranded Nigerians in Bangkok anxious to return home should pay a sum of N297, 600 being cost for accommodation and feeding for their mandatory 14 days isolation in Nigeria.
The memo, “Need to pay for Quarantine, Isolation, accommodation centre or hotels before Departure and Arrival in Nigeria, ” dated May 14, 2020, addressed to prospective evacuees in Thailand was signed by Head of Chancery, Bangkok, Thailand Nicholas Uhomoibhi.
Speaking with Tribune Online on Friday at the Presidential Task Force on COVID–19 media briefing, Ambassador Onyeama justified the payment before evacuation order as he said the nation was financially handicapped.
But the Nigerians In Diaspora Organization, Thailand in a letter dated May 17,2020 and addressed to the Foreign Affairs Minister rejected the order.
President of the organisation, Dr. Lloyd C. Nwafor said the directive lacked human face.
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He argued that some of the evacuees have lost their jobs and were living at Immigration Deportation Camp (IDC), where they survive on charity.
The Nigerians In Diaspora Organization Thailand declared that asking jobless families to raise money for their tickets and pay for accommodation and feeding at isolation centres back home was insensitive, uncaring and harsh.
They asked the Foreign Affairs Minister to review his stand.
The letter, “Appeal to reconsider decision on payment for quarantine, isolation, accommodation centre or hotels, ” read in part:” Your Excellency, greetings from the Nigerians in Diaspora Organization, (NIDO), Thailand.
“Permit me to commend the efforts our government is taking in curtailing/containing this vicious virus-COVID-19.
More especially, the intervention of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in evacuating our nationals from different parts of the world to our homeland.
“However, the news of the payment of almost 300,000 naira for quarantine, isolation, and accommodation centre or hotels for each evacuee before departure and arrival in Nigeria came to NIDO Thailand as a shock.
“It is pertinent to indicate here that some of these Evacuees are families who lost their jobs because of this pandemic, some are at the Immigration Deportation Camp (IDC), while others are visitors stranded in Thailand.
The plague of COVID-19 is biting hard on them and about 60 per cent of these evacuees rely on charity for food, accommodation and flight tickets to Nigeria.
“Sir, with due respect, the explanation you gave on Friday (15th May 2020) at the weekly briefing of the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 did not go down well.
“Nigerians in Thailand and around the world are interpreting it as insensitive, uncaring and harsh. How can a jobless family of 4 or 5 evacuees cater for their tickets and be able to afford this money?
“The Government of Nigeria should rise to this challenge and send a message to the world that their citizens still count.
“Your Excellency, the image and dignity of Nigeria is at stake at this moment, and we beg you to reconsider your decision and airlift these stranded Nigerians to reunite with their families at home.”