COVID-19: No definite time for evacuation of Nigerians in US, UK, China, others, says Foreign Affairs Minister

Nigerians resident in foreign countries but anxious to return home may have to wait for a longer time.

Foreign Affairs Minister, Geoffrey Onyeama, made the disclosure on Wednesday at the daily briefing of the Presidential Task Force to combat the coronavirus pandemic.

Tribune Online findings revealed that the Foreign Affairs Ministry made commitment to evacuate Nigerians in the United States, United Kingdom, the Republic of China and others.

He has said those Nigerians anxious to return home would be ready to pick the cost of flight and centres where they would be isolated for 14 days upon their return.

But speaking with newsmen on Wednesday, Onyeama, who said the country could only take 400 Nigerians, blamed finance and lack of adequate facilities which would serve as their isolation centres.

He said: “There were three questions asked. The first is about increasing the number of those to be evacuated to make it easy, otherwise they have to stay longer and some of them of course have financial challenges and other challenges.

“Well, we take medical advice and we ask the medical people what is possible and the figure we were given was 200 for Lagos and 200 for Abuja. Of course, this is much less than the numbers that are waiting to come back. But we are constrained by the facilities that are available and it is unfortunate.

“We have the challenges as you can see the figures are going up all the time. We have a great responsibility to also ensure that these facilities are also there. But if the opportunity presents itself and we find that more facilities become available, then of course, we will look at the possibility of increasing the number of people that we can bring back. But as at this moment, this is the framework in which we have been told that we can operate.”

Onyeama was equally silent on the timeline for commencement of evacuation.

” In term of the timeline, you know we ought to have started already the evacuation of the huge numbers of our brothers and sisters all around the world. We really want to get it right but it is such a delicate exercise and we have seen with some of the other countries who have been evacuating their nationals from Nigeria.

“We know the horrible stories that some of the intending passengers have to undergo in Lagos Airport and we want to avoid those kind of situation and make sure that we get everything right and that might unfortunately necessitate our taking a little bit longer just to make sure that we get everything right and by God’s grace, we will be able to get as many of the people who want to return back home as possible.”

Despite the financial constraints, the Foreign Affairs Minister assured that priority would be given to young Nigerians who are studying abroad.



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