COVID 19:How The Government Spent Billions To Charter Foreign Airline Aircraft To Evacuate Stranded Nigerians Abroad

By Suleiman Umaru

In spite of the initial arrangement on ground that the  stranded Nigerians  overseas  who had  declared  their interest  to return  back to the country because of the ravaging Wuhan Town in Hebei Province of the Asian country of China emerged Coronavirus would pay  for their  Air ticket, as revealed by Abike Dabiri –Erewa, a former  member of House of Representatives and Chairman of Nigerians in Diaspora, President Muhammadu Buhari appears to have changed his mind.

The Katsina born Nigerian president, may have taken a cue from Donald trump, of the North American country of the United states who provided the aircrafts and the resources to evacuate Americans across the world  including Nigeria back to do the country  to do so. Take for instance, the US government, was said to have evacuated 1,200 Americans from Nigeria alone, without insisting that the returnees must settle their air ticket bills to show that the government cares for them.

This may have informed why the Katsina born Nigerian President gave the ministry of Foreign Affairs the go ahead to enter into  negotiations  with some notale airlines, particular, the United Arab Emirate, Ethiopian and British Airlines,  for the  evacuation of  over 4,000 Nigerians across the world who declared their interest to come  back home.  It could not be ascertained the cost implication of the chartered planes and how long it would take them to airlift the returnees remains  a  closely guided secret.  Bu insider s said it  runs into millions of  dollars because they are Chartered planes.

Onyeama: Minister Of Foreign Affairs

Based on the successful negotiations of the evacuation of the Nigerians in diaspora, the Emirates flight  was said to have  airlifted  the first batch of 256 stranded Nigerians in Dubai amid the Cooronavirus pandemic to Lagos, the nation’s Commercial nerve center  on Wednesday, May 6, 2020. They were said to have been taken to the reserved hotel accommodations for  them in Lagos and  Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory, FCT, on Landing at the airports.

 Chikwe Ihekweazu, the Director General, Nigerian Center for Disease and Control, NCDC, said the hotels would be used to quarantine them for the mandatory 14 days to avoid physical contact with people. Perhaps to avoid any cook up story about the hotel accommodations reserved   in the two major Nigerian Cities for the returnees, the officials of the country Port Health Services, , Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority, NCCA,  NCDC, ministry of Foreign Affairs and IPC, were said to have inspected the facilities.

The good news about the 256 Nigerian returnees from the UAE, according to the NCDC, and the ministry of Foreign officials  is the fact that they tested  negative for COVID 19 before boarding the aircraft from Dubai, an indication that Nigerians  have no cause  to worry over the returnees coming to distribute the disease in the country.

Another 300 stranded Nigerians in United Kingdom were expected to be evacuated by the British Airways from London on Friday, May 7, 2020. The ministry of Foreign Affairs, officials, were said to have also concluded  arrangements with the Ethiopian Airways, an African Airline, to airlift other Nigerians  stranded in the US n the City of New York on Monday, May 11, 2020.

Sirika Hadi: Minister of State For Aviation

The Coronavirus outbreak  in the country last February had  resulted in the lock down of Lagos, FCT and Ogun state in the last one month which grounded the indigenous airlines which  may have forestalled them from  being included in the evacuation of the Nigerians in diaspora arrangement  as the sector, according to  aviation experts  is highly regulated , very much  Coordinated and has set standards which must be followed at all times by Operators.

Indeed, the indigenous airlines could not have been allowed to open up after closing for several, weeks as there are things that needed to be done to ensure that they are air worthy and that they can make those flights safely, the analysts had said. An angry Hadi Seriki, minister of Aviation, said the nation’s aviation sector which was one of the worst hit by the disease as it  had lost over  N17 billion in the last one month of being  out of service. The minister may have given an insight about the amount spent to engage the services of the  Foreign airlines to evacuate the stranded Nigerians abroad.     

Onyeama, the minister of Foreign Affairs, who could not hide his feelings said ‘’ the evacuations have become important as the disease continues to ravage the world, which at the last count had spread to over  203 countries including Islands, with 3,821,377  infections as at  Thursday, May 7, 2020, going by the World Health Organistaion, WHO, a health agency of the United Nations, UN,  records.

 The agency had reported that there had been 265,111 deaths as a result of the disease so far, thus leaving  2,256,798 currently infected patients. Although, the scientists and Pharmaceutical Companies have not found the vaccines and drugs for the cure of the COVID 19, health workers, across the world were said to done their medical Knowledge to treat the infected patients. There are indications that 1,303,468, had been cured of the disease in their respective countries including Nigeria and discharged between December December 31, 2019 and now.

The situation in Nigeria  appear worrisome as the number of infected patients had continued to be on the increase on a daily basis. The NCDC, had  reported   that the  number of  CVID 19 patients in the country  has hit 3,145. The increase , according to the NCDC in its  report on Thursday, May 7, 2020, was  informed by the overnight  discovery  of additional  195 new cases, with Lagos and Kano states topping the list. Lagos , alone was said to have produced  80 patients and Kano 30, while the FCT, and other states of the Federation  produced the remaining victims.

There are fears that the disease might   continue to be on the increase in the country   because of reports in   some states  where infected persons,  particular, the rich,  had refused to show up at any of the NCDC Testing Centers . More worrisome was the reports  making  the rounds of some infected rich people in some states refusing to show  up at any of the NCDC  Testing Centers In Lagos or any part o the  country , claiming to be on self Isolation and undergoing  treatment.

  The latest of such reports  was in Seyi Makinde home state, Oyo, where two of the 33  infected   patients  were said to absconded, forcing the state government and NCDC  official to mount a search party for them to curb  the distribution of the disease in the state and the country in geenral.

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