COVID-19: Why the FG cannot evacuate all Nigerians seeking to return home

Earlier this month, the Federal Government expressed its willingness to evacuate Nigerians who wish to return home as nations around the world battle with the rising cases of COVID-19. With countries shutting down all business and social activities to contain the spread of the virus, a lot of Nigerians were left with no means of livelihood as many host countries excluded non-citizens from their social support system.

Those interested in returning home given the circumstance were advised to notify the Nigerian Mission in their country of residence to register. Some of the conditions for doing so was that the returnees would have to pay for their evacuation expenses and also agree to a 14-day mandatory quarantine on arrival.

Many Nigerians agreed to the proposal.

However, the number of those that registered immediately went beyond the government's capacity;  causing a significant delay in the commencement of the exercise. The issue generated lots of complaints and disappointment from those who feel stranded and anxious.

"I'm here in Ukraine waiting to be evacuated. I've started spending my flight money because I'm stranded here. Please help us," Lysis tweeted at the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Onyeama.

"We don't have an embassy at all! An embassy that doesn't respect the citizens right! If you call from now till next year nobody will pick your calls! You treat us like animals, other countries swiftly responded to their citizens abroad," another frustrated Nigerian tweeted.

To address the issue, Nigeria's Minister of Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Onyeama explained during a press briefing by the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19, that the country cannot evacuate all Nigerians who desire to return home because the resources for doing so is limited.

"Because of the high numbers, and limited mandatory-isolation spaces in Nigeria, the evacuations will be done in batches," he said.

"We've received all the numbers from our various embassies around the world. We've selected two airlines that'll be responsible for fetching them.

"Numbers are high and we don't have isolation spaces for everyone at the same time. So we'll have to stagger the repatriation."

According to Onyeama, the government is working to increase the current capacity of evacating about 200 people to 500 to ease the challenges faced by Nigerians stranded abroad.


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