The Nigerian government is planning to evacuate some stranded students in Khartoum, Sudan, due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The citizens will be evacuated without having to pay, the minister of foreign affairs, Geoffrey Onyeama, has said.
The government earlier announced it plans to evacuate some of its citizens abroad due to the lockdown many nations have imposed as part of measures to limit the spread of the virus.
The citizens would, however, be made to pay for the cost of evacuation back home, an official had said.
Mr Onyeama, while responding to questions at the daily Presidential Task Force briefing on Wednesday, explained that the government had to find resources to fund the students’ return because they are young children.
“The financial aspect of this is one that we are also very mindful of. You know, we have some students who are stuck in Khartoum, Sudan.
“Of course, we have to bend backwards because they are students, young children to find resources to pay for their return and also for their two weeks isolation,” he said.
Mr Onyeama, however, said such magnanimity cannot be extended to others that are to be evacuated because of the paucity of funds.
”But unfortunately, for all the others, we just don’t have the financial resources. As you can see, there is a huge amount of money that we have to pay for various aspects of the challenge.
”It is a source of great regret to the government that we are not in the position to pay. If we have the resources, we would be more than happy to pay for anybody to come home free of charge, pay for their stay in the isolation centre for two weeks.
”But the reality is we just don’t and that is just the situation for now,” he said.
The minister did not state the number of stranded students in Sudan.
Sudan has already recorded 107 cases of COVID-19 including 12 deaths.
On the possibility of increasing the numbers of returnees who can be evacuated at a time, the minister said the committee is only following medical advice.
”We got medical advice and we asked the medical people what was possible and the figure we were given was 200 in 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 unfortunately, we have the internal challenges as you can see the figures are going up all the time,” he said.
He said the number of evacuees will be increased when adequate facilities are available to deal with needed challenges.
“So we have a great responsibility to also ensure that these facilities are also there to deal with the needed challenges we are facing.
“But if opportunities present itself and we find that more facilities become available, then of course we would look at the possibility of expanding and increasing the numbers of people we can bring back.
“But at this moment, this is the framework that we have been told we can operate,” he said.