About 6,317 Nigerians have been evacuated from around the world since the outbreak of coronavirus pandemic, a government official said Tuesday.
The Chairman, Nigerians in Diaspora Commission (NIDCOM), Abike Dabiri-Erewa, gave the figure during a briefing with reporters in Abuja on Tuesday, ahead of the National Diaspora Day celebrations on July 25.
Mrs Dabiri-Erewa said the evacuation began after the upsurge in coronavirus cases across the globe and appeals from stranded Nigerians abroad.
“Currently, COVID-19 is still on rampage, so the evacuation continues,” she said.
During the outbreak, Nigeria’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the commission and Nigerian embassies around the world came up with the evacuation exercise to bring home those trapped in foreign nations.
While many complained about the evacuation fee of N290,000, the Foreign Affairs minister, Geoffrey Onyeama, said the federal government had no resources to foot the bills of returning Nigerians.
“This is not by any stretch of imagination something the government is happy to do. As I mentioned, if the resources were there, we would evacuate everybody,” he said.
At the initial stage of the evacuation, Mr Onyeama, at a May briefing by the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19, said the fee covered accommodation and feeding bill of the returnees who were taken in on a 14-day quarantine before they dispersed to their various homes.
But at a later review of the exercise, Mr Onyeama said evacuees would no longer go into 14-day government monitored quarantine if they test negative from their countries of residence.
The evacuees are to be tested at most nine days before their flight takes off and those who test positive are not allowed on the flight.
According to him, the new policy will give the Nigerian government enough latitude to fly more citizens home.
Meanwhile, a breakdown of the figures shows the United Arab Emirates (UAE) has the highest evacuees with 1,405, followed closely by the United Kingdom with 831 and the United States with 806 stranded Nigerians repatriated in three batches.
Other countries where Nigerians have departed include Saudi Arabia – 117, Egypt – 372, France – 70, India – 540, Turkey – 324, Sudan – 365, Uganda and Kenya – 172.
Additionally, Nigerians have been evacuated from Senegal – 17, Pakistan – 56, Egypt – 102, China – 268, Malaysia and Thailand – 247, Lebanon – 147, Canada – 51, South Africa – 324 and Ghana – 205.