Following the spread of the coronavirus pandemic, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr Geoffery Onyeama, has said that almost 200 Nigerians based in the US have indicated interest to return to the country.
“We have started to get a greater number of Nigerians, especially in the United States, where almost 200 have now indicated their willingness to return,” the minister said on Wednesday in Abuja, during the daily briefings by the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19.
Speaking further, he noted that the protocols for evacuating Nigerians in the Diaspora have been completed and the country is in a much “stronger and better position” to bring back Nigerians interested in returning to the country.
“We are engaging with our embassy in China and our High Commissioners in London and also in France to work out all the logistics but things are now beginning to fall in place and we are getting the sense of what needs to be done.”
Several countries, including Canada, Israel, and the United States, have evacuated citizens of different countries due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but Nigeria has just commenced major evacuations.
The government had, however, since announced plans to bring those interested in returning and asked its foreign missions to compile names.
Stressing that the evacuations had been part of the government’s plans since the international airports were closed, Onyeama explained that the process was delayed to enable the government to sort out the logistics involved.
He said, “The response is not as a result of letters or whatever that has been coming in from Nigerians in the Diaspora as has been mentioned in some media houses but actually something that was taken up by the task force right from the beginning.
“Of course, at that time we didn’t have all the isolation centres in place and all the other logistical arrangements in place. So for that reason, we kept it in abeyance while we were putting those things in place. And hence now that we have all those things in place, we are in a stronger and better position to bring Nigerians outside the country back.”
Mr Onyeama directed all Nigerians interested in returning into the country to work with the country’s embassies and high commissions where they are.
“What is important to get out to all Nigerians is that their engagement and communication should be with the embassies, high commissions and not with any other parallel agency, department of government or anything like that,” he said.
“It should be channelled through them because it is with them that we are collating the names and making all the arrangements.”
Although Nigeria has not commenced full-scale evacuations, the country is working with neighbouring countries and is facilitating the return of many Nigerians who got caught up in the COVID-19 travel restrictions imposed by countries.
Mr Onyeama gave examples of some instances during the briefing, adding that all those who are returning will observe the mandatory 14-day isolation.
He said, “There was a doctor that was part of the team that was caught outside the country. He made his way to Benin Republic and we were able to engage with the government of the Republic of Benin to give him passage through and he came into the country yesterday.
“We have 67 Nigerians, including children, men and women, that were in Cote d I’voire and we needed to engage the government of Togo, the government of Benin for them to be able to go through. They are now at the Nigerian border and we got the authorisation of the government of Benin for them to come into the country.
They will be in isolation for the mandatory 14 days once they have come in.
“We have another 24 Nigerians in Togo in a hotel. They are going to be tested. We’ve also got the government of Benin’s approval for them to travel through Beninoise territory to come into Nigeria, possibly by tomorrow.
“We’ve arranged also where they will also be confined when they come into the country. We are extremely grateful to the government of Togo and the government of Benin who have cooperated with us and made this possible.”