About 386 Nigerians have been returned to the country from the United Arab Emirates and Lebanon as part of the government’s efforts to assist stranded nationals abroad in the wake of COVID-19 travel restrictions.
The Nigerians in Diaspora Commission (NIDCOM), in a tweet via its official handle on Wednesday, said 292 Nigerians were evacuated from the UAE, taking the number of evacuees from the Arab country to 2,933 since it began evacuation in June.
According to NIDCOM, the evacuees arrived at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja, at 02:30 p.m. on board an Emirates flight.
Also, 94 Nigerian girls, many of who are believed to have been trafficked to Lebanon and had appeared in a viral video asking for government’s help, were among those evacuated on Wednesday.
They arrived at Murtala Mohammed International Airport, Lagos from Lebanon.
94 out of 150 Stranded Nigeria Girls arrive Murtala Mohammed International Airport, Lagos from Lebanon today Wednesday, 12th of August, 2020,” NIDCOM tweeted.
The agency said while the evacuees had tested negative to COVID-19 before boarding the plane, they would be undergoing a mandatory 14-day self-isolation, in line with the guidelines issued by the federal government.
Receiving the stranded girls at the airport, the Chairman, NIDCOM, Abike Dabiri-Erewa, commended the efforts of actors that contributed to the successful repatriation of the girls.
“On hand to welcome home 94 Nigerians stranded in Lebanon for months . A big thank you to the Lebaneese Amb to Nigeria, the Nigerian Mission in Lebanon, the Lebaneese Community in Nigeria for making this possible Nema is handling their logistics . More returning soon,” Mrs Dabiri-Erewa said in a Twitter post.
As the COVID-19 pandemic held the world in a tailspin, Nigeria’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Onyeama, asked Nigerians interested in returning to the country to buy into the evacuation idea and work with Nigeria’s embassies and high commissions across the world.
Nigerian airports have been closed to international flights since March, but essential flights are still allowed.
“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,” Mr Onyeama said in a briefing of the Presidential Task Force (PTF) on COVID-19 in April.
Nigeria has since repatriated thousands of stranded nationals from countries like the United States, the United Kingdom, Egypt, Sudan, France, Ethiopia, and many others.
Meanwhile, the Nigerian government said it had spent N169 million on the evacuation of Nigerians from abroad.