No fewer than 2000 foreign nationals have been identified for evacuation from Lagos by the governments of United States, Canada, France, United Kingdom, among others, in two weeks.
The exercise, which began about 10 days ago, has led to the evacuation of 1,739 foreigners from the Murtala Muhammed International Airport (MMIA).
The evacuation was in response to requests by the nationals, who apparently felt insecure staying in Nigeria despite the comparatively low prevalence of the coronavirus spread and attendant deaths.
Yesterday, a Delta Air Lines plane evacuated 200 Americans back to the United States, after Ethiopian Airlines’ aircraft lifted 585 Americans and Canadians from Nigeria a day earlier.
The Regional Manager of the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN), Victoria Shin-Aba, confirmed the rapid evacuation amid restriction of all commercial flights.
Shin-Aba offered a breakdown of the evacuations thus far, showing that Air France airlifted 399 French and European nationals; Lufthansa 238; Middle East Airline (MEA) 140; Ethiopian Airlines 137 Canadians and 375 Americans, Air Peace 87; and Delta 200 Americans.
She said: “So far, the activities had been okay and well-coordinated. Since the closure of the airport, we have had about 10 evacuations with different nationals. We have had from Air France-KLM, Lufthansa, Middle East Airline (MEA) with the Lebanese; Ethiopian Airlines has been on with Americans and Canadians. Then, we have domestic charter too. Also, Jed Air did for Liberia while Air Peace airlifted Israelis. Today, we have Delta Airlines on ground that will take about 200 Americans.
“The condition for approval is that you have to get an approval from the authorities. Most importantly, there is a procedure in place for the Covid-19 virus pandemic, which has to be followed.
“For instance, Port Health Service has to check everyone that is going out. Sometimes, Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) will be on ground. Even, to access the terminal, there is a checking by the Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS) and others. It has been smooth sailing. Though, we had a cancellation some few days ago, but that was not due to anybody’s fault. It was due to logistics of the flight plan,” she said.
On efforts of the management to prevent the essential workers from contracting the disease, Shin-Aba said the agency had adopted social distancing practice, deployed metal detectors for security checks, rather than the initial pant down, encourages use of hand gloves and face masks, while sanitisers were positioned in strategic and open areas of the airport.
She, however, decried that the revenue generations of FAAN had been impacted in the past weeks, stressing that on the average, the terminal handles 23-28 flights delay, but had been dropped drastically to just 10 flights in 10 days.