NIGERIANS trapped abroad during the coronavirus pandemic wishing to return home will now have to pay for the cost of their transportation and accommodation under new guidelines just published by the federal government.
With the gradual easing of the Covid-19 lockdown, Nigeria is expected to soon resume international flights, thus allowing thousands of her citizens who were trapped abroad to return home. Initially, the federal government had said it would fund the accommodating of returnees, asking the Central Bank of Nigeria and the Nigeria National Petroleum Company to pick up the tab.
However, it appears that the large number of returnees will push the cost beyond the projected budget, forcing the government to reverse its earlier decision. Yesterday, Nigeria’s Presidential Task Force (PTF) on Covid-19 issued a new protocol for the evacuation of Nigerians abroad who are willing to return home.
PTF coordinator, Dr Sani Aliyu, said the federal government would no longer bear the cost of the transport fares of the intending evacuees and their accommodation when they arrive home. He added that it was no longer sustainable for the government to continue to bear the costs.
Dr Aliyu said that the evacuees would also be made to sign an undertaking that they would undergo testing for Covid-19 before boarding aircrafts in their countries of departure. In addition, they would commit to making arrangements for their accommodation either in Lagos or Abuja where they would self-isolate for 14 days and undergo a repeat test within 72 hours of their arrival in Nigeria.
He explained that all evacuees must test negative for Covid-19 before they would be allowed to board any Nigeria-bound flight. Dr Aliyu, who said there were over 4,000 Nigerians abroad willing to come back home, added that the evacuees’ passports would be held by immigration authorities for the 14 days period of their self-isolation.
He added: “It is essential that this time around we get it right. It is also important that we make the best use of the public resources available to us so that we have an arrangement that is sustainable that would allow the more than 4,000 Nigerians that are currently outside the country to come in and join their families.
“At the same time, the PTF has the responsibility of mitigating risk and making sure that we do not increase the number of cases of Covid-19 we have in the country or increase the risk of transmission. The key part of the proposal is that there will be a need for Nigerians that are currently outside the country to undergo testing for Covid-19 before they board.
“If the test is done beyond 14 days it will not be accepted. And prior to boarding, they will be required to provide an undertaking that they will follow the necessary precaution and they will need to stay in Lagos or Abuja and make arrangement for their own accommodation in these two cities for the period of 14 days.”
Dr Aliyu added that they will need to make their arrangements of staying in Lagos or Abuja for the period of self-isolation. He said they will then go through a strict process of supervised isolation where they will be contacted on a regular basis everyday and monitored for the presence of symptoms that might require them to be taken into treatment if they subsequently become positive.