BEING A BRIEF PRESENTATION ON EVACUATION OF NIGERIANS FROM THE DIASPORA- THE NIGERIAN EXPERIENCE BY ABDUR-RAHMAN BALOGUN, HEAD, MEDIA, PUBLIC RELATIONS AND PROTOCOLS UNIT, NIGERIANS IN DIASPORA COMMISSION ( NIDCOM) ABUJA AT THE ONLINE MIGRATION SUMMIT OF JOURNALISTS INTERNATIONAL FORUM FOR MIGRATION (JIFORM) ON FRIDAY APRIL 24, 2020.
I will like to express my appreciation to the organisers of this wonderful online Summit (JIFORM) for the opportunity given to me to share my thoughts here on our experience in the evacuation process of stranded Nigerians abroad due to the global Covid-19 pandemic challenges.
I equally want to openly express my appreciation and pay my respect to both the spokesperson of Nigerian Immigration Service Mr James as well as Prof. Kanu Ikechukwu Anthony, for their wonderful and detailed presentations which made my own job here very easy. Both have provided us the necessary information required on Covid-19 pandemic as it relates to migrants and migration process.
You will agree with me that this pandemic Covid-19 is inseparable with migration issues as well as the migrants. It has affected movement of people from one point to another. Before now, the movement was limited to global or international travels but we now a have a situation in our hands where it is domesticated through the lockdown process as a way of curtailing the spread locally.
It has also brought with it a new phenomenon in migration issue not heard of in a century.
To us here in Nigeria, when we learnt of the Covid-19 pandemic in Wuhan, China, it was initially one of those diseases. Nobody could imagine that the virus will be so wicked to have spread so fast and crumbled not only the global economy but dealt a heavy blow to all sectors including migration and social relations amongst others. As at Thursday April 23, 2020, Nigeria has recorded 981 cases of Covid-19 pandemic and 31 deaths.
The evacuation story of Nigerians in the Diaspora started as far back as January 2020 when Nigerians living in Wuhan, China, requested to be evacuated back home as a result of the life threatening virus there.
As at that time, Nigeria has about 60 students living in Wuhan undergoing studies.
As the supervising Ministry of Foreign Affairs was planning to carry out the evacuation, another set of Nigerians wrote to say that they are on lockdown in Wuhan and are better and safer there than coming back home. They even attested to the fact that the Chinese authorities do take good care of them by dropping off food at their doorsteps at their various hostels. So, Nigeria Mission there got in touch with all the students and captured them with the Federal government approval of palliatives to all of them.
In short, no Nigerian was eventually evacuated from Wuhan, China due to Covid-19 pandemic as they claimed they were better off there as they continue their studies online during the lockdown. There were correspondences received by NIDCOM from Nigerians there on this matter before they finally wrote to thank the Federal government for being proactive in attending to their welfare.
But then there were still some complaints from Wuhan later from some other Nigerians working there but not captured by the Nigeria mission in China owing to their migration status in that country. They complained that their interests were not protected.
MIGRATION OF COVID-19 TO NIGERIA
But as it is, despite the precautionary measure by the Federal government, the Covid-19 pandemic eventually migrated to Nigeria in late February through an Italian and here we are, facing the pandemic and ravaging all sectors of our life in Nigeria.
So, with the pandemic staring us in the face in Nigeria, and with barrage of request from Nigerians stranded abroad wanting to be evacuated home, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued a directive to NIDCOM to coordinate the activities of Nigerians who wished to be brought home amidst the closure of borders and airspaces globally.
A public annoucement was made and repeatedly with a directive to all Nigerians who want to be evacuated to link up with the Nigerian Mission wherever they are to register their names and other information about them.
They complied and the exercise came to an end some two weeks ago. At the end of the exercise, it was discovered that over 2117 Nigerians registered in 73 countries to come back home.
But this exercise has with it some protocols as demanded by Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) which is:
- To carry out test to know the Covid-19 status from the host country.
- Each evacuee will pay for the flight back home
- On arrival, they will undergo 14 days quarantine in Nigeria before reuniting with their respective families.
It must be pointed out here that over 90 per cent of those wishing to be evacuated are not Nigerians resident abroad but those who went on holidays, conferences, tourism, businesses and visiting as well as health related issues .
Eventually, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr Geoffrey Onyeama announced that an MOU had been signed with two airlines to return these stranded Nigerians back home starting from Sunday April 26.
He also said they will be brought back in batches as there was no enough quarantine centres or isolation centres that will accommodate all of them at a time.
That is where we are now. But the last four weeks have been a very busy one for us at NIDCOM trying to coordinate this process amidst the lockdown. It is expected that from next week, the evacuation process will commence in earnest.
CONCLUSION : I hope that this highlight have met your expectations while expecting your questions or clarifications. I thank you all for your patience in reading through this piece and do pardon me for any lapses noticed in the presentation.
Thank you all.