Geoffrey Onyeama, minister of foreign affairs, says about 200 Nigerians in the United States are now willing to be evacuated to Nigeria over COVID-19.
With over 300,000 confirmed cases, the US is the worst hit country.
At a press briefing on Wednesday, the minister said all the while the presidential task force on COVID-19 had been putting measures in place to receive willing Nigerians who want to return .
“The presidential task force under the chairmanship of the secretary to the government of the federation (SGF) has actually been engaging with this when there was a closure of the airport,” he said.
“So, the response was not as a result of letters coming in from Nigerians in the diaspora as has been mentioned in some media houses.
“At that time, we did not have all our isolation centres in place and all the other logistical arrangements in place. So for that reason, we’ve kept it in abeyance while we were putting all those things in place and hence now, we have sufficient beds and so forth and protocol is no well established, and we now feel much stronger and in a better position to undertake this herculean task of trying to see how we can bring Nigerians outside the country back into the country.
“In that context, we’ve now started to get great numbers of Nigerians especially in the United States where almost 200 have now indicated and are willing to return. We are engaging with our embassies in China and the high commission in London and also in France to work out all the logistics. Things are now falling in place, and we are getting a sense of what needs to be done.”
The minister said it is important that the willing Nigerians engage only with the embassies, high commissions, and not with any other parallel agency or department of government.
He said it is the embassies and high commissions that are collating names and making the necessary arrangements, and that the evacuation process will begin as soon as possible.
The minister also said 67 Nigerians, traveling through land from neighboring countries were on their way to the Nigeria.
The Rising Sun TV had reported the panic in Osun over 67 travellers from Ivory Coast heading to the state.
Onyeama, however, said the travellers would be isolated before allowing them freedom.
“We have 67 Nigerians including children and women. They were in Cote D’ivoire and we needed to engage with the government of Togo, the government of Benin for them to be able to go through. And they are now at the Ngerian border and we got the authorisation for them to come into the country and they would be in isolation for the mandatory 14 days,” he said.