Chinelo Obogo, Lagos
Over 500 Canadian and US nationals were on Monday, April 6th, evacuated from Nigeria as part of repatriation efforts being carried out by different countries as a response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Ethiopian Airlines airlifted 385 Americans from the Murtala Muhammed International Airport (MMIA) Lagos to Washington DC with a B777-300 and 200 Canadians from Lagos and the Nnamdi Azikiwe Airport, Abuja to Addis Ababa en route Toronto Canada with a B767 aircraft.
This successful operation comes after a failed attempt by the US Mission in Nigeria to repatriate its citizens who were left stranded on the morning of Friday, April 3rd, at MMIA. On the day of the botched attempt, the nationals who had already been checked in by the airport authorities were seen collecting their baggage from the arrival baggage belts after it emerged that the flight was cancelled because it didn’t have overflight permit to fly over the airspace of some West African countries.
Overflight permits are authorisations from Civil Aviation Authorities (CAAs) to overfly a country’s airspace. These differ in terms of regulations and airspace coverage area, depending on the country. It’s always important to check over-flight permit requirements in advance with your 3rd-party provider for the planned route of flight.
Monday’s successful operation will make it part of the over 1,500 foreigners that have so far been evacuated by their countries.
Germany, France, Isreal, Lebanon and Egypt are among countries that have so far evacuated their citizens who wished to leave Nigeria as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
On Thursday, April 2, the German missions in Nigeria confirmed in a message posted on its Facebook page that 222 of its citizens were evacuated from MMIA as part of the worldwide repatriation program of the German government.
French nationals were also evacuated on the same day as the German nationals on an Air France flight that came in from Cotonou, the second evacuation from Nigeria to be done by the European Union country.
Also on Sunday, March 29, 2020, Air Peace, evacuated 274 Israelis from MMIA and the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja to Tel-Aviv, Isreal.
On Sunday, April 5, 140 Lebanese nationals were evacuated from Lagos while 37 Egyptians were airlifted from the Sam Mbakwe International Cargo Airport, Owerri.
The Lebanese were airlifted at about 3:00 pm following several hours of delay as officials at MMIA did not get the permission granting their evacuation from Nigeria.
The nationals were said to have arrived MMIA as early as 5 am but were not allowed to check-in since there was no documented approval.
However, permission for their evacuation was received past midday and the checking formalities were carried out as they were airlifted by Middle East Airline at about 3:00 pm.
The aircraft which flew into the country under humanitarian operations departed at 16:18 pm this evening.
In a related development, the UK Mission in Nigeria has said on its official Twitter handle that over 4,000 of its citizens who were stranded in Nigeria after the airports were shut and flights were restricted, have indicated interest to be evacuated.
“We fully understand the anxiety many of you face around COVID-19. Our offer of help is to stranded British travellers who aren’t long term residents in Nigeria. Over 4000 people have expressed interests in return flights. We’re working around the clock to support you all,” it tweeted.