Chinelo Obogo and Aidoghie Paulinus, Abuja
European Union (EU) nationals from Germany, France and Holland were yesterday evacuated from the Murtala Muhammed International Airport (MMIA), Lagos as the European continent deployed two aircraft to ferry back 477 nationals from Nigeria amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
An Air France Boeing 777-300ER flew in from Cotonou into MMIA Lagos on Thursday, April 2, and evacuated 255 EU nationals at 1:56pm. The flight was classified as being on essential and humanitarian operation.
Another batch of 222 German citizens departed MMIA at 15.46hours to Munich on a Lufthansa Airbus A350 flight LH9856 which landed in Lagos 12:29pm Universal Time Coordinated (UTC).
The German missions in Nigeria confirmed the evacuation of 222 nationals in a message posted on its Facebook page, saying the development was part of the worldwide repatriation program of the German government.
“Safe journey! A total of 222 German and other EU citizen were able to return to Munich today. The flight was part of the worldwide repatriation program of the German government,” the German Missions in Nigeria wrote. European Union member States including Germany, France, Austria, Italy, Spain, Sweden, Greece and Ireland, amongst others on Tuesday announced evacuation flights for nationals of its 27 member states in Nigeria. This evacuation is the single largest evacuation from the West African nation since the COVID-19 outbreak.
On Sunday, March 29, 2020, Air Peace, evacuated 274 Israelis from MMIA and the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja to Tel-Aviv, Isreal.
The Air Peace flight, Boeing 777-300 with registration number 5N-BWI airlifted 65 passengers from Lagos and 209 passengers from Abuja.
Last Thursday, a similar evacuation was carried out by Air France as it evacuated 260 EU nationals from Lagos. Air France was granted permission to airlift European citizens from Nigeria over fears that they might be infected with the virus that is fast spreading in the country.
In the coming weeks more of these evacuations are expected with the permission of the Federal Government as essential flights.
Already the US and UK commissions in Nigeria have announced that they are making plans to evacuate nationals who are willing to leave Nigeria. But the US specified that any national who wants to be evacuated would have to sign a promissory note that they would pay for their own seats.
In a related development, the German government has pledged the sum of €5.5 to the Nigerian humanitarian fund. The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA) Nigeria, announced the pledge on its Twitter handle yesterday.
“Germany pledges €5.5M to the Nigeria Humanitarian Fund. It’s more critical than ever for vulnerable peoole to have access to clean water, food and shelter.
“This will enable partners to continue delivering life-saving aids amidst COVID19,” UNOCHA Nigeria wrote. The US and UK commissions in Nigeria have announced that they are making plans to evacuate nationals who are willing to leave Nigeria.