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253 Nigerians evacuated from United Kingdom


253 Nigerians were on Friday evacuated from the United Kingdom aboard a British Airways Boeing 747 aircraft which landed at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport (MMIA), Lagos, about 1.44 pm.

The returnees were part of the second batch of Nigerians flown in under the special flights arrangements for nationals stranded abroad.

An Emirates flight had on Wednesday brought back 256 Nigerians from the United Arab Emirates in what was the first batch of Nigerians returned to their country.

United Kingdom yesterday were stranded at the Murtala Mohammed Airport, Lagos.

For over six hours, they were left under the sun on the tarmac, waiting for the aircraft that was expected to convey them to Abuja where they would be isolated for 14 days.The stranded returnees included the aged, children and a few others on wheelchairs. They decried their neglect by the foreign minister, Geoffrey Onyeama, who did not send any official to the airport to receive them.

Although their aircraft arrived around 2.45pm, they were left unattended to for five hours.Around 4.30pm, airport authorities took pity on them by serving them bottled water under the sun.

Ministry sources said the returnees’ plight could be attributed to untidy arrangements made by the foreign minister. Eminent people among them, including former Lagos State Deputy Governor Abiodun Ogunleye, made spirited attempts to contact the minister on phone, but without success. Around 5pm, the returnees protested their neglect, threatening to leave the airport by force.

According to airport sources, passengers were kept inside the aircraft for more than thirty minutes after the plane came to a stop.

They disembarked through a motorized gangway rather than exiting the aircraft through an avio bridge. They gradually disembarked and filed in a long queue for officials of Port Health who checked their temperature.

The returnees lamented the excruciating situation they were made to undergo as they were seen in a long stretch of queue. It was gathered that many of them were getting set to be transferred into a waiting Air Peace B777-300 aircraft taking them to Abuja.

Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Geoffrey Onyeama, has apologised to Nigerian returnees from UK for the delay experienced at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport before connecting to Abuja.

Onyeama, who was profusely sorry for the inconveniences caused the passengers,said henceforth other evacuees will go straight to final destinations.

253 of over 4,000 Nigerians stranded in UK arrived at Ikeja at about 2.45 pm. The passengers who were meant to be conveyed to Abuja for a 14- day isolation were delayed at the airport for about four hours before a connecting flight was arranged for them.

Tendering the apology during the daily briefing of the Presidential Taskforce on Covid-19 yesterday, the minister explained the circumstances that led to the bleak in the process.

Some of them also said they may reject the move to take them to Abuja.

Ogunleye said: “We were not treated badly in UK. Why should we be subjected to ridicule in Nigeria? They just dropped us here at the airport and they said we cannot move. No government official to talk to us.

“We have very eminent people here. Who are we to talk to now? They said the minister was to make arrangement for us. This arrangement is not tidy. We deserve to be well treated in our country “A journalist, who was among the returnees, said Nigerians returned home only to be exposed to ridicule in their country.

He said: “The aircraft that brought us has even loaded to go back to the United Kingdom. We arrived around 1.45pm. It is now 5pm. No official came to us to receive us and give us further directives.

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