The United Kingdom and United States of America yesterday evacuated 886 of their citizens from Nigeria through the Murtala Muhammed International Airport (MMIA), Lagos and the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja.
While the UK evacuated 546 from Abuja and Lagos, the US airlifted 340 from the MMIA yesterday, thereby bringing the number of foreigners evacuated from Nigeria 886.
In the case of the UK, a British Airways Boeing 747 aircraft airlifted 301 passengers and 14 crew from the Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Lagos at 16.10GMT, while 245 passengers were evacuated from the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja.
The US evacuated 340 citizens from the Lagos airport.
Speaking at the Abuja airport while coordinating the operation, British High Commissioner to Nigeria, Ms. Catriona Laing, expressed gratitude to the federal government for making the evacuation possible.
She said: “To be eligible for all flights, primary residence has to be in the UK and that the embassy prioritised helping the most vulnerable and those who have an underlying medical condition, placing them at greater risk of serious illness if they contact COVID-19.
“I want to say thank you to the government of Nigeria for all the support they have given us. I particularly want to thank the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Aviation, the Federal Capital Territory and the Lagos State government.
“It has been a really challenging process because we have had thousands of British citizens overseas wanting to get back and I appreciate my team that has worked tirelessly to put this together.
“For these first few flights, we have been priotising vulnerable British citizens who are at risk of contracting COVID19, the elderly, the disabled and those with children.
“There will be more flights coming to Lagos. I urge more people to book because the more people book, the better chances we have when we make a case to London for more flights. Many of the passengers I spoke to have Nigerian-British heritage, so we are seeing the best of both worlds,” Laing said.
The UK had said the nationals would pay £500 each for their seats while the federal government said it would not penalise foreigners who exceed their authorised visa stays as a result of travel restrictions linked to COVID-19.
It added that there “are currently no commercial options available to return to the UK from Nigeria. All airports in Nigeria are closed to all international commercial flights until 23 April. We know this is concerning for British people trying to leave Nigeria.
“The Nigerian authorities have told us that people who exceed their authorised visa stays as a result of travel restrictions linked to COVID-19 will not be penalised as over-stayers when they depart.”
The US evacuated another batch of its citizens using Boeing B777-200 aircraft operated by Omni International with registration mark, QAE 6204 from MMIA to Dulles Airport, Washington.
In a message on its FaceBook account, the US Consulate Facebook account said: “Today, over 340 Americans left Lagos for the United States thanks to another superb effort by the team at the U.S. Consulate General and our Nigerian partners.
“The passengers departed on a chartered Omni Air International flight bound for Dulles Airport, near Washington, DC. We wish all aboard a smooth flight as they head home to rejoin family and friends. Stay Safe and Healthy!”