Despite the lockdown in Nigeria, evacuation of foreign nationals out of the country has put the country’s flagship Murtala Muhammed International Airport in Lagos State busy.
As at Tuesday, 1,739 expatriates and investors, mainly citizens of the United States of America, France and Germany had left Nigeria through the Lagos airport in just 10 days.
The drift of foreigners from Nigeria due to the novel coronavirus disease began with 637 citizens of France and Germany evacuated through the airport. The number comprised 399 French citizens and 238 Germans.
According to airport sources, Air France’s A330, which was the first to land, departed at 13.56 hours, while Lufthansa departed with her nationals at 15.46 hours.
Before their departure, the Germans underwent airport security formalities and screening for COVID-19 as they awaited the Lufthansa flight, which landed few hours after for the evacuation under ‘emergency’ and ‘humanitarian’ flight operations.
While the Nigerian government had temporarily shut down MMIA and four other international airports in the country to scheduled flight operations since March 23, special and humanitarian flights such as evacuation and special mission flights could still be allowed on chartered flights as the bilateral agreements between the two countries happen, according a competent industry source.
Last Friday, over 500 Americans billed to be evacuated from Lagos were stranded at MMIA, after Omni Air was denied overflight permits.
However, evacuation of the Americans started on Sunday and 575 left Nigeria.
According to Regional Manager, South West Airport, Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria, Mrs. Victoria Shin-Aba, since the evacuation commenced with the airlifting of French and European citizens by Air France late March, several airlines, including two Nigerian carriers, have participated in airlifting of foreign nationals out of the country.
Statistics indicated that Air France had evacuated 399 French and European nationals, Lufthansa 238, Air Peace six, Middle East Airline 140, Ethiopian Airlines 148,137 (Canadians) and 375 (U.S.), Jed Air nine (Liberians and crew), Air Peace 87 and Delta with 200 Americans, all these in Lagos alone.
The evacuation has been going on smoothly with little or no hitch, she added, assuring that FAAN, in collaboration with other agencies, would continue to carry out its duties with utmost caution and professionalism.
Her words, “Apart from today (Tuesday), we have had 1,539 evacuations through the
Lagos Airport alone. Today, United States is having another 200, another batch of Americans will be airlifted tomorrow (Wednesday) and next week, we are having South African Airways and Air France too.”
On efforts of the management to prevent the “essential workers” from contracting the disease, Shin-Aba said the agency had adopted social distancing, deployed metal detectors for security checks, encouraged the use of hand gloves and face masks, while sanitisers were positioned in strategic and open areas of the airport.