Twelve desperate stranded Nigerians awaiting evacuation in Côte d’Ivoire have reportedly paid N7m for a charter flight.
The stranded men were said to be desperate to return home on account of the coronavirus pandemic.
A senior official informed us on Wednesday that the Nigerian Mission in Côte d’Ivoire gave the desperate businessmen approval to secure the aircraft at their own expense.
The source stated, “Twelve businessmen stranded in Côte d’Ivoire are desperate to return home. They contacted the Nigerian Mission in Côte d’Ivoire and were asked to make their own travel arrangements, so they decided to come by charter flight.
“They have agreed to pay N7m for the charter flight, but they are waiting for the ministries of Foreign Affairs and Aviation to sort out the landing rights and other clearance issues. A man in Sierra Leone, who is suffering from acute typhoid and was anxious to return to home for treatment, is also willing to pay N1m for a seat on the flight.”
We gathered that 292 Nigerians who arrived from Saudi Arabia on Tuesday have taken up the remaining bed spaces at the various isolation centres in Abuja.
The returnees, who were transported by the Saudi government, consisted of a large number of nursing mothers and children who had been stranded in the Arab country.
The Foreign Affairs Minister, Geoffrey Onyeama, confirmed their arrival in a tweet on Wednesday.
The latest arrivals had brought the number of evacuees in quarantine to 912.
Our correspondent learnt that with the latest returnees, the Federal Government would not be able to repatriate more Nigerians in foreign countries until those in quarantine had completed their 14-day period.
There are also indications that the Federal Government was negotiating with Malaysia for the evacuation of Nigerians in that country.
Air Peace is expected to fly 150 Malaysians stranded in Nigeria back to their country and bring back the stranded Nigerians.
But the Malaysian government, it was learnt, was insisting on a Malaysian carrier which had allegedly pegged its tickets at about $2,500 against the $1,500 charged by Air Peace.
It was gathered that the ministry and Malaysia are still negotiating the flight cost and landing rights.
The MFA spokesman, Mr Ferdinand Nwonye, said all Nigerian missions abroad had been directed to negotiate with airlines for the evacuation, adding that citizens who wished to make their own arrangements were free to do so.
He stated, “I am not aware of the charter arrangements by the Nigerians in Côte d’Ivoire. On the isolation centres, I think the government can get more hotel rooms to accommodate returning Nigerians or discharge those in quarantine to make room for new arrivals.”