The Federal Government said on Thursday that it was planning to evacuate Nigerian students who were stranded in Khartoum, Sudan due to the global COVID-19 pandemic.
The Minister for Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Onyema stated this on Wednesday during a press briefing by the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 in Abuja, adding that the government would have to find resources to bring them back home without students paying because they are young children.
It would be recalled that government had given the payment of cost of air ticket as one of the conditions for air lifting Nigerians who are stranded abroad but desire to return home.
Defending the decision to fund the return of the students, Onyeama said: “The financial aspect of this is one that we are also very mindful of. You know, we have some students who are stuck in Khartoum, Sudan.
“Of course, we have to bend backwards because they are students, young children to find resources to pay for their return and also for their two weeks isolation,” he said.
Mr Onyeama, however, said such magnanimity cannot be extended to others that are to be evacuated because of the paucity of funds.
”But unfortunately, for all the others, we just don’t have the financial resources. As you can see, there is a huge amount of money that we have to pay for various aspects of the challenge.
”It is a source of great regret to the government that we are not in the position to pay. If we have the resources, we would be more than happy to pay for anybody to come home free of charge, pay for their stay in the isolation centre for two weeks.
”But the reality is we just don’t and that is just the situation for now,” he said.
Sudan is already battling the dreaded COVID-19 disease with 107 confirmed cases, and 12 deaths.
Speaking on the increasing number of returnees that can be accommodated in the planned evacuation, the minister said the committee is only following medical advice.
”We got medical advice and we asked the medical people what was possible and the figure we were given was 200 in Lagos and 200 for Abuja.
“Of course, this is much less than the numbers that are waiting to come back. But we are constrained by the facilities that are available and unfortunately, we have the internal challenges as you can see the figures are going up all the time,” he said.
According to him, the number of people for evacuation will increase when adequate facilities are available to deal with needed challenges.
“So we have a great responsibility to also ensure that these facilities are also there to deal with the needed challenges we are facing.
“But if opportunities present itself and we find that more facilities become available, then of course we would look at the possibility of expanding and increasing the numbers of people we can bring back.
“But at this moment, this is the framework that we have been told we can operate,” the minister said.
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