Onyeama says no cause for alarm as 4,000 Britons seek evacuation

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The Minister of Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Onyeama has said there was no hidden agenda behind some countries evacuating their citizens from Nigeria; including over 4,000 citizens of the United Kingdom who have indicated interest in returning to their country amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The British high commission in Nigeria broke the news in a tweet yesterday. This is coming despite Nigeria’s less number of coronavirus cases compared to the figures in the UK. In UK, the number of confirmed coronavirus cases is 38,168, according to Worldometer; a website which provides real-time updates on the disease situation globally. With only 135 recoveries so far, 3,605 persons have been confirmed dead in the UK, as against four deaths and 210 confirmed cases in Nigeria.

The commission said it was working to evacuate its citizens, especially “stranded United Kingdom travelers who aren’t long term residents in Nigeria”. “We fully understand the anxiety many of you face around #COVID19. Our offer of help is to stranded United Kingdom travelers who aren’t long term residents in Nigeria. Over 4000 people have expressed interests in return flights. We’re working around the clock to support you all,” the tweet read.

The planned evacuation of British nationals comes after at least, 637 Europeans were evacuated from Nigeria and Benin Republic on Thursday, a move that left many wondering if there was cause for concern. At a press briefing of the presidential task force on COVID-19 in Abuja yesterday, a journalist had asked Onyeama if leaving the country was an indictment on Nigeria’s health system, to which the minister responded that it was not necessarily so.

Onyeama said those who had left did so to enable them make use of a system that they are familiar with, should the need arise. He added that the diplomatic staff of most of these countries were still in Nigeria, and that they have no plans of leaving.

“It is basically a case where people are more familiar with the health system in their various countries and so prefer to go to the various countries so in the event that they might have to be confined, they would be in more familiar surroundings and they would also have access to medical practitioners and facilities that they are used to,” Onyeama said.

“So, that is really the reason. And you will find that a large number of those countries evacuating citizens still have their heads of mission and ambassadors and other staff here in Nigeria and there are no plans of leaving.”