April 8, 2020

1,739 foreigners evacuated from Nigeria

FAAN shuts Lagos Airport runway for eight weeks

…As Delta airlines airlifts 200 America nationals through Lagos Airport

By Lawani Mikairu

Regional Manager, South West Airport, Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria, FAAN, Mrs Victoria Shin-Aba yesterday, disclosed that about 1,739 foreigners have so far been evacuated from Nigeria through the Murtala Muhammed International Airport, MMIA, Lagos, since the evacuation exercise commenced about 10 days ago.

This came as Delta Airlines yesterday evacuated 200 Americans through the Lagos Airport in continuation of the exercise.

According to Mrs Shin-Aba,  the evacuation exercise started with the airlifting of French and European citizens by Air France late March. Other airlines including Nigerian Air Peace, have participated in airlifting the foreign nationals out of the country.

She said, “Air France  evacuated 399 French and European nationals; Lufthansa,  238;  Middle East Airline (MEA), 140; Ethiopian Airlines, 148, 137 (Canadians), 375 (U.S); Jed Air, nine (Liberians and crew); Air Peace; 87 and Delta with 200 Americans.”

She added that the evacuation exercise has been going on smoothly with little or no hitches and assured that FAAN in collaboration with other agencies would continue to carry out its “duties with utmost caution and professionalism.”

The Regional Manager said: “So far, the activities have been okay and well-coordinated. Since the closure of the airport, we have had about 10 evacuations with different nationals. We have had from Air France-KLM, Lufthansa, Middle East Airline (MEA) with the Lebanese, Ethiopian Airlines has been on with Americans and Canadians. Then, we have domestic charter too. Also, Jed Air did Liberia, Air Peace airlifted Israelis. Today (yesterday), we have Delta Airlines on ground that will take about 200 Americans.

“The conditions are that you have to get an approval from the Federal Ministry of Aviation, when the ministry gets the approval, it is sent to FAAN, the Nigerian Airspace Management Agency, NAMA, and the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority, NCAA. Then, we send the approval to all the security agencies too. Most importantly, there is a procedure in place for the Covid-19 virus pandemic, which has to be followed.

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“For instance, Port Health Service has to check everyone that is going out, at times, Nigeria Centre for Disease Control, NCDC, will be on ground. Even, to access the terminal, there is a check by the Nigeria Immigration Service, NIS, and others. It has been smooth sailing. Though, we had a cancellation some few days ago, but that was not due to anybody’s fault. It was due to logistics of the flight plan.

“Apart from today (yesterday), we have had 1,539 evacuations through the Lagos Airport alone. Today (yesterday), United States is having another 200, another batch of Americans will be airlifted Wednesday and next week, we are having South African Airways and Air France too. They can come up with any plan in the cause of the week. That is why we are essential workers. We have to ensure that there is smooth running of operations. Nothing is compromised.”

On efforts of the management to prevent the “essential workers” from contracting the disease, Shin-Aba said FAAN had adopted social distancing practice, deployed metal detectors for security checks, rather than the initial pant down, encourages use of hand gloves and face masks, while sanitisers were positioned in strategic and open areas of the airport.

She, however, regretted that the revenue generations of FAAN had been impacted in the past weeks, stressing that on the average, the terminal handles 23-28 flights daily, but had been dropped drastically to just 10 flights in 10 days.