The Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) has said over 1,739 foreigners have been evacuated from Nigeria through the Murtala Muhammed International Airport (MMIA), Lagos since the evacuation began about 10 days ago.
Delta Air Lines also yesterday evacuated 208 Americans with Flight D8956 from the airport in continuation of the repatriation.
However, the US Mission in Nigeria has urged its citizens intending to leave Nigeria to register not later than 9a.m today.
FAAN’s Regional Manager, South-west Airport, Mrs. Victoria Shin-Aba, told reporters yesterday in Lagos that since the evacuation commenced with the airlifting of French and European citizens by Air France late March, some airlines, including two Nigerian carriers, had airlifted foreign nationals out of the country.
Statistics provided by Shin-Aba indicated that Air France evacuated 399 French and European nationals; Lufthansa, 238; Middle East Airline (MEA), 140; Ethiopian Airlines, 148; 137 (Canadians); 375 (US); Jed Air, nine (Liberians and crew); Air Peace, 87 Isrealis and Delta with 208 Americans.
She explained that the evacuation had been going on smoothly with little or no hitches, adding that FAAN in collaboration with other agencies would continue to carry out its duties with utmost caution and professionalism.
She 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 and Air Peace airlifted Israelis. Today, we have Delta Airlines on ground that will take about 208 Americans.
“The conditions are that you have to get an approval from the Federal Ministry of Aviation. When the ministry gives 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 pandemic, which has to be followed.
“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 checking 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 (Tuesday), we have had 1,539 evacuations through the Lagos Airport alone. Today, United States is having another 208, another batch of Americans will be airlifted tomorrow (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 airport workers from contracting the virus, Shin-Aba said the agency 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, decried that the revenue generations of FAAN had been negatively impacted in the past weeks, adding that on the average, the terminal handles 23-28 flights a day, but this has dropped drastically to just 10 flights in 10 days due to closure of international flight operations.
But she was optimistic that the aerodrome would once again scale the hurdle of NCAA certification later in the year, noting that all hands were on deck to make the exercise a huge success.