The Federal Government has attributed the directive given to Nigerian missions abroad that prospective Nigerian evacuees should pay for their accommodation and feeding before departure or arrival to Nigeria to constraints of resources to take care of the huge number of willing returnees back to the country.
Minister of Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Onyeama, confirmed this on Friday during the daily briefing of the Presidential Task Force on Covid-19 in Abuja on Friday.
One of the directives was issued by the Nigerian Embassy in Bangkok, Thailand stressing that willing evacuees will have to pay N297, 600 to cover for their accommodation, quarantine, isolation and feeding. The statement signed by the Head of Chancery of the Nigerian Embassy in Bangkok, Nicholas Uhomoibhi, warned that the embassy has been instructed not to airlift any evacuee, who fails to pay the above fee.
Part of the statement reads: “I am directed to bring to your attention that due to the measures that are beyond the control of the COVID-19 local organizing team in Nigeria, all evacuees going to Nigeria henceforth are to now pay for their quarantine, isolation, accommodation centre or hotels before departure and arrival in Nigeria.
“In this regard, all prospective evacuees are to note the negotiated rate below:
Accommodation- N15, 000×16 days-N240, 000, Feeding-N3, 600×16 days-N57, 600, Total-N297, 600.”
Onyeama said: “There has been quite a lot in the social media especially after the recent directives that were communicated to our missions indicating a certain amount of money that anybody who wanted to be evacuated back to the country needed to pay and that it was not just for the air ticket but also includes accommodation for two weeks and two days and the cost of feeding.
“Now this is not by any stretch of imagination something that the government is happy to do. As I mentioned time and time again, if the resources were there, we would evacuate everybody and if our medical infrastructure were solid and our caseload was much lower, we could look at other ways of accommodating them.
“But the way things are at the moment, the fragility of our health infrastructure, the trajectory of the increasing numbers of positive tests being what they are, we had to take the greatest care with regards to the protocol we will adopt with people coming home.
“So, it has been decided after long discussion and evaluation by the best medical minds that we have what is best for us for the interest of the country that there should be a period of quarantine when any of our evacuees come home.”
On the suggestion that the evacuees be housed in the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) facilities and school facilities which would be much cheaper, the Minister said the quarantining has to be one person per room to avoid infections, adding that the best options are hotels.
“We went to greater length to get these hotels at the best way possible and the amount we could get for Abuja was N15, 000 and also negotiated the best we could for the feeding,’’ he said.
With regard to the Flight coming in, the minister said “one of the real challenges we had was that we did not want to keep people out there any longer than they needed. So for us, we put a lot of emphasis on trying to bring as many people back as quickly as possible which meant whatever flight that was available we will try and arrange with those flights and take them back.”
Meanwhile, the Federal Government through the Presidential Taskforce on Covid-19 has assured that it would reimburse patients who have used their personal resources to treat themselves of the virus.
Sani Aliyu, Coordinator of the Presidential Taskforce on Covid-19 who gave this assurance Friday at the daily briefing of the Taskforce, said the team would approach Federal tertiary institutions to request for evidence before the reimbursement.
On the relaxation of the lockdown, Aliyu said: “the principal reason is to reduce mass gathering. The more you are in mass gathering the more it will be difficult to maintain social distance. If you have somebody who is Covid-19 infected and is in close proximity with you despite you are wearing a mask or not you are at risk of catching Covid-19 infection.
Also speaking, the Minister of Humanitarian Affairs and Disaster Management and Social Development, Sadiya Farouq said the stipends for N-Power Volunteers would be paid early next week.
On his part, the Minister of Interior, Rauf Aregbesola disclosed that there would be improvement in the effectiveness of movement control and restriction on the highways in the few weeks to come.
The former Osun State Governor said Covid-19 having entered the community infection phase, requires community commitment and ownership of the management of the virus adding that
there is need to create community isolation facilities to manage the spread of this virus.
“I agree that there are challenges. It has not been perfect. We meet every week with the Heads of security agencies as a Taskforce and we have assurances from them that things will get better. I believe that a very high level of the officers of the Nigeria Police Force which is the lead agency in ensuring internal security will ensure effectiveness especially on the highways”, Aregbesola said.
Earlier, the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Aviation, Hassan Musa said the Ministry was liaising with the Nigerian Ports Authority and the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria to determine whether to give concession on demurrage while the lockdown lasts.