BY MARY KUYE
Within ten days, about 1,739 foreigners have been evacuated from Nigeria through the Murtala Muhammed International Airport (MMIA), Lagos due to the coronavirus.
Just as the United States of America on Tuesday evacuated 200 national using the Delta Air Lines.
Regional Manager, South West Airport, Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN), Mrs Victoria Shin-Aba, revealed this to the press on Tuesday in her office at the Lagos airport.
Shin-Aba said: ”Since the evacuation exercise commenced with the airlifting of French and European citizens by Air France late March, several airlines including two Nigerian carriers have participated in airlifting of foreign nationals out of the country.
She said that Air France had evacuated 399 French and European nationals, Lufthansa; 238, Air Peace crew); six, 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, however, said that the evacuation exercise has been going on smoothly with little or no hitches.
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Shin-Aba assured that FAAN in collaboration with other agencies would continue to carry out its duties with utmost caution and professionalism.
“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, 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.
“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 200, 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.” Shin-Aba said.
Speaking on preventive measures for staff over coronavirus, Shin-Aba said the agency had adopted social distancing practice, deploys 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 impacted in the past weeks, stressing that on the average, the terminal handles 23-28 flights delay, but had been dropped drastically to just 10 flights in 10 days.