The Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) says no fewer than 1,739 foreigners have been evacuated from Nigeria through the Murtala Muhammed International Airport (MMIA), Lagos, since the evacuation exercise began about 10 days ago.
Mrs Victoria Shin-Aba, the Regional Manager, South-West Airport of FAAN, made this known to journalists on Tuesday, April 7, 2020 in Lagos.
According to Shin-Aba, since the evacuation exercise commenced with the transportation of French and European citizens by Air France late March, several airlines, including two Nigerian carriers, have participated in movement of foreign nationals out of the country.
She said: “Delta Airlines from the United States on Tuesday afternoon evacuated 200 Americans at the airport in continuation of the exercise.”
Statistics provided by Shin-Aba indicated that Air France had evacuated 399 French and European nationals; Lufthansa – 238, six Air Peace crew; 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 said that the evacuation exercise had been going on smoothly with little or no hitches at all.
Shin-Aba said 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.
“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 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 course of the week. That is why we are essential workers.
“We have to ensure that there is smooth running of operations. Nothing is compromised,” she added.
On prevention of “essential workers” from contracting the disease, 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.
She said that sanitisers arepositioned in strategic and open areas of the airport.
Shin-Aba, however, frowned at the fact that the revenue generations of FAAN had been impacted in the past weeks.
According to her, on the average, the terminal handles 23 to 28 flights daily, but had been dropped drastically to just 10 flights in 10 days.
The regional terminal manager further assured that the aerodrome would once again scale the hurdle of NCAA certification later in the year.
She noted that all hands were on deck to make the exercise a huge success.
By Yunus Yusuf