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Covid-19 in Nigeria

CBN, NNPC To Spend N1bn On Quarantine And Feeding Of 3,000 Evacuees

Valentine Chinyem

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The Central Bank of Nigeria and the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) have agreed to fund the quarantine and feeding of over 3,000 Nigerians awaiting evacuation from foreign countries with the sum of N1billion.

According to the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Onyeama, who disclosed this during a briefing by the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 in Abuja, the accommodation and feeding of the returnees for the required 14-days isolation, from arrival in the country, would be funded by the two organisations.

The Federal Government it would be recalled has asked prospective returnees to pay N290,000 for their isolation and feeding in hotels in Lagos and Abuja, ahead of their evacuation from the United States, United Kingdom, India, China, Thailand and Canada.

According to the government, its decision is based om scarce resources, noting that it could only support the 620 evacuees currently in quarantine.

Onyeama, however, stated that many Nigerians had questioned the rationale behind asking citizens to pay before they are airlifted.

He added that, government diverted funds meant for other projects, to pay for the accommodation and feeding of the first three sets of evacuees currently in isolation.

The minister said it got to a point where government had to decide if it should stop the evacuation for lack of funds or make the citizens pay for it.

He explained that the government was aware of the fact that many stranded citizens in foreign countries were desperate to return home, adding that he was advised by the Minister of Environment, Dr Mohammed Abubakar, to solicit financial support from the CBN and the NNPC.

“The Minister of Environment, Dr Mohammed Abubakar, on Friday night called me and suggested, ‘why not try NNPC, why not try CBN? They have corporate social responsibility funding.’ I told him I would do that immediately,” the minister said.

“I got in touch with the governor of the CBN and I told him I was going to do the same with the GMD, NNPC, Mele Kyari, and the governor of the central bank agreed.

“We are talking of over N1bn because till now, we have about 4,000 Nigerians out there and if 3,000 of them come back, the cost of accommodation, feeding and everything else are over N1bn that we don’t have and he said he is ready to explore and share with the NNPC.”

Onyeama added, “I spoke to the GMD of NNPC and he said he is going to consult. So, we kept fingers crossed and thanks be to God, today (Monday), he got back to me to say he was going to meet up with the governor of the Central Bank and together, they would fund the portion – accommodation and feeding of evacuees, so we can go forward in a better environment.”

On why the evacuees were not tested for COVID-19 before the evacuation, the minister noted that medical experts suggested that it was not necessary, adding that the positive cases among the evacuees from the United Arab Emirates had justified the decision.

He said, “Medical experts had told us it was not necessary to test beforehand because the gestation cannot be seen immediately. I think the positive cases in Lagos showed that testing beforehand is not guaranteed, whatsoever.”

Onyeama further disclosed that Nigerians awaiting repatriation in India would soon be brought back by a local airline.