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Covid-19: Evacuation of Americans stalled as 4,000 British citizens seek to leave Nigeria

Hundreds of Americans who were scheduled to be evacuated from Nigeria on Friday were stranded for hours at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport (MMIA), Ikeja, Lagos when the aircraft which was to convey them did not arrive, Daily Trust on Saturday has learnt.

4,000 United Kingdom citizens in the country have reportedly applied to be evacuated back to their home country.

The Americans whose number could not be ascertained eventually left the airport frustrated for their respective homes and hotels.

It was learnt that the chartered flight to be operated by Omni Air International which was coming from Dulles Airport could not land in Nigeria due to over flight issues with other countries.

Most of the evacuees were reportedly wearing sad faces when they were told that the evacuation flight from Dulles may not be on ground on Friday.

The US nationals who had already checked-in by authorities at the airport were seen collecting their baggage from the arrival baggage belts with the plan to go back home.

They eventually left the airport when it was clear the aircraft might not arrive after hours of waiting.

According to investigation, the flight was cancelled due to the inability of the airplane to over-fly some countries, though the countries could not be ascertained as of press time.

Our correspondent reports overflight permits are authorisations from Civil Aviation Authorities (CAAs) to overfly other country’s airspace.

In civil aviation protocols, airlines flying international are expected to get the permit of all the countries they are flying over enroute their destinations.

This is usually done for safety reason to enable the aircraft land in the nearest airport in case of emergency.

It was not clear when the flight would eventually arrive.

Americans despite having the largest number of COVID-19 cases in the world would be the latest country to evacuate their citizens out of Nigeria.

Since the infection was recorded in Nigeria, countries have been evacuating their citizens. On Thursday alone, two European countries- France and Germany carried out the single largest evacuation of 637 nationals from Lagos while Israel evacuated 274 from Abuja airport.

Meanwhile it was however learnt that the British High Commission is exploring available flight options for “short term” visitors to Nigeria who are reportedly anxious to return home.

UK High Commission in Nigeria confirmed on its Twitter handle, @UKinNigeria, saying, “We fully understand the anxiety many of you face around #COVID19. Our offer of help is to stranded 🇬🇧 travellers who aren’t long term residents in 🇳🇬. Over 4000 people have expressed interests in return flights. We’re working around the clock to support you all.”

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