Rising to meet the historic challenge posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, today a repatriation flight carrying 376 U.S. citizens departed Murtala Mohammed International Airport, Lagos for Washington Dulles International Airport.
The chartered flight, newsreportersng.com learnt is operated by Ethiopian Airlines and departed at about 1725 local time and is the first in a series of repatriation flights for American citizens out of Lagos.
A statement from the US Consulate in Lagos said additional flights are expected to depart Lagos within the next few days.
The statement signed by Temitayo Famutimi, Information Specialist at the Public Affairs Section (PAS) of the Consulate said priority on repatriation flights is given to the elderly, individuals with serious health issues, unaccompanied minors, pregnant women, and physically challenged citizens. Before boarding, local health authorities conducted temperature checks on all of the passengers.
Following the closure of Nigerian airports to all international commercial flights, many Americans have contacted the U.S. Mission requesting assistance to return home.
One of the evacuees, Mr. Gabriel Idigo, expressed gratitude to the U.S. government for rendering assistance to citizens stranded in Nigeria.
“I have been here (Nigeria) for a while. I was stuck in the hotel for about two weeks. All my money had been depleted. I thank the US government for coming to our aid. I am glad to be going home. From Washington Dulles International Airport, I hope to fly to Los Angeles where I live,” he said.
As of April 5, 2020, the U.S. Department of State has coordinated the repatriation of 43,116 Americans from 78 countries.
United States Consul General Claire Pierangelo noted that the repatriation flights represent a major effort by the U.S. Consulate General Lagos, with excellent cooperation from the Federal Government of Nigeria, the Lagos State Government, Nigeria Immigration Service and the Federal Airport Authority of Nigeria.
“In times of emergency, the first priority of the Department of State is the safety of American citizens overseas. For that reason, throughout the world, we are working to ensure that Americans who want to return home are able to get home. We hope to get about 1, 000 Americans out of Lagos this week alone,” Consul General Pierangelo said.
Consul General Pierangelo has urged all Americans who remain in Nigeria to abide by the rules and procedures the Nigerian government has put in place including social distancing and frequent handwashing in order to keep everyone healthy and safe.