Controversy is trailing claims by Nigerian evacuees that they were made to pay for COVID-19 tests and hotel accommodation by the Nigerian authorities.
But the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Onyeama, in a tweet said the Ambassador to Cotonou denied knowledge of the evacuees making payments for the COVID-19 test.
The evacuees from Berlin, and Rome were as at the time of filing this report on isolation in Cotonou, the Benin Republic capital.
The Nigerian government, through the Foreign Affairs Minister, Geoffrey Onyema, had earlier said the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and the Nigeria National Petroleum Commission (NNPC) would bear the cost of quarantine, accommodation and feeding for the citizens returning to the country from abroad. The Minister said this during the presidential task force on COVID-19 briefing. He said the two government agencies were approached for funds for the accommodation and feeding of the Nigerian evacuees during their two-week isolation.
One of the evacuees, Akim Abubakar (@akimabubakar) tweeting at the Foreign Affairs Minister, said: “Sir ,we paid €153 each for the covid test & passports seized. Paid another 40,000 CFA each for hotel. Thanks to the Ambassador in Cotonou who sent us food and promised to facilitate our departure /refunds for test. Also thanks to the embassy at Berlin for cash assistance.”
Also tweeting at the Foreign Affairs Minister, an evacuee from Rome, Akindele Abiola @AbiolaOyeboade, said: “I also came in to Cotonou from Rome through Paris, and I was made to compulsorily pay €153 from my personal pocket. Thereafter, my passport was collected with that of other Nigerians from Berlin.
“We had to pay 40,000cfa for accommodation for two nights and still we haven’t gotten our passport. I must acknowledge that the Nigerian embassy here in Benin has been actively in touch with us since yesterday, they even brought us food yesterday night.”
“My belief is that the Nigeria Ambassador to Cotonou and its officials should have been on ground to receive the returnee’s,so they don’t have to go through the stress of payment and their passport being seized by the Cotonou immigration officials.”
Commenting on the plight of the evacuees, Foreign Minister, Geoffrey Onyeama said:“In regards to the situation of Nigerians who arrived Cotonou, Benin Republic, and taken to a hotel for quarantine and asked to pay for test:
“I was in touch with our Ambassador in Cotonou and he has informed me that there are 8 Nigerians who arrived from Berlin and he has contacted the Benin Government and the evacuees. He is making arrangements to transport them to Nigeria. He is not aware of any payment for tests.
“I have been in touch with the Comptroller General of @nigimmigration
, Muhammad Babandede, and he has assured me that he has given directives to the border officials to make the appropriate arrangements for the evacuees.”
Giving update on evacuees in quarantine, the minister said: “We are coming to the end of the 14-day quarantine for the first and second batches of Nigerian evacuees. Some of them need to travel across state lines to get home.
“I spoke to the Inspector General of @PoliceNG, Mohammed A. Adamu, and he has directed Commissioners of Police in Abuja and Lagos to give the evacuees personalised passes for travel.
We have evacuated 4 batches so far, the first batch from the UAE, second batch from the UK, third batch is from the US and the fourth batch from Saudi Arabia.
“There are many Nigerians all over the world who still want to come home and we are doing everything we can to bring them. There are Nigerians in India, China, South Africa, Sudan, UK, US, France and so on. I urge you all to continue to bear with us, be patient, because the reality is that we can only process a certain number at any given time.
“All the different facilities that are required to be in place, human resources as well are limited. It really pains us to know and see that there are Nigerians out there who are really desperate and going through difficult times needing and wanting to come home.
So we will continue to do everything possible to bring them back home as quickly as possible.
IOM launches open South America portal
Buenos Aires – IOM, the International Organization for Migration, this week launched the Open South America Portal, a web platform providing migrants and stakeholders in the region with access to reliable and timely information on human mobility restrictions and health and safety measures adopted by governments in the COVID-19 pandemic.
Open South America, available in Spanish, English and Portuguese, shares official information by country on the latest measures, including border restrictions, quarantine requirements and COVID-19 tests for migrants and travellers.
The portal also provides updated information on authorized entry points and key places for travellers and migrants, such as consulates, migrant care and health centres, airports, border crossings points and ports. This information can be explored through an interactive map.
The platform, funded by the IOM Development Fund, is also accessible to vulnerable migrants who may be stranded or are at risk of receiving misinformation on migration.
Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, South America has been one of the most impacted regions worldwide. According to the World Health Organization figures, as of 8 July 2021 there were 33,475,765 COVID-19 cumulative cases in the region, which represents 89 per cent of the total cases in Latin America, and 18 per cent of all infections recorded globally.
Countries such as Brazil, Peru, Colombia and Ecuador all experienced severe outbreaks. For example, Brazil currently reports the third highest number of cumulative cases (18,855,015) and second highest death toll (526,892) globally.
“Open South America will facilitate orderly, regular and responsible migration in South America amid the uncertain times of COVID-19 and after the pandemic,” said Minister Ana Laura Cachaza, General Director of Consular Affairs of the Government of Argentina.
“Migrants’ access to up-to-date information through innovative online tools is essential considering the changing migration dynamic in the region due to the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Marcelo Pisani, IOM Regional Director for South America.
29,000 Nigerians, Ghanaians, Somalians, other Africans migrated through the Mediterranean Sea to Europe in 2021 —IOM
The International Organisation for Migration has said that 29,000 individuals including Nigerians, Ghanaians, Somalians and other Africans have emigrated to Europe through the Mediterranean Sea this year.
About 13,000 were arrested by the coast guards and returned home while 761 migrants were said to have perished in the sea.
Disclosing this to journalists in Abuja on Friday, the Chief of Mission, IOM Nigeria, Mr Franz Celestin, said less than five per cent of migrants usually made it to Europe, adding that the vast majority stay in Africa.
He further said that a lot of migrants were trafficked within the Economic Community of West African States, adding that Mali was the number one destination point for trafficked Nigerian women.
Responding to questions on the number of people who have undertaken the perilous trip to Europe through the Mediterranean, the IOM Chief said, “A combination of unemployment and underemployment is pushing people to migrate.
“In this year, 29,000 migrants from Sub-Sahara Africa have migrated to Europe through the Mediterranean. About 13,000 were intercepted by the coastguard while 761 died.”
Celestin stressed the importance of tackling human trafficking which he said grossed about $150 billion annually.
“Traffickers make a lot of money and they would continue to do it until a coordinated response is evolved to stop them. We are collaborating with Interpol in this respect; we are connected to the Interpol i/247 database. We connected the MIDAS to the Interpol database where we pass the information on traffickers to the Interpol,” he stated.
Celestin explained that the IOM has been involved in the biometric registration of children in the North-East, noting that the agency has registered no fewer than 17,053 children in 18 different internally displaced person camps between 2019 and May 2021 in Borno State.
The agency chief also disclosed that IOM was involved in the G7 Famine Prevention and Humanitarian Compact for North-East.
FG condemns killing of Nigerian footballer in UK
The Federal government has condemned the alleged killing of a Nigerian Footballer, Kelvin Igweani, by the UK police.
Recall that Igweani, a Nigerian Footballer, was shot dead by officers, who attended a call out to a house, where a child was found with serious injuries.
Reacting, Hon. Abike Dabiri-Erewa, Chairman/CEO, Nigerians in Diaspora Commission (NIDCOM), in Abuja on Wednesday described the incident as very unfortunate,and sad.
Dabiri-Erewa condoled with the family of the deceased and the Nigerian communities in the UK while praying that God grants rest to the soul of the departed.
“We call on the UK government for a thorough and proper investigation to be carried out on the incident,” the statement added.
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