Yusuf Alli, Managing Editor, Abuja


THE number of Nigerians desirous of returning to the country amid the COVID-19 pandemic has risen from 1, 000 to 2,110.

The Nation reported  on Friday that over 1,000 Nigerians in the United States (US)  and some European countries, including the United Kingdom(UK), and others  had applied to the Federal Government to facilitate their return to the country.

A document obtained at the weekend by our reporter in Abuja, showed that the 2,110 prospective returnees are from 75 countries, including about 466 in  the UK; 253 in  the United Arab Emirate; 229 in China; and 163 in the US.

Eight of the prospective returnees from the UK were found to be positive after tests conducted on  40 people who submitted themselves for screening in compliance with the Federal Government’s insistence that the COVID-19  status of anyone seeking to return home must be ascertained.

According to the document, some of the 71 other countries with high number of prospective returnees  are  Turkey(160); Egypt(115); India(92); Malaysia (84) and Cyprus(72);

Thirty nine are in South Africa; 35 each  in  Indonesia and Saudi Arabia;   32 in Ghana;  20 in Cameroon; 18 in Sudan; 15 in  Ukraine; 14 in  Pakistan; 13 in  Jordan; 10 in Germany; eight in Italy; six in  Australia; three in France;  five in  Oman; three in  Philippines; three in Poland; and  four in Qatar(4).

A source, who spoke in confidence on Sunday, said, “About 466 Nigerians have applied to return home from the United Kingdom. But only 150 returnees have so far  indicated interest in COVID-19 test.

“Out of the figure, over 40 have paid to be tested with 20  reported to have completed their tests. Others will complete theirs  on Tuesday (today).

“Out of those tested (results are still coming through), eight returnees  tested positive with no symptoms. They were also shocked by their results.”

The source added  that the UK authorities had  started contact tracing of all those the eight positive prospective returnees had met in the last two weeks.

According to the source, the   development has  strengthened the insistence of the Federal Government on COVID-19 test as a precondition for evacuation.

Many of the prospective returnees are mostly those who travelled but could not return as a result of lockdown and those scared that they might not find their bearings anymore as a result of  economic meltdown in their host countries.

Our source said,  ”The UK government has been doing the profiling of the positive eight returnees to identify those they have had contact with in the past two weeks. The government has asked all the contacts to self-isolate.”

A source in Abuja said: “The list was compiled by the Nigerians in Diaspora Commission (NIDCOM) and sent to the various missions which have also compiled theirs.

“All the lists will be verified and reconciled by our missions before applying the two criteria for the evacuation of the returnees which are: compulsory COVID-19 test and fares payment by the would-be  evacuees.”

Spokesman for NIDCOM, Abdulrahman Balogun said: “Nigerians are awaiting evacuation across different countries.

“The Federal Government has made it compulsory for them to get tested before evacuation. Only those with negative COVID-19 will be evacuated while those who are positive will be considered under a special arrangement

“They can get the test done through any accredited laboratories, including FREE NHS test. The testing criteria are set by NHS.