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The Nigerian government says it is ready to commence the evacuation of its citizens who are stranded across the world due to the COVID-19 pandemic starting from next week.

Foreign affairs minister Geoffrey Onyeama told media in Abuja late Monday that over 2,000 Nigerians, many of whom were stranded, had indicated an interest in returning home.

“The most important part at this stage is to secure the planes to bring them back and we have now done that. So, hopefully, if we can tie up the other loose ends, we hope to start maybe towards the end of next week,” Onyeama said.

Already, the Nigerian government has signed a Memorandum of Understanding with two airlines to bring back the citizens at affordable rates, he said. It is not clear if the airlines are domestic or foreign operators.

Nigeria had shut down its airports since late March, as part of moves to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus in the country.

The Nigerian FM said during the exercise, citizens would be brought back into the country in batches of 200 persons. This, he explained, is due to the lack of sufficient space at isolation centers.

Returnees would be made to stay in seclusion for two weeks. “The next challenge is accommodation; everything has to be absolutely ready. We are actually determined when we start that, everything should go very smoothly and so, we really want to take all the necessary steps to ensure that would be the case,” the official added. Enditem

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