208 stranded Nigerian citizens departed New Jersey for home on Thursday night in the ninth evacuation flight from the United States.
Barring any future change in plan, this is the final repatriation flight organised by the Federal Government for citizens stranded in the U.S. due to the coronavirus pandemic.
It came barely 24 hours after the eighth flight in which 94 Nigerians were evacuated from Houston, Texas, to join friends and families back home.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that a total of 2,322 citizens were repatriated in the U.S. lap of the evacuation that began on May 10.
Six of all nine flights operated by Ethiopian Airlines originated from the Newark Liberty International Airport, New Jersey, and were coordinated by the Consulate General of Nigeria in New York.
The remaining three from the George Bush International Airport in Houston, Texas, were handled by the Nigerian consulate in Atlanta.
Speaking with NAN on Thursday night, the Consul General of Nigeria in New York, Mr Benaoyagha Okoyen, expressed happiness over the success of the exercise.
He said: ”It’s an honour to help Nigerians stranded in faraway land to go back home. This is the desire of the federal government and we are glad to have fulfilled it.
“We did nine flights, which Nigerians are happy about. It was expected; Nigerians love their home, they are proud of their country, and this is what we saw on display during this period.’’
Okoyen lauded officials of the consulate for their dedication and teamwork, which he said accounted for the success story.
He also acknowledged the contributions of the Nigerian community, the Association of Nigerian Physicians in the Americas (ANPA), and the Nigerians in Diaspora Organisation Americas (NIDOA).
NAN reports that a medical team comprising members of ANPA enforced the federal government’s health protocols on the evacuees throughout the exercise.
The Chairman of the New Jersey chapter of the association, Dr Nelson Aluya, thanked the consulate for the opportunity to contribute their quota.
“As you know, physicians are very busy but you cannot be too busy to attend to people you hold dear.
“We value Nigerians, their safety and their lives, and that is why we have been here from day one,’’ he said.
Another prominent member of the medical team, Dr Iwuozo Obilo, who was on ground throughout the exercise, highlighted their roles to include temperature checks and verification of the evacuees’ COVID-19 test results.
“I consider it a great honour to help ensure that our brothers and sisters stranded here, many of whom were struggling to meet their daily needs, got home in good health,’’ Obilo said.