Despite the COVID-19 lockdown and the ban on international flights for over five months in Nigeria, 52,543 passengers departed and arrived in the country in several evacuation flights, analysis of the statistics has shown.
The 52,543 passengers comprise 30,037 departures and 22,506 arrivals with the evacuation flights ending on September 3, just two days to the reopening of the airports for international flights.
The last evacuation flights conveying 141 arriving passengers and 258 departing passengers were operated by Egypt Air and Kenya Airways.
Data showed that 30,037 nationals of different countries were evacuated while 22,506 Nigerians stranded in other countries returned home.
The Federal Government had closed international airports on March 24 following the COVID-19 pandemic.
But it listed exemptions – flights for humanitarian delivery, medical, technical and safety reasons, as approved by the Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika.
From the exclusive data, the Murtala Muhammed International Airport (MMIA) had over 100 evacuation flights with 26,119 departing and 14,819 arriving passengers.
At the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja, 3,918 foreigners were evacuated in 48 flights while 7,687 Nigerians arrived.
There were about 40 foreign airlines evacuating nationals of the USA and about nine other countries; Nigerians there also returned home.
Nigeria’s airlines – Air Peace; Overland, Execujet, Azman and EAN also participated in the evacuation process.
August 2020 had the highest number of evacuees with MMIA alone processing 8,434 departing passengers and 8,357 arriving passengers.
In July, MMIA had 7,190 departing and 4,613 arriving passengers; there were 5,255 departing and 765 arriving passengers in June.
Lagos had 3,109 departures and 853 arrivals in May, and there were 1,873 departures and 90 arrivals in April.
Experts had argued that some airlines operated commercially while hiding under the cover of ‘evacuation flights’ during the period.
President of Aviation Roundtable, Dr. Gabriel Olowo , said, “I am particularly worried why evacuation flights are seemingly replacing commercial flights after the new travel protocols have been established.”