The third batch of 560 Nigerian returnees from Libya arrived Port Harcourt International Airport Saturday night. Max Air, with registration No: 5N-HMM, arrived the airport from Tripoli at about 11:52pm with the returnees to the waiting arms of Federal Government officials that received them on behalf of the government.
The South South Zonal Coordinator of National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) Mr Martins Ejike, who represented the Director General, Engr Mustapha Maihaja in coordinating all agencies involved in the evacuation and received the returnees on behalf of the Federal Government said the third batch that arrived comprised of 540 adults and 20 infants.
He said the repatriation exercises was in furtherance to the directive of the President. The latest arrival, he said has raised the number of the returnees to about 1500.
Meanwhile, state governments, he said have been responding positively in coming to pick their returnees . However, some of the states still slow in coming. However, those that are slow in coming, he appealed to them to hasten up to create space for the reception of the other returnees that are being expected.
The zonal coordinator said under the arrangement in the repatriation exercises, the returnees are not expected to spend more than 48 hours in the reception centre before being taken to their various states to create space for the next batch.
Mr. Ejike said that the choice of Port Harcourt airport as evacuation route was based on proximity to the most affected states.
“A graphic showed that Edo state alone recorded 309 out of 484 migrants that came during the first flight. The proportion is almost the same in the second batch. The record indicate that over 80 per cent of the returnees are indigenes of Edo and Delta states.
“It is more convenient for the largely affected states to evacuate their returnees from Port Harcourt,” he said.
Meanwhile, Muhammad Dahiru, the Public Relations Officer of Max Air, one of the indigenous airliner engaged by the Federal Government for the repatriation, said that it is competent and ready to complete the operations.
One of the returnees, Paul Eke, who thanked the federal government on ensuring smooth return of migrants, said that the measure showed government’s commitment to its citizens.
Mr. Eke also urged the government to continue its rescue process to the hinterland in the Libyan states where some Nigerians were being imprisoned and unjustly tortured.
“I urge our federal government to do more by rescuing some Nigerians who are still trapped in some interior parts of Libya.
“I stayed in Zawe Superata, this place is like an exit point to Italy and so many Nigerians are still being imprisoned there,” Mr. Eke alleged.
On arrival at the airport, the returnees are conveyed from the tarmac as they disembarked to the reception center for profiling, refreshments and medical screening and assistance to the sick. All stakeholders are on ground for the operation.
The National Emergency Management Agency is coordinating the evacuation exercise under the lead of the Federal Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Among the agencies participating in the exercise are the office of the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Foreign Affairs and Diaspora Matters, National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons, National Commission for Refugees, Nigerian Immigration Service, Nigeria Police and other security agencies.
Rehabilitation and Reintegration Team are also on ground and providing necessary counselling to the returnees.