2 months after, stranded Nigerians in Malaysia get July 11 date for return trip

…Beg FG on air fare 

Over two hundred and fifty Nigerians, mostly students at the undergraduate and post-graduates levels in various universities in Malaysia are presently stranded in Kaula Laupur and other parts of the Asian country.

This followed the COVID-19 pandemic which led to closure of global air space to curtail the spread of the virus.

In an exclusive interview with Blueprint Wednesday, a P.HD student at University Sultan Zainal Abidin (UNISZA), Kuala Tarrenganmu, Malaysia, Habib Awais said the Nigerian Embassy had earlier promised to evacuate them May 22, 2020, but yet to hear any news to that effect two months after.

He said: “The initial date for our evacuation was May 22.  Few days before the date, the embassy announced another date- June 28. Again, few days to the new date, the embassy shifted ground.

“We have submitted our details to Nigerian Embassy in Kaula Lumpur. There are over 250 stranded Nigerian and over 200 are students willing and ready to return home. Some cannot even afford the one thousand dollars as flight ticket.

“We are worried about the inconsistency of Nigerian Embassy in Kaula Lumpur and Federal Government. It seems to us that preferential treatment is being given to Nigerians in other continent.”

New date announced

But in a response to the cries of the stranded Nigerians, the Nigerian Embassy in Kaula Lumpur in a letter dated 24th June, 2020 indicated its willingness to evacuate them home.

The letter titled, ‘Evacuation flight from Kuala Lumpur  to  Abuja and Lagos’, a copy of which was sourced by our reporter, reads: “The High Commission of  the Federal Republic of Nigeria , Kaula Lumpur, Malaysia  wishes to refer to its public notice dated 21st May , 2020 on the above  subject matter, and to  inform that arrangements have been concluded with AIR PEACE AIRLINE to depart on Saturday, 11th July 2020, from Kaula Lumpur to Abuja and Lagos respectively (flight time to be  announced later.)

 “AIR PEACE AIR LINES will be using  Boeing 777-300, for a thirteen (13) hours  direct flight, and with capacity to carry  Three hundred  and Nineteen (319) passengers, fifty (50)

Business class, as well as, Two hundred and Sixty –nine (269) Economy class.”

It further said intending evacuees were expected to forward detail of payments  to the high commission for confirmation, while the deadline for payment was slated for Friday, 3 July, 2020.

Doubt remains

Notwithstanding the reassurance by the federal government, the stranded Nigerians were still haunted by their experience of the last two months.

“We are still worried that the evacuation can be cancelled any time. This is not the first time, the embassy is giving us a date for departure to Nigeria. There is a prevailing fear of shoddy arrangement on the part of relevant stakeholders.

“The evacuees who are mostly students on self-sponsorship raised concerns about the exorbitant cost of the flight tickets. We learnt the airline is coming to Malaysia with Malaysian returnees from Nigeria. We want the federal government to intervene on our behalf.

“We are also told that we have to pay for COVID -19 which is about N 40,000. It is huge for us as students who are on self-sponsorship. We cannot afford it,” they pleaded.

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