COVID-19: NNPC, CBN Vote N1bn for Nigerian Evacuees’ Rehab

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The Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) and the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) have agreed to fund the feeding and accommodation of Nigerian evacuees in Lagos and Abuja, as part of their Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR).

The costs, estimated at N1 billion, include the cost of quarantine accommodation and feeding for the returnees who fled from COVID-19 abroad.

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Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr Geoffrey Onyeama, disclosed this at the Presidential Task Force (PTF) on COVID-19 daily news conference in Abuja. The Federal Government had said last week that the second batch of over 4,000 Nigerians returning for the same reason would pay for their own hotel accommodation and feeding while in quarantine.

Before now, the federal government had been footing the bills for the accommodation and feeding of the batch of over 600 Nigerians evacuated from other countries and currently in quarantine in different hotels in Lagos and Abuja.

The minister explained that he had reached out to the NNPC and CBN as advised by a member of the PTF, Minister of Environment, Dr Muhammad Mahmood, to seek funds. Some evacuees had protested the condition they were being subjected to at isolation centres, citing poor feeding and other ill treatments.

“Today, the GMD of NNPC said he met with the CBN Governor and they both promised to fund the feeding of evacuees. I thank the Minister of Environment for the suggestion and the solidarity of who sold the idea to me to approach CBN and NNPC to support Nigerians in desperate need,” the minister said.

Mixed Reactions: Controversy had trailed the decision to ask the evacuees to be responsible for their feeding and accommodation, with many Nigerians accusing the federal government of exploiting the citizens despite various donations to support the fight against COVID-19.

But speaking at the briefing, Onyeama said the government ran out of funds hence the decision for the evacuees to be made responsible for their feeding and accommodation at designated hotels.

The minister said: “The first three sets of evacuees, we used funding meant for something else in the hope that we might get funding to continue. That funding dried up. And so, we found ourselves in a situation where either we stop evacuation for lack of funding — but we knew there were so many people who were desperate to get back — or we pass on the cost to the evacuees.

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“The governor of CBN, very generously and very kindly, agreed; he said the amount I was talking about, over N1 billion because we have over 4,000 Nigerians out there… he said he was ready to explore and share the cost with NNPC.

“And I spoke to the GMD of NNPC and he said he was going to consult. And thanks be to God, today, he got back to me to say he was ready, he was going to meet up with the CBN governor and together, they will fund this portion; a very important portion, the accommodation and feeding of evacuees.”

Chibisi Ohakah, Abuja

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