Thursday, February 2

High cost to fly out M’sians stranded in Nigeria challenge for M’sian High Comm


Bernama file photo of Wisma Putra.

KUCHING: The High Commission of Malaysia in Nigeria is faced with the challenge of flying out stranded Malaysians in the country due to the high costs involved in repatriating them using chartered flights.

In an emailed reply from its office in Abuja (capital of Nigeria) this morning, it said the first initiative for repatriation via chartered aircraft was made in April this year, but it was not successful due to exorbitant flight fares, transit difficulty and limited number of passengers to join the flight.

It also pointed out the absence of commercial flights out of Nigeria due to the closure of international airports following lockdown in the country had been the stumbling block for Malaysians to return home.

“Chartered aircraft is the only alternative to fly out stranded foreign individuals out of Nigeria. However, this option is relatively costly, ranging from RM1.5 to RM2 million per aircraft. Certain employers are even reluctant to bear the cost to repatriate their employees.

“Rest assured that the Government of Malaysia through the High Commission of Malaysia in Abuja is concerned on the welfare and well-being of the stranded Malaysians in Nigeria and its neighbouring countries.

“We seek the cooperation of those affected to remain calm and to continue to communicate with the High Commission of Malaysia in Abuja,” it said.

It also revealed efforts were now being made with their counterparts in the Nigerian High Commission in Malaysia to arrange for a repatriation flight involving citizens of both countries.

“The High Commission is currently liaising with the High Commission of Nigeria in Kuala Lumpur to repatriate both citizens vice versa. However, the process may take some time in order to finalise the arrangements from both ends.

“As of 5 June 2020, 40 Malaysians have indicated to join the repatriation flight. These includes those who resides on a long-term pass in Nigeria as well as short-term workers,” it said.

The High Commission also stated it is in constant communication with the stranded Malaysians and have been providing the necessary consular assistance in helping them to return home.

“The number of Malaysians in Nigeria registered with the High Commission of Malaysia in Abuja has increased since March 2020, with 90 people thus far. These includes those who have completed their short-term contract work in the oil and gas sector in April 2020.

“The High Commission of Malaysia in Abuja, Nigeria is aware of the Facebook posts and news on Malaysians stranded in Lagos, Nigeria. The High Commission also received enquiries from Member of Parliaments and State Assemblymen from Sarawak on the plight of stranded Malaysians in Lagos,” it said.

The High Commission is headed by Gloria Tiwet, who hails from Sarawak. Gloria was appointed as Malaysian envoy to Nigeria in 2018.

According to the emailed reply again, Nigeria’s lockdown started on March 23 and is still enforced, where international airports remain closed. As of June 6, a total 11,844 Covid-19 cases were reported across Nigeria.

The issue of Malaysians being stranded in Nigeria came to light after one of them, Malcolm Goh, pleaded with the Malaysian government for help getting home on Facebook.

It was also believed the stranded Malaysians included at least 10 who hail from Sarawak.

Goh, who himself is a Sarawakian, is in Nigeria due to his involvement in the O&G industry as a subsea inspection engineer.

According to Goh, the other Sarawakians stranded in the country are from different companies and working in different places.

“I know some are from Sibu, Kapit and Julau, mostly working in oil and gas business,” he said in a recent interview with Borneo Post.

On Thursday, Deputy Chief Minister Datuk Amar Douglas Uggah Embas said the Sarawak government would help the stranded Sarawakians, adding that the state was waiting for the federal government’s decision on the matter.

“We will follow whatever measures or action which will be taken by the federal government on this matter,” he said as quoted in the media reports.