Abuja - The National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), on Monday, received the first batch of Nigerians in Yemen as Federal Government commenced the evacuation of its citizens from the crisis ridden country.
Muhammad Sani-Sidi, Director-General of NEMA, said the exercise was in line with government’s directive to immediately evacuate Nigerians stranded in Yemen.
The DG, represented by Navy Captain Michael Igwe, Head of the Mission Control Centre at NEMA, received the returnees at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja.
Igwe explained that the operation was ongoing as the government, alongside its Embassy in Saudi Arabia, was working in collaboration with the government of Saudi Arabia to ensure their safe return.
"Yemen is at war and the Federal Government directed that Nigerians stranded in Yemen should be evacuated and there are about 58 Nigerians that are stranded there.
"However, our Embassy in Saudi Arabia, which we are coordinating with, has been able to get three Nigerians out.
"They have been waiting in Saudi Arabia but we were informed that the number of days given by Saudi Government for the evacuees to transit though Saudi Arabia has been exhausted.
"They have to quickly put them on board the available aircraft to Nigeria while they are gathering the majority of the evacuees and that is why the three Nigerians are here now.
"They complained to us sometimes ago that the border with Yemen was closed last week so they are finding it very difficult to bring out the Nigerians.
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"However, they are assuring us that within the next one week, they would be able to get as many Nigerians to Jeddah as possible."
Igwe said the returnees had undergone the preliminary stages of their resettlement as they have been tested by the ports health authorities and have been profiled and registered in the data base.
Igwe said the Nigeria government would continue to assist them until they were fully settled in with proper means of livelihood.
Receiving the returnees, the Liaison Officers from Kebbi, Kaduna, and Adamawa States where the returnees hail from, said arrangements had been made for them to reunite with their families.
Bitrus Shekowoagaza, the Administrative Secretary, Kebbi State Liaison Office in Abuja, said their identities would be verified to ensure that they were indigenes of the state.
He explained that the security verification was of essence so that they would be sure that they would not pose any form of security threat to their communities.
The returnees expressed their appreciation to the government for their intervention and bringing them back home to be reunited with their families.
Speaking on their behalf, Celestine Nwerem explained that they went to Yemen in a bid to pursue their football careers.
Nwerem pleaded with government to assist them in pursuing their dreams in Nigeria.
"We are all professional footballers; this is where we look up to our future to help our families and friends.
"Since the war has brought us back, we would be happy about any assistance they can render to us.
"Secondly, we are very happy to return safely because many have lost their lives while the war is still going in Yemen," Nwerem said.
The returnee urged the government and relevant authorities to speed up the evacuation to avoid losing more of its citizens.