Following their bleak assessment of Nigeria’s chances against the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic, some foreign countries recently embarked on the evacuation of their nationals from the country. This was in spite of the fact that the countries involved were worse hit by the virus.

While the departure of the foreigners to their home countries did not come as a surprise to many, going by the saying that there is no place like home, a lot of people were shocked that Nigerians who have dual citizenship with some of the said countries decided to join the evacuation train to their adopted countries.

As it would be expected, various reasons are being adduced for the decision of bona fide Nigerians to abandon their original country for their adopted ones. One of them is the belief that they left Nigeria for the foreign countries because the latter have well articulated COVID-19 stimulus packages for their citizens.

However, The Nation investigation revealed that many of the dual citizens decided to return to the foreign countries because their family members are resident there and they wanted to re-unite with them. Respondents from the US, some of who asked not to be named, said their decision to return to God’s Own Country had nothing to do with monetary considerations.

“How much is American government giving us? Anyone who says we returned to America because of money surely does not know how the system works,” said Nelson Edokpolor, a Nigerian-American based in New Jersey.

Asked why he decided to jettison the relative safety in Nigeria for North America, Pascal Atuma, a Nigerian-Canadian actor and producer, said: “Nigeria might be a safer place but we have families and businesses here. Things are not normal at this time, and in a situation like this, you want to be closer to your family.

“You know, all my brothers and sisters are overseas. I was alone in Nigeria while here, I am closer to my brothers and sisters. So, it is just not about safety, it is about family. Who would you want to be close to at a time like this? Is it your family or friends?

“Of course, it is both family and friends, but the family comes first. That informed my decision to return to Canada.”

He said his decision to agree to be evacuated by the Canadian government had nothing to do with money: “You know that I am not hungry. How much is the government going to give me? For instance, my ticket was about 5,000 Canadian dollars.

“Take me as an example; people would say I left, but you don’t know I have three children in North America. You don’t know that I have brothers and sisters in North America. You don’t know my background; you only know the Pascal Atuma you see in the press.

“The issue of government giving grants has nothing to do with it. Why will I pay 5,000 Canadian dollars to come and receive 2,000? I don’t know if I am making sense. My daughter has been very happy since I came back. So, even if that is the only thing I gain, that is enough.”

He noted, for example, that what is helping Canada in the fight against the pandemic is the willingness of every citizen to obey orders.

He said: “It (coronavirus) came into North America before Nigeria and it is very bad now in North America. We are praying it does not get to that level in Nigeria. If it gets bad in Nigeria the way it is in America, it will be worse than what we are seeing now in North America.

“This is considering the fact that North America has better hospitals, better medical equipment, better professionals, and yet it is hitting North America badly.

“Also before Corona, in North America, people were not mixing much except to go shopping, unlike our people. I can wake up, come to your house and knock on your door. Nobody can just wake up and come to your door and knock in North America.

“Also, our people are used to communal life. So, if this thing really comes into Nigeria, it will be devastating. But we pray it does not come into Nigeria like that.

“My observation since I came back is that the people here are actually taking it seriously, unlike our people. Our people are not really taking it seriously, and you can’t blame them.

“People here are observing the rules and regulations. People are watching their television sets to get instructions. They are watching the news to get instructions. There is no problem of power or water or things like that, unlike in our area.

“Some people, you may tell them to stay at home but they don’t have water in their compounds. They have to go to the other compound to fetch water.

“Take some people who live in Ajegunle, Okoko and so on, for instance, they don’t have water in their compounds. They are forced to go to the next compound to buy water.

“In going to the other compound, somebody has to open the gate and sell the water to them. Such things, we don’t have to worry about them over here.

“Another thing is this: there is an instruction that people should not go to church, but many flouted it. Here, don’t go to church means don’t go to church.

“I will give you another example: The previous Saturday, the Prime Minister issued an instruction that all shops should be closed. It was obeyed. In Nigeria, when they say all shops should close, you will still see some shops opened. That would be a major problem if the situation becomes very serious in Nigeria.

“That is the difference. Everybody is obeying the law here, while our people hardly obey the law. But we still have to consider their situation too.

“My refrigerator is full. My light won’t go off and I am not worried about food for weeks ahead. I can afford to stay in my apartment in the next two weeks. I don’t have to come out. But that is hardly so back home. Many of our people are still have to bother where the next meal will come, in spite of the palliatives that government has been providing.”

Meanwhile, some of these Nigerians with dual citizenship have taken to social media to display the cash given to them by their adopted countries!


Pascal Atuma