FG To Airlift Stranded Nigerians In Ukraine On Wednesday
The Federal Government will begin the evacuation of around 2,000 Nigerians who have fled the conflict in Ukraine to neighboring countries on Wednesday.
During an appearance with Channels Television’s ‘Politics Today’ show, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Onyeama, announced that the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retired), has sanctioned monies for the airlines to transport Nigerians out of the country.
When asked whether the number of evacuees was around 2,000 and when the evacuation would take place, he said, “Hopefully on Wednesday…
“Air Peace and Max Air,”
He said that there were around 8,000 Nigerians in Ukraine, with 5,000 of them being students, and that the Federal Government had recommended Air Peace and Air Max to fly the Nigerians who want to be evacuated out of the country by air.
Prior to this, Onyeama told the House of Representatives that “we made Romania the hub and over a thousand Nigerians had passed there.” Poland has around 250, Budapest in Hungary has a comparable amount, and Slovakia is steadily increasing its numbers. It is also in the 200s. Sumy, a town on the Russian border, is home to a few Nigerians.
“I have been in touch with the ambassador. There are about 150 of them who are looking to cross into Russia and we have asked the ambassador in Russia to try and get a permit for them to transit to Russia and hopefully by Wednesday we will start deploying planes to start bringing the Nigerians,” the minister said.
Onyeama stated that the Federal Government did not have the only responsibility of evacuating Nigerians who were stuck overseas since this was not the norm in the rest of the world. People who go overseas with their own funds should be free to come home on their own, according to him.
He recounted how several Nigerians voluntarily traveled to Russia for the World Cup last year were unable to come home because they had spent all of their money.
The minister said that President Muhammadu Buhari has cleared a trip to return them to Nigeria.
Onyeama said that family members of Nigerian diplomats in Ukraine had been evacuated from the country, and that the diplomats themselves would be removed as soon as the situation permitted.
He also added that around four to five planes had been obtained for the purpose of airlifting Nigerians from the country’s Ukrainian neighboring countries.
Upon being asked why the Nigerian government did not take a more proactive stance, such as that of the United States, which advised its citizens to leave Ukraine more than a week before the Russian invasion, Onyeama stated that Nigerian diplomats in Ukraine were the ones who assured the Nigerian government that Russia would not invade.
He said that no one could have predicted that Russian President Vladimir Putin would order his military to invade Ukraine just a few days after declaring that he had withdrawn his troops from the border.
In the meanwhile, Onyeama met with the leadership of the House of Representatives on Monday afternoon.
In his opening remarks, the Speaker of the House, Femi Gbajabiamila, stated that he was aware that the Nigerian government was making efforts to rescue citizens from Ukraine, but added that there have been reports that Nigerians are experiencing difficulties exiting the country for the neighboring countries.
The Speaker also revealed that the House has already begun discussions with a Nigerian airline, Air Peace, in order to facilitate the evacuation of Nigerians from the Ukraine.