No fewer than 2,000 Nigerians who have fled the war in Ukraine to neighbouring countries will be airlifted back home starting from Wednesday.
Disclosing this on a Channels Television’s ‘Politics Today’ programme, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Onyeama, said President Muhammadu Buhari had approved funds for the airlines to evacuate Nigerians.
When asked if the number of evacuees was about 2,000, and when the evacuation would take place, he said, “Wednesday hopefully…Air Peace and Max Air.”
The minister said there were about 8,000 Nigerians in Ukraine, 5,000 of whom were students, adding that the Federal Government had tipped Air Peace and Air Max to airlift the Nigerians who wanted to be evacuated.
Onyeama had while briefing the House of Representatives on the evacuation efforts earlier, stated, “We made Romania the hub and over a thousand Nigerians have crossed there. Poland has about 250, Budapest in Hungary has a similar number, Slovakia is rising rapidly. It is also around 200. There are some Nigerians in a place called Sumy close to the Russian border.
“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 pointed out that it was not the sole duty of the Federal Government to evacuate Nigerians that were stranded abroad because this was not the global practice. He said people who use their own money to travel abroad ought to be able to return home by themselves.
He recalled that last year, some Nigerians willingly travelled to Russia for the World Cup but were unable to return home after exhausting their money.
The minister revealed that Buhari approved a flight to bring them back home.
Onyeama disclosed that family members of Nigerians diplomats in Ukraine had been taken out of the country, adding that the diplomats would also be evacuated soon.
He also stated that about four to five aircraft had been secured to airlift Nigerians from the Ukrainian neighbours.
On why the Nigerian government was not proactive like the United States which had advised its citizens to leave Ukraine over a week before the Russian invasion, Onyeama said the Nigerian diplomats in Ukraine were the ones that assured the Nigerian government that Russia would not invade.
He said no one could have known that Vladmir Putin would order his military to invade Ukraine barely days after he said he had withdrawn them from the border.
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