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Ukraine: FG begins evacuation of 2,000 Nigerians tomorrow

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FEDERAL government has disclosed that it will from Wednesday, March 2, begin the evacuation of about 2,000 Nigerians who have fled the war in Ukraine to neighbouring countries.

  Minister of Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Onyeama, made the disclosure in Abuja. He said that the President, Muhammadu Buhari had approved funds for the airlines (Air Peace and Air Max) to evacuate Nigerians who wanted to come home.

  According to the minister, there were about 8,000 Nigerians in Ukraine, 5,000 of whom were students. He also stated that about four to five aircrafts had been secured to airlift Nigerians from the Ukrainian neighbours.

  The minister while briefing the House of Representatives on the evacuation efforts, said: “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. We 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,” he said. 

  Onyeama hinted 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 and President Buhari approved a flight to bring them back home.

  The minister disclosed that family members of Nigeria’s diplomats in Ukraine had been taken out of the country, and the diplomats would also be evacuated soon.

  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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