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Nigeria Approves $8.5m to Evacuate 5,000 Citizens Displaced By Russia-Ukraine War

Nigeria’s federal government on Wednesday approved the release of $8.5 million for immediate evacuation of no fewer than 5,000 Nigerians stranded in Poland, Romania, Hungary and Slovakia in the wake

Nigeria’s federal government on Wednesday approved the release of $8.5 million for immediate evacuation of no fewer than 5,000 Nigerians stranded in Poland, Romania, Hungary and Slovakia in the wake of the Russia-Ukraine war.

Nigeria’s Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, Zubairu Dada, who disclosed this to newsmen, after the weekly Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting at Abuja, said the approval was sequel to a joint memo presented by both the Ministries of Foreign Affairs and Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development at a meeting presided over by the Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo. Dada disclosed that Air Peace and Max Air airlines have been contracted to provide three aircrafts and run as many shifts as possible to airlift the stranded Nigerians.

He listed the evacuees to include 940 from Romania, 150 from Slovakia and 350 from Poland who have registered for evacuation.

According to him: “The ministry of humanitarian affairs wrote a memo to the President seeking for funding to enable us conduct this exercise. The memo was in the tune of $8.5 million which Mr. President has graciously approved. That provision entails arrangement to evacuate not less than 5,000 Nigerians.

“Whatever happens you can be rest assured we are going to run any number of shifts that it will involve. Don’t forget it will also involve taking care of those Nigerians that may decide not to come back. It also includes some assistance for the feeding that may have been done by the missions under whatever arrangements. Even the missions themselves are also in dire situations. So it’s a whole gambit of activities that are involved.”

Asked if the amount would be released immediately for the exercise, the minister said: “That is why the evacuation flights will begin today (Wednesday).”

On students trapped in Ukrainian cities now in the hands of Russians, Dada said: “We want to believe the Russian armed forces will obey the rules of engagement. They know the rules about civilians that are caught up in situations such as this. We want to assume they will respect international laws and ensure that no harm comes to them.

“Don’t forget that even our missions in Ukraine has had to be evacuated. So, if for any reason any Nigerian is left behind, we are very prayerful, we are very hopeful that no harm shall come to them once of course they are in some shelters or whatever place they are hiding.

“Don’t forget we had also summoned both the Russian and Ukrainian ambassadors to our ministry, and we did emphasis the need for their troops to ensure that they do not do anything that will harm the lives of innocent citizens.

“We have seen video clips making the rounds about the alleged treatment that had been meted out to black people who were on queues and in buses and all that. All these we have brought to the attention of the ambassadors and we have expressed our displeasure at this development and demanded that they do something about this.”

On her part, the Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development, Sadiya Umar Farouq, in a statement yesterday, said the federal government was working round the clock to ensure the safe return of Nigerian students and other citizens caught up in the war in Ukraine.

Farouq also stated that Buhari had directed her ministry to work with all relevant agencies to ensure this was done quickly and expeditiously.

She added that relevant agencies under the Ministry that included the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), National Commission for Refugees, Migrants and Internally Displaced Persons (NCFRMI) and the National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP) have been directed to work closely with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to ensure smooth evacuation.

She said the National Emergency Management Agency would lead the evacuation process while the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs would provide the coordination and necessary support.

She urged all parents to remain calm, stressing that the federal government was doing all it could to ensure that Nigerians return in safety and dignity as soon as possible.

She called on all Nigerians in Ukraine to be guided by the advisories regularly issued by the Federal Ministry of Foreign Affairs at all times.

Meanwhile, the first batch of Nigerians in the war-torn Ukraine were expected to arrive the country today. This was confirmed by the two Nigerian carriers, Air Peace and Max Air designated by the federal government to airlift them.

The two airlines confirmed that they deployed aircraft yesterday to the capitals of the three European countries to bring back the Nigerians.

“We can confirm that chartered flights will depart on Wednesday, March 2, 2022 to pick Nigerian evacuees back home. So far, we have the following records of evacuees received by Nigerian embassies at Hungary (650 persons), Poland (350 persons), Romania (940 persons) and Slovakia (150 persons),” a statement revealed.

The ministry of foreign affair further stated in the statement: “The capacity and route of the airlines are as follows: Max Air to Romania 560 persons, Air Peace to Poland 364 persons, and Air Peace to 360 persons. The first batch of evacuees is expected to arrive Nigeria on Thursday, March 3, 2022.”

The Chief Operating Officer of Air Peace, Mrs. Toyin Olajide said the airline deployed two of its Boeing B777 last night to Bucharest and Warsaw, the capital of Hungary and Poland respectively to bring the Nigerians home and the flights would land in Lagos.

Max Air also confirmed that its flight to Romania left Nigeria by 11:00 pm yesterday.

FG Grants Pre-departure COVID-19 Waiver for Ukraine Returnees

The federal government has granted Nigerians returning from Ukraine waiver from the 48 hours pre-departure COVID-19 PCR test requirements.

This was disclosed in a letter by the Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority, (NCAA) signed by the Director General of the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), Captain Musa Nuhu and addressed to all airlines operating international to Nigeria.

Titled: ‘Waiver from pre-departure COVID-19 quarantine protocols for Nigerian returnees from Ukraine,’ the letter reads “In view of the ongoing hostilities in Ukraine, the Presidential Steering Committee (PSC) has directed that airlines board passengers travelling to Nigeria with proof of having left Ukraine under the following conditions:

“Waiver from the 48 hours pre-departure COVID-19 PCR test requirements and waiver from the requirement to pre-departure filling of the Nigeria International Travel Portal (NITP), payment for repeat test in Nigeria and generation of permit to fly/QR code.”

The letter also stated that passengers would however be required to fill the Nigeria International Travel Portal (NITP) upon their arrival in Nigeria with the assistance of the Port Health Services.

“Upon arriving in Nigeria, passengers will be directed by the Port Health Services to designated government laboratories for COVID-19 tests. The COVID-19 PCR tests which must be done within 24 hours of arrival will be at no cost to the passengers,” the letter added.

Evacuation Only for Documented Nigerians, Says FG

However, the federal government yesterday said the evacuation would be for only documented Nigerians, explaining that any undocumented Nigerian would first have to set his or her record right with the nation’s embassies in Romania, Poland and Hungary.

A statement by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs yesterday, signed by its spokesperson, Francisca Omayuli read:

“The federal government of Nigeria wishes to inform that arrangements are being concluded for the evacuation of the first batch of Nigerian nationals willing to return home via Romania, Poland and Hungary.

“Intending evacuees should kindly note that only persons documented with the Nigerian Embassies will be eligible for evacuation. Consequently, those yet to register for the exercise are advised to do so, as it is a mandatory requirement.

“Those without passports will be issued Emergency Travel Certificates (ETC) to enable them travel back home.”

Micheal Olugbode

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