Help is on the way for Nigerians caught up in the war between Russia and Ukraine.
This is because President Muhammadu Buhari on Wednesday approved the sum of $8.5 million for the immediate evacuation of about 5,000 Nigerians that fled the war and moved over to neigbouring countries such as Poland, Romania, Hungary and Slovakia.
Nigeria’s Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, Zubairu Dada, disclosed this while briefing State House correspondents at the end of the virtual Federal Executive Council (FEC), meeting presided over by Vice President, Yemi Osinbajo at the Council Chamber, Presidential Villa, Abuja.
The Minister, who was flanked by the Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Hajiya Sadiya Umar Farouk, said the approval came after a joint memo presented by both the ministries of foreign affairs and Humanitarian affairs, disaster management, and social development at the council meeting.
Dada said that Air Peace and Max Air airlines have been contracted to provide three aircraft and run as many shifts as possible to facilitate the evacuation, adding that those to be evacuated include 940 from Romania, 150 from Slovakia, and 350 from Poland who have registered for evacuation.
Speaking on the amount approved, Dada said, “The ministry of humanitarian affairs wrote a memo to the president seeking funding to enable us to conduct this exercise. The memo was to the tune of $8.5 million which Mr. President has graciously approved. That provision entails arrangements to evacuate no 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 will be released immediately for the exercise, the Minister said: “That is why the evacuation flights will begin today (Wednesday).”
On students trapped in cities in Ukraine now in the hands of Russians, Dada said: “We want to believe the Russian armed forces will obey the rules of engagement in Ukraine. 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 have had to be evacuated. So if for any reason any Nigerian is left behind, we are very 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 emphasise 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.”