By Dipo Olowookere
Not less than N306 million was used by the federal government to airlift some Nigerians, who travelled for the 2018 World Cup in Russia, but were stranded in the Eastern European country, back to Nigeria.
The stranded citizens returned to the country in two batches with the first set comprising 155 Nigerians and the second, 200 persons, including 17 Ghanaians.
Speaking in Abuja, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr Geoffrey Onyeama, stated that, “A week ago, we learnt that there was another huge number of Nigerians stranded and Russian authorities were going to take very strong measures and yet again, Mr President directed that another plane should be made available to go and bring them back. And they were 200 of them that were brought back yesterday (Sunday) at a cost of $1 million (about N306 million using the interbank rate of N306 per Dollar) to the country.
“It is a clear example that Mr President is determined to safeguard Nigerians and the interest of Nigerians wherever they might be compromised anywhere in the world. He was very quick to do this.”
The evacuation followed a directive by President Muhammadu Buhari to Mr Onyeama and his Aviation counterpart, Mr Hadi Sirika, to immediately evacuate the stranded Nigerians back to the country.
Mr Onyeama further said the amount was a lot of money at a time when the nation was unable to afford it, calling on Nigerians to travel to countries in a regular and legal manner.
Speaking further, the Minister said the Foreign Minister of Ghana, Shirley Ayorkor Botchway, who visited him earlier, expressed appreciation to the Nigerian government for airlifting the 17 Ghanaians back to the country.
According to Mr Onyeama, “And as it has also turned out, as the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Ghana was relating today, she was thanking Mr President because that same plane that brought back Nigerians, also brought back 17 Ghanaians who found their way this morning and were transported to Ghana.
“So, there again, we demonstrated our role as a Big Brother in Africa and becoming also our neighbour’s keepers by helping not only the Nigerians who were stranded there, but also Ghanaians who were stranded in Russians.”
Business Post reports that the soccer fans were stranded in Russia after their return tickets were cancelled allegedly by those who processed their visas for the tournament, which took place from June to July 2018.
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