EXCLUSIVE: How reluctance of Nigerians to return aborted first evacuation mission | Dailytrust

EXCLUSIVE: How reluctance of Nigerians to return aborted first evacuation mission

The refusal of some Ukraine-based Nigerians to board evacuation plane back home frustrated the commencement of conveying citizens trapped by the ongoing war between...

The refusal of some Ukraine-based Nigerians to board evacuation plane back home frustrated the commencement of conveying citizens trapped by the ongoing war between Russia and Ukraine.

As a result of the ongoing war, Nigerians had escaped to Romania, Hungary, Slovakia, and Poland, to seek refuge.

President Muhammadu Buhari had approved the sum of $8.5 million for the evacuation of at least 5,000 Nigerians who are stranded in Europe.

The mission was to commence on Wednesday as Air Peace and Max Air flights had headed for Europe.

However, the evacuation was postponed suddenly on Thursday evening, with no official reason given.

Reporters, who had thronged the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja, to cover the exercise, were asked to leave and return the next day (Friday) because the trip had been cancelled.

When reporters pressed to know the reason for the sudden development, an official, who did not want to be quoted, had said the trip was cancelled on technical grounds.

But a senior government official confided in Daily Trust that the refusal of some Nigerians to return to the country led to the postponement.

The official, who pleaded anonymity, said, “The reluctance of some of the evacuees to return home made the trip impossible. The airline got only half of the passengers that can fill the entire plane. There was an arrangement to bring back those who agreed to return, but the airline refused to fly a half-filled plane.

“Thankfully, the issue has been resolved and more of the evacuees have been convinced to return home. The flight should be on its way back home on Friday. Those who have agreed will be profiled ahead of the journey back home.”

The unwillingness of some Nigerians to return to the country as a result of the Russia-Ukraine crisis became a topical issue after Treasure Chinenye Bellgam, a medical student in Kiev, capital of Ukraine, said some Nigerians would not accept to return home.

“Most Nigerians who are here on hustle are not willing to leave, they prefer to die here. It’s like after God has lifted you one step higher you want to go two steps backward, it’s like being demoted. But you need a lot of humility to go back to Nigeria because some people sold lands, cars, and the rest to come here and they have amazing stories,” Bellgam had said.

Another Nigerian living in Kiev buttressed the point raised by the medical student, saying, “Considering the economy in Nigeria, I think a lot of people would look for the safest place here than returning to Nigeria. They should do it (supply of aircraft) so that it becomes a choice for those who would want to stay back or those who want to return.”

When he met with Femi Gbajabiamila, Speaker of the House of Representatives, earlier in the week, Geoffrey Oneyama, Minister of Foreign Affairs, spoke about some Nigerians who preferred to remain in Europe.

“We hope to start evacuation hopefully Wednesday, although some do not want to come back,” the minister had said.

When he featured on a television programme on Wednesday, Christian Ugwu, Nigeria’s Ambassador to Poland, also spoke on Nigerians affected by the crisis but did not want to come back to the country.

“I have addressed the Nigerians not to stay outside the hotel premises where we have accommodated them. By the time they go to the streets, the police will arrest them, and most of them do not have their passports with them. So, they have been advised to stay within their hotel premises until when the aircraft comes. But the problem we are envisaging is that many of them don’t want to leave Poland, and this is not possible,” he had said.

The Ukraine crisis is happening at a time when Nigerians are battling fuel scarcity and epileptic power supply.

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