April 17, 2024

As the nation continues with the evacuation of its citizens stranded in Ukraine following the invasion of the country by neighbouring Russia, President Muhammadu Buhari has declared that his administration would continue to defend Nigerians wherever they may be.

The President’s declaration came as Nigerians yesterday welcomed the first and second batches of their fellow citizens who are running away from war-torn Ukraine.

The Chairman of Nigerians in Diaspora Commission (NiDCOM), Abike Dabiri, had in a tweet confirmed that the “first batch of Nigerians from #Ukraine arrived at Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport Abuja from Romania at 7:10 am” yesterday.

A statement later in the day by the Head of Media and Public Relations of NiDCOM in Abuja, Mr Abdur-Rahman Balogun, said the first batch numbering 450 were mostly students, adding that they arrived on Max Air flight 747.

The statement added that the Federal Government gave all returnees from Ukraine $100 to ameliorate their sufferings.

He, however, said the evacuees from Poland could not be evacuated last Thursday because their flight was rescheduled for Friday.

He added that Air Peace had left last Thursday to pick the passengers from Hungary.

At 6:35 pm yesterday, the second batch of the stranded Nigerians arrived at the Nnamdi Azikiwe Airport on an Air Peace flight to the delight of their family and friends. The 181 evacuees arrived from Poland.

The Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Gabriel Aduda, said the Federal Government had made all necessary arrangements to ensure that no Nigerian would be left stranded in any of the countries where they have fled to.

According to Aduda, Nigerian airlines – Air Peace and Max Air – would transport stranded Nigerians from Romania, Hungary and Poland.

Speaking last Thursday in Nairobi, Kenya, at a Town Hall Meeting with a group of Nigerians resident in that country, President Buhari reassured of the administration’s commitment to the safety of Nigerians wherever they may reside.

He said: “On our part as a government, we shall continue to defend the interests of all Nigerians wherever they may be. We have demonstrated this over time, as we have had cause to evacuate our citizens in harm’s way abroad. We did it in Libya, South Africa and we have just commenced doing the same in Ukraine, where thousands of our citizens, especially students, are trapped by the ongoing war between Russia and Ukraine.”

He commended Nigerians in Kenya for the unity that exists among them, and the peace they maintain with their host communities, urging them to respect the laws and be good ambassadors of Nigeria.

President Buhari, who was represented at the event by the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Geoffery Onyeama, reiterated that it was the determination of the current administration to forge a partnership with the ‘Ambassadors-at large’ towards building the country together that led to the establishment of the Nigerians in Diaspora Commission (NiDCOM).

He expressed delight that the Commission had been engaging the diasporans and had also come up with laudable programmes that would appeal to them.

According to the President, as part of his diasporan agenda, “we expect your willingness to give back to Nigeria some of your resources, talents, skills and global exposure in the development of our great country, Nigeria.”

He, therefore, encouraged the Ambassadors to key into the programmes of NiDCOM, especially the Nigerian Diaspora Investment Trust Fund, whose mandate is holistic for all Nigerians abroad, adding that the platform would assist them to expeditiously contribute to the development of their fatherland.

The President assured them that the administration was forging ahead with the provision of critical infrastructure for the collective prosperity of all despite the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic and activities of terrorists.

The Chief Executive Officer of the Nigerians in Diaspora Commission, Abike Dabiri-Erewa, appreciated the Ambassadors for honouring the invitation, urging them to register with the Commission in order to have an up-to-date database of them for easy interface, adding that “working with them, the Nigerian government will build the country of our dreams.”

The president of Nigerians in Diaspora (Kenya), Dr Nicholas Ozor, on behalf of the diasporans, thanked the President for always meeting with them when he was in the country, saying it goes a long way to boost their morale.

He also appreciated the efforts of the officials in the Nigerian High Commission for their support and care.

Ozor, however, requested the President to intervene in some of the challenges confronting them, such as the stoppage of visa on arrival for Nigerians; delay in getting student permits; obstacles to ease of doing business and undue negative profiling of Nigerians.



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