Aidoghie Paulinus, Abuja
The Ambassador of the Russian Federation to Nigeria, His Excellency, Mr Alexey Shebarshin, has said that the Russian Migration Services in conjunction with the Nigerian Embassy in Moscow, Russia, is working on the deportation of Nigerians who defied their visa during the World Cup tournament that took place in Russia in 2018.
In this interview with Sunday Sun, the former Russian Ambassador to Sri Lanka and the Maldives said that the affected Nigerians breached the Russian law after leveraging on the visa-free regime established in Russia for the period of the World Cup, saying that it is the full responsibility of the stranded Nigerians for the consequences of their conscious illicit actions.
Amongst other issues, Shebarshin spoke on the bilateral relations between Russia and Nigeria, the similarities between both countries, while also revealing that about 500 Russia nationals live in Nigeria. Excerpts:
What has been your experience since arriving Nigeria over a year ago?
After one year in Nigeria, I proceed upon a strong conviction to put into action, the considerable potential of Russian-Nigerian relations in trade, industry, reciprocal support in the world arena, and many other spheres of mutual interest. The potential is truly impressive, so I am grateful to my colleagues at the Federal Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Nigeria, governmental bodies and industry captains who share this positive attitude and help converting it into practical calculable results.
How many states have you visited so far?
As of date, I have been to Lagos and FCT (Federal Capital Territory).
What are the similarities between Russia and Nigeria?
Well, there is a number actually. Above all, both countries are multiethnic. Thus, the mentality of people in our country is anchored on respect and comprehension for the other. I am speaking of allegiance to family values, tolerance and by extension, reverence for vicarious beliefs and judgments accompanied by the assertive consciousness of culture. This is an inherent sagacity of our people that enable the national unity under secured and properly understood cultural diversity.
How many Russia nationals are in Nigeria? Which sectors do they make their marks?
Currently, there are about 500 Russian citizens all over the country. Most of them are married to Nigerian nationals or occupied in Russian TNCs (Transnational Corporations).
How does Russia view Nigeria?
Russia deems Nigeria a friendly state, the closest associate in Africa and a reliable partner in the world arena, a mighty player on the continent and a sovereign stakeholder in global politics.
What efforts do the Embassy make to increase cooperation between both countries?
The objective is to promote cooperation in the scopes of truly coinciding, or even marginally overlapping interests. Simply put, it is to encourage and ease co-work, where stakeholders show smart interest with feasible planning and tangible added value as an anticipated result. Noteworthy, it holds true not only for the pecuniary profit-oriented projects, but also for the bilateral initiatives in arts, science, humanities, etc.
What is the level of Russia’s bilateral relations with Nigeria?
Our bilateral relations are constantly in steady progress. However, the true potential for the growth here is not being exhausted even closely. There is a great window of opportunities for the cooperation in private sector, exchange of know-how, technological expertise, arts and culture. So, allow me to bring up some conspicuous developments: only a few out of many initiatives abounding in spheres of our mutual interest. For instance, we are making strides in commerce. The bilateral trade volume in 2018 almost doubled on yearly basis and amounted 767 million USD. This year, we expect a considerable growth as well. There are ongoing projects in energy sector, including construction of the Atomic Science Centre in FCT and education of NAEC (Nigeria Atomic Energy Commission) staff on the nuclear-related Masters and PhD programmes in Russia. In infrastructure, there is an initiative by JSC ‘Russian Railways’ to embark on a 1500 kilometers railway construction project in Nigeria, which is currently under consideration at the Federal Ministry of Transportation. As for the education sphere, the Russian Governmental Scholarship quota for the Nigerian students has recently risen from 40 to 100 slots per year. Furthermore, the Agreement on Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters was signed in 2018. Former Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development of Nigeria, Mr. Audu Ogbeh, visited Moscow to take part in the XX Russian Agricultural Exhibition ‘Golden Autumn.’ This year, we even intensified our bilateral contacts. Various meetings with President
of Abuja Chamber of Trade and Commerce, Prince Adetokunbo Kayode, in Abuja and in Moscow paved the way for an attendance of 14 Russian companies to the Russia-Nigeria Business Forum (May 20-24, Abuja, Lagos). Over 300 Nigerian entrepreneurs established their working contacts with Russian counterparts on the sidelines of the Afreximbank Annual Meeting and the associated Russia-Africa Economic Conference (June 20, Moscow). Currently, we are working closely with our Nigerian partners to coordinate the country’s top-level representation at Russia-Africa Summit (October 24, the City of Sochi).
The Russia-Africa Summit where invitation has been extended to President Muhammadu Buhari; what does it hold for the future of both countries?
This forum will undoubtedly entail strengthening of partner ties between Russia and Nigeria and will give the opportunity to outlay new ways of mutually-beneficial cooperation. We are looking forward to building on the achievements of this nascent format of the comprehensive interaction.
There were reports that some Nigerians who travelled for the 2018 World Cup are still stranded in Russia. Is the Embassy in talks with the Nigerian Foreign Ministry to have the stranded Nigerians repatriated?
I commiserate misfortunes of Nigerians, who erroneously found themselves in this predicament. However, most of the people we are talking about have breached the Russian law when leveraged the visa-free regime established in Russia for the period of the World Cup. Hence, is their full responsibility for the consequences of their conscious illicit actions. The Embassy informed publicly that such incompliance is fraught with administrative sanctions. Currently, the Nigerian Embassy in Moscow and Russian migration services are working on their regular deportation.