Aidoghie Paulinus and Olivia Kalu, Abuja
The Federal Government, on Monday, said it spent the sum of $1 million to evacuate 200 Nigerians who were stranded in Russia.
The Minister of Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Onyeama, who made the disclosure in Abuja, said the 200 Nigerians were airlifted to the country on Sunday alongside 17 Ghanaians.
He said by airlifting the 17 Ghanaians, Nigeria had again brought to the fore, its Big Brother role on the continent of Africa.
Recall that 155 out of 230 Nigerian fans of the nation’s national team that were reported to have been stranded in Russia after the World Cup, were evacuated from Russia back to the country last month.
The evacuation followed a directive by President Muhammadu Buhari to Onyeama and his Aviation counterpart, Hadi Sirika, to immediately evacuate the stranded Nigerians back to the country.
The $1 million, according to Onyeama, did not cover the airlifting of the first batch of Nigerians.
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.
Onyeama said: “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 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.”
Speaking further, Onyeama said the Foreign Minister of Ghana, Shirley Ayorkor Botchway, who visited him earlier yesterday, expressed appreciation to the Federal Government for airlifting the 17 Ghanaians back to the country.
According to 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,” Onyeama said.