Nigeria on Wednesday sided with 140 countries to demand the immediate withdrawal of Russian troops from Ukraine.
The United Nations General Assembly overwhelmingly adopted a resolution that “demands” Russia’s “immediately” withdraw from Ukraine, in a powerful rebuke of Moscow’s invasion by a vast majority of the world’s nations.
Also on Wednesday, the International Monetary Fund and World Bank Group said they would respond to Ukraine’s request for urgent financing with about $5.2bn cumulatively.
In the UN, after more than two days of extraordinary debate which saw the Ukrainian ambassador accuse Russia of genocide, 141 out of 193 member states voted for the non-binding resolution. However, about five countries sided with Russia. They include- Eritrea, North Korea, Syria, Belarus and Russia.
About 35 countries – mainly African nations – abstained from voting. They include: Algeria, Angola, Armenia, Bangladesh, Bolivia, Burundi, Central African Republic, China, Congo, Cuba, El Salvador, Equatorial Guinea, India, Iran, Iraq, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Lao, Madagascar, Mali, Mongolia, Mozambique, Namibia, Nicaragua, Pakistan, Senegal, South Africa, South Sudan, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Tajikistan, Uganda, Tanzania, Vietnam and Zimbabwe.
However, 141 countries including Nigeria, the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Germany and Canada, condemned Russia. The resolution deplored the invasion of Ukraine “in the strongest terms” and condemned President Vladimir Putin’s decision to put his nuclear forces on alert.
Nigeria’s stand on Wednesday was a historic departure from its non-aligned movement in the politics between the West and Russia.
Buhari approves $8.5m for evacuation
Meanwhile, the Federal Executive Council on Wednesday in Abuja, approved $8.5m (N3.5bn) to facilitate the immediate evacuation of 5,000 Nigerians from Ukraine, Poland, Romania, Hungary and Slovakia.
The Minister of State for Foreign Affairs of Nigeria, Zubairu Dada, disclosed this to State House Correspondents shortly after the Federal Executive Council meeting presided over by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo at the Council Chambers of the Presidential Villa.
Dada, who spoke alongside the Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development, Sadiya Farouk, said the approval followed a joint memo presented by both ministries at the council meeting.
He said the evacuees include 940 from Romania, 150 from Slovakia and 350 from Poland who have registered to leave.
On the amount approved, Dada explained that “The Ministry of humanitarian affairs wrote a memo to the President seeking funding to enable us to conduct this exercise. The memo was to the tune of $8.5m, which Mr President has graciously approved. That provision entails an arrangement to evacuate no less than 5,000 Nigerians.
“It also includes some assistance for the feeding that may have been done by the missions under whatever arrangements. Even the missions themselves are also in dire situations.”
Quizzed about when the funds will be released, Dada said, “That is why the evacuation flights will begin today (Wednesday).”
Nigerians await visas to join Ukraine war
However, while the Nigerian government was making plans to evacuate over 5,000 of its citizens stranded in Ukraine, over 100 Nigerians are awaiting visas to travel from Nigeria to Ukraine to join the war and fight against Russian belligerents having registered at the Ukrainian Embassy in Nigeria.
It was learnt that since Ukraine had already shut its airspace, anyone seeking to come into the country will have to use land borders at Romania, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia.
The Minister of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine, Dmytro Kuleba, had through his verified Twitter handle, asked foreigners to join the war.
“Foreigners willing to defend Ukraine and world order as part of the International Legion of Territorial Defence of Ukraine, I invite you to contact foreign diplomatic missions of Ukraine in your respective countries. Together we defeated Hitler, and we will defeat Putin, too.”
In an interview with The PUNCH on Wednesday, the Second Secretary at the Ukrainian Embassy to Nigeria, Bohdan Soltys, said the list of those willing to fight for Ukraine had been sent to Kyiv.
He said, “About 100 people wrote to us and said they would like to do this. We have transferred the information to the Ukrainian government and so far we have not received any feedback and a positive response.”
When asked if women would also be drafted, Soltys stated, “Right now, no.”
He, however, explained that the process may not be as easy for Nigerians since Nigerians need visas to visit most European countries and the
“There are also challenges because you cannot fly directly to Ukraine only to those countries bordering Ukraine but some of these people need visas and you need to get in touch with some of these countries. So, it is not like you can apply today and be in Ukraine tomorrow. Nigerians need visas to all the European countries,” he said.
FG waves pre-departure COVID-19 test for evacuees
In a related development, the Federal Government has waived the 48-hour pre-travel COVID-19 test for all evacuees returning into the country.
In a memo signed by the Director-General of the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority, dated February 28, 2022, which was sent to all airlines, it was stated that the Nigerian passengers would only have to fill in the necessary documentation.
The circular titled, ‘Waiver from Pre-Departure Covid19 Quarantine Protocols for Nigerian Returnees from Ukraine’, further stated that the move had been authorized by the Presidential Steering Committee on COVID 19.
It read in part, “Passengers will however be required to fill the Nigerian International Travel Portal upon their arrival in Nigeria with the assistance of the Port Health Services.
“Upon arriving in Nigeria passengers will be directed by the Port Health Services to designated government laboratories for COVID 19 PCR test. The COVID19 PCR test which must be done within 24 hours of arrival will be at no cost to the passenger.”
Also, the Federal Government, in a statement by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said warned that only those documented at the Nigerian Embassies would be evacuated.