By Lizzy Okoji
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has denied suggestions that it was frustrating the evacuation process of Nigerian students in Saudi Arabia.
Mr Ferdinand Nwonye, spokesperson for the ministry, in a statement on Thursday in Abuja, said that claims to that effect were “totally false”.
Recalling that students had accused the Embassy of Nigeria in Riyadh and the Consul General of Nigeria in Jedda of refusing to facilitate their evacuation, Nwonye described the allegations as “unpatriotic”.
He said that the Nigerian Mission in Saudi Arabia had been engaging relevant host authorities to facilitate the evacuation of Nigerians from the Kingdom.
“The attention of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has been drawn to a misleading video in circulation, fabricated by some misguided, unpatriotic and ungrateful Nigerian students in Saudi Arabia.
“There are also attendant media reports alleging that the Government of Nigeria, particularly the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Embassy of Nigeria in Riyadh and the Consulate General of Nigeria in Jedda, have deliberately refused to facilitate their evacuation to Nigeria for holiday, since May 15, 2020.
“The group further alleged that the Embassy of Nigeria in Riyadh and the Consulate General of Nigeria in Jedda refused to issue permits to students to travel home.
“It further alleged that government failed to secure flight clearance and landing permit for the Saudi Arabian Airlines to airlift Nigerians from the Kingdom.
“The ministry wishes to state that the Nigerian Mission in Saudi Arabia, in line with guidelines for the evacuation of Nigerian Nationals stranded in different parts of the world due to the COVID-19 pandemic, has been engaging relevant host authorities to facilitate the evacuation of Nigerians from the Kingdom.”
Nwonye said that though the Saudi Airlines fixed July 8 and Aug. 1 respectively, the Airline never informed the Embassy of the dates or sought for approval of the proposed dates from Nigeria.
“Neither the Embassy of Nigeria in Riyadh nor the Consulate General of Nigeria in Jedda was informed, which is against the spirit of established diplomatic protocols, hence the inability to operate the said flights,” Nwonye said.
He said that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs wanted the record strengthened that the Embassy officials did not demand for any commission or graft from the Airlines as insinuated by the misinformed students.
He added that their allegations had since been condemned and refuted by the leadership of Nigerian students in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
The spokesperson recalled that the Embassy of Nigeria in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia successfully facilitated the evacuation of 117 Nigerians from the Kingdom.
Nwonye specifically recalled that the Nigerians were evacuated via Azman Air Services Limited, Flight No: ZQ381, on July 19.
He said the Nigerian Embassy in Saudi Arabia was committed to ensuring that the right processes and established guidelines were adhered to, in the evacuation of Nigerian Nationals.
“The unfortunate allegation by the misinformed students is absolutely false and should be disregarded,” Nwonye declared. (NAN)