The Nigerian government on Thursday summoned the Ambassadors of Russia and Ukraine to Nigeria, Alexei Shebarshin and Kirdoda Valerii, respectively over the deteriorating Russia-Ukraine crisis.
The Minister of Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Onyeama, who met with the envoys separately behind closed doors, disclosed that during his meeting with the Russian envoy, he told Shebarshin that the government of Nigeria could not condone as a country, the violation of the territorial integrity of a United Nations member state, a country with which Nigeria had diplomatic relations.
Onyeama also told Shebarshin that Nigeria urged Russia to revert to the status quo before the military action and to prioritise diplomacy and dialogue.
“This is really the position of the government. And also, that we have 5600 Nigerians in Ukraine and we are very concerned about what we are hearing and what we are seeing regarding missiles and bombs about the safety of our Nigerian citizens there, that we would like to be able to evacuate them.
“He said this would be communicated to his headquarters and that obviously, they consider Nigeria a friendly country and Nigerians; and that they would do nothing to harm Nigerians and assured me that their action is targeted at military installations and that they are not about to start attacking civilian areas and so forth,” Onyeama said.
Onyeama disclosed that he also discussed with the Russian envoy about the practicalities of how Nigeria can get her citizens out of Ukraine, those who want to leave the country and what measures they could do as they are moving in, to facilitate and help and to safeguard Nigerians in Ukraine.
Onyeama added that the Russian envoy insisted that civilians were not being targeted and that hopefully, it would not last long.
Asked about the issue of the evacuation of Nigerians in Ukraine, Onyeama said the issue could only come up when the airports open.
Onyeama also said the Russian envoy stated that they would also see some airports as military targets possibly.
Onyeama further said they discussed road travel to facilitate the evacuation, even though some Nigerians had been able to get into neighouring countries such as Holland.
The Russian envoy however told Onyeama that there might be risk involved, while also saying that Russia was mindful of the civilians from foreign countries and that they would take all the necessary measures to ensure their security.
“He was a lot more sanguine, optimistic that no harm will come to them, but we cannot take any risks,” Onyeama stated.
Speaking after his meeting with the Ukrainian envoy, Onyeama said the government sympathised with Ukraine regarding their situation as a country and as a people, which is under heavy bombardment, which has led to loss of lives.
Onyeama said he also pointed out that Ukraine is a country that Nigeria has diplomatic relations, a member of the United Nations and cannot condone the violation of their sovereignty and territorial integrity.