The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has denied allegations that officials of the Nigerian Embassy and Consulate in Saudi Arabia are frustrating Nigerian students from returning home.
The ministry made the rebuttal in a statement signed by Ferdinand Nwonye, its spokesperson, on Thursday in reaction to claims made by some of the students.
The students, under the aegis of “Concerned Nigerian Students in Saudi Arabia”, alleged that Issah Dodo, Nigeria’s Ambassador to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, and Seidu Tiggi, the country’s Consular-General in Jeddah, in connivance with some embassy officials, thwarted and denied them the chance to return back to Nigeria after their exams in the kingdom on 15 May.
According to the students, the Saudi Arabian government issued approved a flight via Saudi Airlines to return students of various nationalities, including Nigerians, to return to their various countries.
The students, however, claimed that the ambassador and consular-general alongside other diplomatic officials refused to facilitate the necessary arrangement to return home due to the failure of the Saudi Airline to grant the embassy’s request of 80 seats on the flight free of charge.
But the ministry said the allegations are misinforming, and described the Nigerian students as “misguided, unpatriotic and ungrateful”.
The ministry stated that its diplomatic officials have been consulting with the necessary authorities to evacuate Nigerians in Saudi Arabia, adding that the Saudi Airlines fixed departure dates for the students without liaising with the Nigerian officials.
The statement read: “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 the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, and attendant media reports alleging that the Government of Nigeria, particularly the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Abuja; 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 15th May 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 and failed to secure Over Flight Clearance and Landing Permit for the Saudi Arabian Airlines (SAUDIA) to airlift Nigerians from the Kingdom.
“The Ministry wishes to state that the Nigerian Mission in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, in line with Federal Government 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.
“Though the Saudi Airlines fixed 8th July and 1st August 2020 respectively, the Airline never informed the Embassy of the dates or sought for approval of the proposed dates from Nigeria either through the Embassy of Nigeria in Riyadh or the Consulate General of Nigeria in Jedda, which is against the spirit of established diplomatic protocols, hence the inability to operate the said flights.”
The ministry also debunked the claims of requesting for tickets before granting the landing permit as alleged by the students.
“The Ministry of Foreign Affairs also wishes to put it on record that the Embassy Officials did not demand for any commission of graft from the Airlines as insinuated by the misinformed select Nigerian Students, whose allegations have since been condemned and refuted by the leadership of Nigerian Students in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia,” the statement read.
The ministry urged Nigerians to disregard what it said was the “unfortunate allegations by the misinformed students”.