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Groups alleged NEMA for withholding fund

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By Usman Oladimeji

Over $4m is said to remain from over $8m provided to repatriate Nigerians.

The Global Coalition for Security and Democracy in Nigeria (GCSDN) alongside the Nigerians in Diaspora Organisation (NIDO), are urging for transparency regarding the financial resources designated for repatriating Nigerian individuals from Ukraine after Russia’s invasion in February 2022. In a joint letter to the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Olayemi Cardoso, and the Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Ola Olukoyede, the coalition raised concerns regarding the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) failing to return $4,793,504 to the Nigerian government.

This amount is the remaining balance of the $8,523,999 allocated by former President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration for evacuation purposes. Comrade Frederick Odorige, as the Global Coordinator of GCSDN and Chairman Emeritus of NIDO, addressed an open letter on February 25, 2024 regarding the evacuation of Nigerians from Ukraine. The letter highlighted that the National Emergency Management Agency is still in possession of $4,793,504 left over from the funds designated for the repatriation of Nigerians from Ukraine that had not been reimbursed to the federal government.

$4,793,504 remained unused based on provided information.

It was deemed necessary to address the management of the country’s shared resources, particularly amidst the challenging economic situation in the country. In accordance with the Freedom of Information Act, legal professionals are being sought to obtain details from relevant authorities regarding the allocation of funds. According to documents from the National Emergency Management Agency dated 15th of August 2022, a total of 1,500 Nigerians were brought back to the country by March 12, 2022.

Estimated expenses for their evacuation and related logistics amounted to $3,546,912.48 (equivalent to ₦1,467,712,384.224 at the exchange rate of ₦413.8), £84,952 (equivalent to ₦39,320,882.72 at the exchange rate of ₦462.86), and ₦36,480,000. When converted to Naira, the total amount was estimated to be ₦1,543,513,266,944. Based on the information provided, the coalition emphasized that $4,793,504 remained unspent. Additionally, the coalition acknowledged that while Nigerian embassies in Hungary, Romania, and Poland were present to provide logistical assistance, the integration process was primarily managed by Nigerian associations and the host countries.

Average cost of evacuating a Nigerian was calculated to be ₦987,711.60.

Additional inquiries were posed, raising questions such as why a sum of $82,737.34 payment was made to the Refugee Commission in Nigeria under the guise of logistics. Questions were raised regarding the connection between the office in Nigeria and the evacuation of Nigerians from Ukraine. It was queried how NEMA could justify spending ₦36,480,000 on logistics for the evacuation when funds had already been given to Nigeria’s foreign missions. Additionally, questions were raised about the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management, and Social Development claims of spending $14,318.5 for logistics.

Furthermore, the coalition highlighted that in addition to the $100 allocated to each person being repatriated, totalling $149,700, the average cost of evacuating Nigerians from the conflict in Ukraine during that time was calculated to be ₦987,711.60 or $2,380 (using the earlier exchange rate). However, this figure did not align with the actual expenses incurred. During the time in question, the average price for a round-trip economy ticket from Hungary, Romania, Poland, and Nigeria was $800.

Related Article: Nigerians living in Ukraine are evacuating

With an estimate of $1,000 for airfare, logistics, and stipends for each returnee, total expenses should be approximately $1,500,000. At the time, the Presidency was informed that 5,000 Nigerians required evacuation from Ukraine. Due to fewer evacuees than expected, a refund of public funds should have been issued. The coalition clarified that their letter did not imply corruption but instead called for transparency and scrutiny of public finances. They added that this statement highlighted their keen interest in matters concerning Nigerians residing abroad.

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