The Nigerian government is yet to respond to an embarrassing crisis in Russia where over 400 Nigerians who had purchased tickets for the FIFA 2018 World Cup has fallen victim to organise fraud syndicate and are now trapped in Russia bereft of food, money or a return ticket back home.
According to Punch No less than 400 Nigerian who were promised lucrative employment in Russia spent the night near the Nigerian Embassy in Mamontovsky Lane, Moscow, in the hope that they’ll get help with their return tickets.
A few more foreigners were stuck in airports without money, documents or return tickets, reports Crime Russia, an organisation that collates news about illegal activities in Russia.
According to the estimates of volunteers of the movement against slavery known as Alternativa, there are between 200 and 400 Nigerians facing hardship in this regard.
Representative of Alternativa, Oleg Melnikov told RBC that Nigerians began to complain about scammers two weeks ago.
Back home, scammers had advised them to buy fan’s passport of the World Cup (Fan ID) for $300 and round-trip tickets, assuring the victims that they would be employed in Russia. However, in Moscow, things did not turn out as planned because there was no truth to the scammers’ claims.
Worse still, unknown to the victims, the scammers had cancelled their return tickets, and anyone wishing to return to Nigeria would have to pay his own return fare.
The AFP, in a report about two deceived brothers, said the two Nigerians were promised a career in professional football in Russia — or another high-paying job should that fail.
When the victims got to Moscow, all the phone numbers of supposed “prospective employers” that the scammers had given them proved to be fake, while the money they paid for lodging could not sustain their accommodation for more than three days.
Ismail Olamilekan, 21, and his brother Sodiq, 25, said they paid N250,000 each to a man in Lagos for their Fan IDs.
“The man told us that with the Fan ID, we could get a job and stay here,” Ismail told AFP at a hostel on the outskirts of Moscow.
“But when we got here, we discovered that it was a fraud, that he had just collected the money and lied to us,” brothers told AFP
The two brothers ended up sleeping in the park until a fellow Muslim allowed them to sleep in his hostel until their return flight scheduled for July 22.
In the mosque where some of the Nigerians are currently squatting, they are only able to feed through the assistance of Alternativa.
“The (Nigerian) embassy did not help, giving only contacts of volunteers from the Alternativa,” Crime Russia claims.
According to the coordinator of the Alternativa, Julia Siluyanova, from the beginning of the 2018 World Cup, Nigerians have been pouring in, armed with the false hopes that they would get employment in Russia.
“The situation of Nigerians is complicated by the fact that many of them have acquired false return air tickets,” Crime Russia laments.
On Thursday, Nigerians arrived at Sheremetyevo airport after learning that Turkish Airlines allegedly would take them to their homeland.
“Last night in Sheremetyevo, about 40 Nigerians, when attempting to fly to their homeland, encountered problems on registration, as their return tickets were invalid,” the Interfax source at the airport said.
According to Interfax, the airport employees called the police and representatives of the Nigerian embassy when tempers ran high, the agency interlocutor said.
The stranded Nigerians allegedly spent four hours at the airport, and then left, accompanied by officials of the Nigerian Embassy in Moscow.
According to Telegram-channel Mash, 23 Nigerian citizens stayed at Vnukovo airport for almost two weeks, as swindlers who gave them promises of employment, after they arrived in Moscow, took away their documents and money.
The stranded Africans begged and pestered other passengers for money, and slept in armchairs. Public complaints soon made the airport management to call the police, while human rights activists weighed in.
According to avolunteer, Oleg Melnikov, the Nigerian diplomats began to take some actions after the Nigerians had spent the night at the embassy premises.
Volunteers bought food and soft rugs for them, and also helped them to settle into hostels.
The Embassy of Nigeria promised that, within five days, it would solve the problem of the return of its citizens to their homeland.
They were allocated a bed and seats in the hostel for five days at the expense of the embassy.
The head of the Alternativa noted that the hostel “has, so far, been paid for, and the payment would last for two days.
“We told the Nigerians that if the question of return is not resolved, we will all return to the embassy and wait,” Melnikov said.
Ambassador of Nigeria in Russia, Steve Davis Ugbah, on his part, said that the diplomatic mission was not ready to “buy all tickets at once” and turned to the Russian authorities for help.
At the same time, he stressed that he did not intend to allow the forced deportation of his fellow citizens, and that the question of their return will be resolved as soon as possible.