April 28, 2022

Russia-Ukraine conflict: Our relations with both countries intact, says Nigerian govt

Nigerian Economy

President Muhammadu Buhari

—Says no regret in abstaining from UN’s human rights vote on violation

By Johnbosco Agbakwuru, ABUJA

THE Federal Government on Thursday said Nigeria still have “very good diplomatic relations” with Russia and Ukraine despite the country between the two countries and will be willing to take up offers that would benefit the citizens of the country.

The Federal Government also said the country does not regret abstaining from voting to suspend Russia from the United Nations human rights council over allegations of gross human rights violations in Ukraine.

Recall Russia had warned countries at the UN that a yes vote or abstention on a U.S. push to suspend the country from the Human Rights Council will be viewed as an “unfriendly gesture” with consequences for bilateral ties.

Speaking while fielding questions at the 36th Session of the State House Briefing yesterday, at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Gabriel Aduda, said Nigeria enjoys good diplomatic relations with the two countries.

The Permanent Secretary was responding to the question of if Nigeria was willing to take up Russia’s offer to absorb Nigerian students willing to continue their education.

According to him, “Concerning Russia offering admission to Nigerians to study in their universities, one thing we need to understand is that for now, our relations with both Russia and Ukraine are absolutely intact. We have very good diplomatic relations with Ukraine, we have very good diplomatic relations with Russia. And should that offer be put on the table, and we’ll have students that desire to continue, why not?”

Aduda added that Nigerian students whose programmes were interrupted by the Russia-Ukraine Conflict would continue their studies online and physically in other universities that have offered admission to students who wish to continue elsewhere.

He noted that asides from Universities that have begun virtual classes since the conflict broke out, other universities in neighbouring states (with similar curricula to Ukraine’s) have offered Nigerian students admission to complete their studies.

Aduda, however, explained that all admission processing must be done through the Nigerian missions as this would be the surest way to confirm that interested students were previously enrolled on various programmes in Ukraine.

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He said, “Some universities have continued their classes online. But also, some universities in neighbouring countries such as Romania have reached out to us to offer placement to our students who want to continue their studies physically.

“However, all processing must be done through that Nigerian Missions. That’s the only way these nations can know that the students were in Ukraine.

“Education desks are being set up in our missions and the government is happy to help get them (students) get placement in universities that have offered to help.

“The forms will be available to students. A lot of students are being taken in. In Romania, some universities have opened their hostels to Nigerian students fleeing the war to continue their studies.”

Also speaking on the issue, Nigeria’s Permanent Representative to UN Prof. Tijjani Muhammad-Bande, said: “I think it’s good to appreciate no matter how we all feel, that Nigeria has not broken relations with Russia, and there several cooperations between Russia and Nigeria on many issues, education is one. And so you have appreciated is not like Nigeria is at war with Russia.

“Russia remains a member of the council and a number of United Nation. It is a political player in world politics and in next week, there may be no problem with Russia and Ukraine. And how do you start your relationship with Russia again? So it’s a balancing act.

“Is not like we have reached a point where Russia is so evil, that Nigeria will say we cannot even talk to you.  Or we cannot eat food because it’s produced in Russia. Or you cannot take gas, because is Russian produced. So I think balance is key in diplomacy.

“Just understand that our approach is right. Nigeria has been very clear that that action of attack was unacceptable and we stood by the world on this matter. But that Nigerian students who think they want to study the Russian language in Russia or study in Russia and you say no, don’t go there because Russia is not factual.

“I just want us to understand is a balancing act in discovering other facets of relationships between us and Russia, between us and Ukraine. We have a lot of deals with the United States but we have never said Nigerian students to leave. Or, the UK or even expelling us from Commonwealth, did we say in retaliation all Nigerians should  come back from the Commonwealth?”

Minister of State, Foreign Affairs, Ambassador Zubairu Dada, responding to a question on whether Nigeria regrets abstaining from voting with the outcome of human rights abuse against Russia, said there is no reason to regret it.

He said: “on the issue of the UN resolution, any regrets? No regrets whatsoever to what happened. Because we believed that we voted rightly at the time that we did. But again, as regards the finer details you will get to hear from our permanent representatives. Who was there when it happened.”

Nigeria’s Permanent Representative to UN Prof. Tijjani Muhammad-Bande, on his part said: “There is absolutely no reason to regret our decision on Russia. There are several choices to be made. One choice will be not to even vote at all and Nigeria has never refused to vote, we always want people to know where we stand on any matter. Because our position is that as a country that is a leader on the continent and in the world, no matter how difficult it is, our viewers must be heard.”

The former President of the 74th United Nations General Assembly explained that as far as Nigeria is concerned, it was an allegation against Russia, an investigation on human rights abuse was already ongoing and Nigeria felt the outcome should have been awaited before the vote.

He said: “So long as it’s a member of the Assembly, there is a provision for that via the assembly and Nigeria is convinced an ongoing process to know whether that is true or not. You don’t want me to simply follow anything anybody says because it’s Russia? Because we have to be very clear… I think this is why Nigeria took a position. And we voted for Nigeria’s reasons, not because of anybody’s pressure at all.”

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