The 2018 FIFA World Cup has come and gone, but the side effects are still affecting Nigeria and Nigerians. France defeated Croatia 4-2 to win the trophy on July 15 in Moscow. Nigeria’s national team, the Super Eagles, crashed out after the group stage with the 2-1 defeat suffered against Argentina at the St. Petersburg Stadium.
Russia, in her efforts to correct a global impression that the country was not accommodating to the visitors, introduced the Fan Identity Card Scheme in conjunction with FIFA, just to allow more fans into the country.
The Fan ID card was a free document given to every football fan after purchasing a match ticket for any of the 64 matches at the Russia 2018 World Cup. This initiative was applauded worldwide as fans travelled to Russia for the World Cup with the ID card, which is like the accreditation tag for the coaches, players, officials and journalists who were part of the World Cup.
It is an experiment FIFA is likely to continue at Qatar 2022. Argentina, for example, had over 40,000 fans in Russia, despite the fact that about 30,000 others were stopped by the government of the South American country from travelling for the mundial. For Nigeria, we realised it was a different ball game as there was no proper documentation of the fans that bought tickets to also obtain the Fan ID card.
Many people from different walks of life bought tickets and, sad enough, there was plenty of racketeering, which later escalated in Russia during the competition.
It was sad that rather than buy tickets and obtain the Fan ID card free, Nigerians were also buying the Fan ID card with a plan of either staying back in Russia or crossing over to a neighbouring country in Europe. It was learnt that some fans bought the ID card for over N1 million. It did not stop there; they have a chain of agents who also helped facilitate their travelling arrangements, even with a one-way ticket.
We totally frown at the show of shame in Russia, which saw many Nigerians stranded in the European country. Many of the stranded Nigerians who travelled to Russia with oneway ticket stayed at the train stations, clubs and other public places just to pass the night and the next day they walked about in the streets since they do not have accommodation. One of them, Segun, has a sad tale to tell.
He said: “Af- ter obtaining the Fan ID at N800,000, I paid N10,000 to somebody in Nigeria just to get the contact number of the person I will stay with at St. Petersburg, but when I reached Russia, the guy did not pick call again. I have no return ticket; I have no money to feed. I don’t have accommodation.”
The Nigerian embassy in Russia came to the rescue of the desperate stranded fans and kept them for a few days before the Lagos State governor, Akinwunmi Ambode, came to the rescue of some of them and later the Federal Government also moved to save the situation. It is unfortunate that Nigeria is reaping the bad side of the Fan ID, which is being applauded all over the world.
We call for a probe of those who issued out the document, which is the visa card of the fans, since some of the stranded fans alleged that they bought the document that should have been obtained free, with huge amount of money. Only last week, it was revealed that 75 out of the 230 stranded fans absconded, according to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
The ministry’s spokesperson, Dr. Tope Elias- Fatile, said in Abuja that the fans absconded despite government’s efforts to repatriate them. “Over 230 stranded Nigerians had been cleared to board an Ethiopian Airline flight to Abuja; however, only 155 boarded the flight that arrived Friday night of July 22,” he said.
The spokesperson said that the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Geoffrey Onyeama, had also made some contacts with relevant agencies to commence investigations into suspected human trafficking.
Some of the fans have been wrongfully advised by some travel agencies in Lagos before their departure that they would secure jobs in Russia. Most of them were also advised to pass through the Russian border to countries like Poland, Finland and Ukraine from where they could transit to other parts of Europe like Germany, France and Holland.
We make bold to say that those who embarrassed the country deserve to be punished somehow for their desperation. They could also be enlightened to know that the money some of them used to procure the Fan ID could be enough to start a small scale business back here. We also call on the law enforcement agencies to investigate how the repatriated fans passed through the immigration checks at the Nigerian airports with the one-way ticket. Doing this will save the nation future embarrassment.
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