Nigerian Government Official: Students Will Return Home from Croatia

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Contrary to recent reports that the Bosnian government would be sending two Nigerian students, Abia Uchenna Alexandro and Eboh Kenneth Chinedu, back to their homeland directly from Bosnia, a senior Nigerian government official has confirmed in a press release today that the students will fly back to Nigeria from Zagreb, Croatia instead.

Accusations Against Croatian Police

According to the students’ uncorroborated account, they were approached by Croatian police in Zagreb on the evening of November 17, not allowed to return to their hostel to retrieve their passports and were taken instead to the nearby police station. From there, they were put inro a van with illegal migrants and sent to the Bosnian border where they were forced at gunpoint to enter Bosnia. The Croatian police and manager of the HI Youth Hostel, where the students stayed, have disputed the students’ version of events.

Fear of Returning to Croatia

According to N1 Bosnia on December 11, 2019 – Dragan Mektić, Bosnian Minister of Security explained that the students would be returned to Nigeria directly from Bosnia via the AVR voluntary repatriation program. He noted that the students had expressed fear of returning to Croatia. The students also insisted, in interviews with Žurnal and The Guardian, that they would not return to Croatia without UN escorts. However, a top Nigerian government official has confirmed today that the students will, in fact, be returning to Nigeria from Croatia.


Chairman/CEO of Nigerians in Diaspora Commission Statement

The statement, which was released two hours ago by Abdur-Rahman Balogun, Head Media & Public/Relations, on behalf of the Hon. Abike Dabiri-Erewa, Chairman/CEO of Nigerians in Diaspora Commission (NIDCOM), addressed a few of the details surrounding the students’ trip to Croatia. She noted that the Nigerian Mission in Hungary has been involved in securing their return to Nigeria. Recall that the Chairman had disputed portions of the students’ account as reported by The Guardian after that article appeared in The Cable, a Nigerian portal.

“The Minister of Foreign Affairs is on this matter. It’s not as straightforward as you have reported, but the Minister has personally intervened. We should give an update as the intervention continues,” she revealed in a tweet on Saturday, December 7.

Didn’t Inform Nigerian Table Tennis Federation

According to today’s statement, five students went to the Fifth World InterUniversities Championships in Pula to compete in table tennis. She also pointed out that they attended the event without the knowledge of the Nigerian Table Tennis Federation. She confirmed Croatian police reports that two had returned to Nigeria after the competition and that another student had applied for asylum in Croatia.


Must use Return Tickets Not Seek Asylum

She emphasized that, as condition of their release, the two students, who are currently being held in Bosnia, must use their return flight tickets from Zagreb and cannot seek asylum in Croatia. While she acknowledged that the Croatian police had denied the students’ allegations, she also noted that Mr. Geoffrey Onyeama, the Hon. Minister of Foreign Affairs of Nigeria, has demanded a full investigation into the incident. She noted that the students are expected to arrive in Croatia anytime from today December 13, 2019.

The statement, which is printed in full below, can be found here.

The Chairman/CEO, Nigerians in Diaspora Commission, (NIDCOM) Hon. Abike Dabiri-Erewa has assured that the two Nigerians in Bosnia Camps are hale and hearty and are expected to return to Croatia anytime from today Friday Dec. 13, 2019 preparatory to come back to Nigeria.

This was sequel to series of diplomatic interventions from the Nigerian Mission in Hungary and Mr. Geoffrey Onyema, Hon. Minister of Foreign Affairs, who directed for full investigations to be carried out.

It will be recalled that two students of the Federal University of Technology, Owerri (FUTO), Abia Alexandro Uchenna and Eboh Kenneth Chinedu, who attended an international table tennis competition in Croatia, ended up in a Bosnian refugee camp.

She said arrangements have been concluded to send the two Nigerians back to Croatia anytime from today, Friday December 13, 2019, adding that the Nigerian Mission in Hungary has taken steps to ensure that the matter is resolved, and the welfare of the two Nigerians protected.

She said that five of them went for the table tennis event without the knowledge of the Nigerian Table Tennis Federation, two returned over two weeks ago, three of them stayed back while one already applied for asylum.

Although the Croatia Authorities through our Ambassador in Budapest denied the allegation involving maltreatment by the Croatian Police, the Hon. Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Geoffrey Onyeama has demanded full investigation into the matter.

She said the conditions attached to their release include usage of their return tickets from Zagreb, Croatia back to Nigeria and must not seek Asylum in Croatia, just as one of them did already.

Dabiri-Erewa appealed to Nigerians to always inform relevant authorities whenever they go on such trips outside the country and be of good behaviour.

According to a report, Abia Alexandro Uchenna, Eboh Kenneth Chinedu, and three other students, arrived in Zagreb, capital of Croatia, on November 12, for the fifth world inter-university championships held in the country.

They were allegedly arrested while taking a walk around the country’s capital on November 18 as they couldn’t produce relevant documents to the police.

The police officers were reported to have transferred the students to the country’s Bosnia-Herzegovina border, where Croatian authorities had gathered a group of illegal migrants attempting to cross into the country.


Abdur-Rahman Balogun
Head Media & Public/Relations

Follow our Politics page for updates regarding this story and the migrant crisis in Croatia.


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