Fraudsters have tricked scores of Nigerians by selling them football World Cup fan passes to travel to Russia, leaving many stranded and penniless, victims and anti-trafficking campaigners say.
Some Nigerians told AFP they used the official Fan IDs to come to Russia with the promise of finding work or even playing professional football themselves.
Others said they came to watch World Cup matches but got stranded when their return plane tickets were cancelled by bogus travel agencies that booked them.
Ismail Olamilekan, 21, and his brother Sodiq, 25, said they paid 250,000 naira (600 euros, $700) 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.”
– ‘Football career’ –
The plastic-coated passes issued by the Russian government enable foreign fans to enter the country without a visa during the World Cup — but they expire before the end of July.
They are issued free to fans who have bought tickets for World Cup matches. But some agents sold them to Nigerians who wanted to come to Russia to work.
It was not clear how the bogus agents obtained the Fan IDs that they sold.
A FIFA spokesman stressed that the Fan IDs system was implemented by the Russian communications ministry.
FIFA “continues to make efforts to identify and curb unauthorised ticket sales”, he added.
The Olamilekan brothers spent about a thousand dollars each for their plane fare to Moscow, on top of what they paid separately to the agent.
“In Nigeria, I play football. He told me that if I started working I can also start a (football) career in Russia,” Ismail Olamilekan said.
– Nigerians ‘stranded’ –
A fellow Muslim was allowing the brothers to sleep in his hostel until their return flight on July 22.
Other Nigerians, however, found themselves stranded in Russia after fraudulent “agents” who booked return flights for them then cancelled the bookings to get a refund.
A group of about a dozen Nigerians waiting at Moscow’s Vnukovo airport on Tuesday told AFP they had been sleeping there for days.
Some of them said they paid more than a million naira each to an agent for a package including flights, match tickets and a fan ID.
“We’ve been sleeping on the floor like fools. We’ve got no place to go,” said Alonge Ademola, 35, a cement dealer from Lagos.
“We really do want to go back to our country. We’ve cried, we’ve wept, but still no solution.”
Russian charity Alternativa said it had helped about 50 Nigerians stranded in Russia and estimated there were about 200 in difficulty overall.
“With globalisation the opportunities for criminals are also increasing. The Fan IDs make an extremely profitable business for them,” said the group’s spokeswoman, Yulia Siluyanova.
– ‘Natural’ problem –
Siluyanova told AFP on Thursday that the authorities in cooperation with Alternativa had made arrangements for about 20 stranded Nigerians to be flown back home.
Foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova told a news briefing that the issue of stranded fans was “not desirable but it’s also natural”.
“It’s really a problem that primarily the fans themselves should resolve along with diplomatic and consular missions of their countries,” she said.
The Nigerian embassy did not respond to requests for comment.
“You can’t rule out that some of the foreign guests, taking advantage of visiting the World Cup, are counting in some way or another, usually illegally, on crossing the Russian border and entering one of the European countries,” Zakharova said.
“If such an action is recognised as illegal, the relevant authorities will take the necessary administrative measures.”
– Lesson learnt –
The Olamilekan brothers meanwhile are waiting to board the return flights that they bought with money their parents borrowed.
“We don’t have any option but to go back home and work and pay our parents’ debts,” Ismail said.
“I spoke to them last night. They asked if we’ve got a job and if we’re living well and I decided to tell them yes. I don’t like lying to my parents,” he said.
“I still give thanks to God because He has taught me a lesson.”
Reps, COAS clash over arms procurement
Alessandra Galloni makes history as Reuters’ first female editor-in-chief
Ugwuanyi receives report on Oruku crisis
Insecurity: Facilitate return of IDPs to ancestral homes, Zulum charges CoAS Attahiru
Nigerian govt can’t reduce price of cooking gas – Marketers
Duo arrested in Rivers for importing fake ponmo from Madagascar
I wasn’t elected just to pay salaries, El-Rufai on sacking civil servants
Ogun nurses go on strike over alleged kidnap of members
JUST IN: Dornier Airplane Skids Off Runway At Lagos Airport
Twitter users blast Burna Boy for allegedly receiving Gov Wike’s N10m
Nigerian Idol: You can either love or hate me’, Seyi Shay claps back at critics
Investigate frequent ‘blood sucking’ accidents on Otedola bridge, Nigerians task FG
Emefiele unlocks new level of wickedness, Nigerians react to USSD charges
Vatican dashes gay Catholics hope, says Church cannot bless same-sex marriages
Nigerian Idol:Twitter users drag Seyi Shay over harsh criticism of teenage contestant
#JusticeForItunu: NIDCOM reacts as Nigerians demand justice for compatriot wrongfully jailed in Côte d’Ivoire
VIDEO: If South-West PDP gets it right, the future will be bright – Governor Seyi Makinde
VIDEO: How I survived selling water on one leg in traffic – Lagos based amputee hawker
VIDEO: I’ve forgiven comedienne Ada Jesus for lying against me- Rita Edochie
VIDEO: You should be scared of me, Crossdresser James Brown threatens ‘queen’s mother’ Bobrisky
VIDEO: How Lagos area boy, Aliu, became a modelling sensation
VIDEO: We were flogged but no one was raped – Kaduna college student
VIDEO: Rivers monarch speaks from captivity, lists abductors’ demand
VIDEO: Eight-month pregnant Aminat Idrees wins Lagos’ first gold medal at Edo 2020
Entertainment23 hours ago
Yoruba actress, ‘Iya Ife’, is dead
Metro24 hours ago
Man beats six-month pregnant wife to a coma, storms hospital to remove oxygen mask until she died
General23 hours ago
China intercepts human penis cargo labelled as plantains from Nigeria
Breaking19 hours ago
JUST IN: FAAN raises alarm over planned attacks on airports
General18 hours ago
Adamu Garba, Tolu Ogunlesi, others react to Twitter’s choice of Ghana as African headquarters
General20 hours ago
Twitter establishes first African office in Ghana
Crime7 hours ago
Driver loses two teeth to LASTMA, police brutality in Ikeja
General22 hours ago
Third Class OAU graduate tops class in Canada