Scores of Nigerians have fallen victims to fraudsters who sold them football World Cup fan passes to travel to Russia, leaving many stranded and penniless.
While some Nigerians say they used the official Fan IDs to come to Russia with the promise of finding work or even playing professional football themselves, others just came to watch the 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 N250,000 (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.”
The plastic-coated passes issued by the Russian government enable foreign fans with match tickets to enter the country without a visa during the World Cup — but they expire before the end of July.
It remains unclear how the bogus agents obtained the Fan IDs that they sold, though Russian Foreign ministry spokeswoman, Maria Zakharova told a news briefing it was a matter for the consular authorities of the countries concerned.
AFP reports that many Nigerians found themselves stranded in Russia after fraudulent “agents” who booked return flights for them then cancelled the bookings to get a refund.
“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.
Around 50 Nigerians spent the night of Thursday to Friday on the pavement in front of the Nigerian embassy in Moscow, even as embassy spokesman Olumide Ajayi said they had made arrangements to house 57 stranded Nigerians and would work with Russian authorities and airlines to find a way to send them home.