Russia-Ukraine Crisis: Nigerian Students Stranded In Ukraine

Annora Omolu, a Nigerian undergraduate at Kyiv Medical University, Ukraine heard a small blast by the window of her apartment.

This comes after Russian President Vladimir Putin’s half-hour speech proclaiming war on Ukraine.

The war frightened the 20-year-old who started simultaneously shaking and praying. In the days before Putin’s speech, she had been calm because everything in Kyiv had appeared normal.

However, as she stayed stuck to the television, her calmness quickly gave way to crippling fear.“I don’t even know right now [how I feel] because I cannot think,” she told Al Jazeera. “I’m literally shaking.”

She attempted to book a flight at daybreak to Lviv in western Ukraine, some 469 kilometres from the capital, to join other Nigerians there and cross to Poland. However, the Ukrainian government had closed its airspace.

She started to reach out to the Nigerian embassy in Ukraine, desperately seeking for assistance. “Can they send us flights?” she asked.

Through out the last two decades, Ukraine has occurred as a choice destination for African students, particularly those in medicine-related fields, because it is cheaper compared with elsewhere in Europe, and the United States.

According to data from the government, an estimated 4,000 Nigerians were studying in tertiary institutions across Ukraine in 2020, the highest number of African nationals there, along with Morocco.

Ahead of Russia’s invasion on Thursday, more than a dozen European and Asian countries were persuading their citizens to vacate Ukraine.

The United States, Canada, Germany, Australia and other countries have evacuated members of their diplomatic staff and their families. However, even after the invasion, no African country has declared concrete plans for the evacuation of its citizens.

Morocco, as well as Egypt, which also has a high number of citizens studying in Ukraine, have only urged them to ensure their personal safety.

‘’Many of the African governments do not simply have a sense of responsibility to their citizens,’’ Ibrahim Anoba, a fellow at US-based Center for African Prosperity at the Atlas Network said.

Nexus News learnt that Nigerian student unions in Ukraine said they made several calls to the Nigerian embassy in Kyiv without getting a response.

‘’There has been no embassy response,’’ Anjola Ero-Phillips, president of the Nigerian Students Union in Lviv, told Al Jazeera. ‘’All they say is check the website and the last update on the website is January 26. Everybody is absolutely on their own,’’ he said.

Nexus News further gathered that one of the embassy representatives said it had to get Abuja’s approval to be able to initiate any form of evacuations.

Recall that a statement was released by the embassy on Thursday urging Nigerian nationals to “remain calm but be very vigilant and be responsible for their personal security and safety”.

“Should any of Nigerian nationals considers (sic) the situation as emotionally disturbing, such nationals may wish to temporary relocate to anywhere consider (sic) safe by private arrangements,’’ the statement added.

Nigeria’s lower chamber of parliament, the House of Representatives, tweeted that it would “shoulder the immediate evacuation of Nigerian students from Ukraine” and that the chair of its foreign affairs committee would fly into Ukraine on Friday, but did not outline the details of its plan.

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