The Russia-Ukraine Crisis: Our Students In Diaspora

The Russia-Ukraine crisis took over the news since Thursday when the world was awakened to the outrageous reverberation of bombs plummeting into cities in Ukraine.

This started when Vladimir Putin, President of Russia, initiated an abrupt invasion into Ukraine. At least 40 people were reported to have died as Russian bombs keep on exploding in several major cities in Ukraine including Kyiv, Dnipro and others.

News headlines have been updating the world about the current disturbing situation in Ukraine. Amidst those concerns, most countries have been worried about their citizens in diaspora and evacuation processes have been put to action.

In Nigeria, media houses have circulated news concerning the Nigerian students residing in Ukraine and their condition in these trying times.

Throughout the last two decades, Ukraine has come to be a choice of destination for African students, especially those in medicine-related fields, because it is affordable compared to elsewhere in Europe.

It has been estimated in the year 2020 that 4,000 Nigerians were studying in tertiary institutions across Ukraine- the highest number of African nationals there, followed by Morocco.

About 4000 Nigerians are currently studying in Ukraine. Photo source: QuartzAfrica

Therefore, when the crisis erupted, it was not surprising to see Nigerian students in Ukraine surfacing on social media and voicing out their fears and anxieties in the war-torn country.

On January 26, 2022, a statement was released by the Nigerian embassy in Ukraine offering emergency hotlines and urging Nigerians in Ukraine to take responsibility for their safety by avoiding unnecessary travels.

Following this, the Nigerian student body in Ukraine wrote President Muhammadu Buhari yesterday, soliciting a hasty evacuation.

The letter expressed in a frantic tone that gunshots and explosives were threatening lives and an immediate evacuation was needed.

Before the invasion, more than a dozen European and Asian countries encouraged their citizens to vacate Ukraine; The United States, Canada, Germany, Australia and other countries have evacuated members of their diplomatic staff and their families.

Sadly, no African country is yet to make this mighty move and this has led to many concluding that African countries simply do not know how to ‘take responsibility’ for their citizens.

Similarly, the Nigerian embassy has done nothing but emphasised to students to ‘remain calm and take responsibility for their ‘personal security’. This comes after student unions in Ukraine bemoaned that they attempted several calls to the Nigerian embassy in Kyiv without receiving a response.

The indefinite stand had provoked different reactions from the public, mostly boiling down to how negligent the government is responding to the critical condition.

Although, some had earlier established that it was no news that the Nigerian government is being negligent and this was expected.

However, the embassy had justified that all plans to vacate Nigerians are still in motion but the ‘immediate evacuation’ cannot take place with airports in Ukraine closed down at the moment.

As tenable as this may sound, it has only proved further to strip those students of the little hope they had in this country coming to their rescue.

One may ask what Nigeria was doing when other countries were busy vacating their citizens to sanctuary before the invasion.

The government feebly argued that it was ‘undecided’ given Russia’s position about not initially invading Ukraine and intelligence reports from the U.S. and the U.K. that an invasion was imminent. This implies that Nigeria was literally waiting for the war to knock on the door before any measure could be taken which is well, too late for that now.

It is even more unfortunate that those students and other Nigerian citizens bemoaned about the faulty so-called website that was meant to serve as a medium of communication between the embassy and Nigerians.

With all this news crawling in the media, it has only served to smear the image of the country while rendering those students in diaspora, helpless, angry and desperate.

As the crisis persists, they are left with nothing but hope and prayers. And pray, we shall pray for our students in diaspora, for God’s timely intervention in bringing Ukraine and the world to the stillness of peace.


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