Ukraine war: 400 stranded Nigerian students appeal to FG for evacuation

By Gabriel Dike, Aidoghie Paulinus, Abuja and Laide Raheem, Abeokuta

No fewer than 400 Nigerian students in Ukraine have appealed to the Federal Government to come to their rescue.

The students, who are studying various courses in different states are seeking speedy Federal Government’s intervention to evacuate them. Many parents  have also called for urgent evacuation of the stranded students. 

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In the last two weeks, the students have sought support of the Nigerian Embassy in Kiev after the Ghanaian government evacuated their students but there was no positive respond.

President of the Nigerian Students Union, Ajolaoluwa Ero-Phillips, said Nigerian students in Kiev, Kharkiv and other cities close to the West have been hearing and seeing explosions . He however, confirmed that  there were no Nigerian casualty.

Ero-Phillips said before the invasion by Russian military, he had visited the Nigerian embassy and was asked to continue to check the embassy website for further information. 

He told Daily Sun that in his state alone, over 60 Nigerian students were stranded while the figures could be higher in other states.  A student in a university at Poltava via WhatsApp recording said the institution management woke up students at 7.43am and asked them to pack their belongings for relocation.

“We were asked to park some few things.  All the students are downstairs. I don’t know where they are taking us to. About 100 of us are downstairs. I have my bag, passport, cash, water and some cloths.’’   

Chief Lateef Shogunle whose son is studying in Kiev, said he and his family were anxious about the safety of his son. “I expect the Federal Government to have acted long ago and evacuat the stranded students.’’   

Shogunle said about three other parents have called him since last night and were also worried about the safety of their wards in Ukraine.

Meanwhile, The Federal Government has assured  of its commitment to the safety of Nigerians resident in Ukraine.

Ministry of Foreign Affairs, in a statement by its spokesperson, Francisca Omayuli, said government received with surprise reports of the invasion of Ukraine by Russia. 

“The Federal Government wishes to assure the families with loved ones in Ukraine that as soon as the airports in the country are opened, it would assist in facilitating the evacuation of Nigerians who are willing to leave.

“In the meantime, the Nigerian Mission has confirmed that military action by the Russians has been confined to military installations,” the government said. 

Earlier, the Embassy of Nigeria in Kiev, in a statement dated February 24 urged Nigerians resident in Ukraine to remain calm but vigilant and be responsible for their personal security and safety.

The Nigerian Mission said any Nigerian who considered the situation emotionally disturbing can temporarily relocate to anywhere he considered safe by private arrangement.

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“They should, however, ensure that they do all the needful to validate all their resident documents for ease of return to the country when desired,” the Embassy said.

But the National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS) has condemned what it described as “irresponsible” statement credited to the Nigerian government through the nation’s embassy in Ukraine calling on Nigerians in Ukraine to protect themselves.

The SouthWest Zonal coordinator of NANS, Adegboye Emmanuel Olatunji in statement  in Abeokuta, Ogun State said Federal Government must expedite action on their evacuation.

“ We are concerned about Nigerian nationals and students in particular who are residents in the attacked nation.

“Unfortunately, the Nigerian government through the nation’s embassy in Ukraine has once again raised a public disgrace, embarrassment and total disregard of her basic responsibility of protecting the lives of Nigerians through the unpopular statement issued by the embassy. 

“The barbaric and laughable statement entails that the Nigerian Government advised Nigerians resident in Ukraine to be responsible for their own safety, and went as far as stating that those who may be planning to relocate should do so through their personal means. 

“This, perhaps, is the most unpatriotic and irresponsible message that any government of a nation would send to her citizen in moment of despair and danger as fatal as in the case of war between two countries.”

Meanwhile, the House of Representatives has resolved to collaborate with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Air Peace to evacuate Nigerians living in Ukraine, including students.

This followed the adoption of a motion of matter of urgent public importance by Ahmed Munir (APC- Kano) at plenary, yesterday,  in Abuja.

The lawmakers  also drafted Majority Leader of the House, Ado Doguwa and chairman of its  committee on foreign affairs, Yusuf Buba, to leave for Ukraine today to secure the evacuation.

The resolution was passed following adoption of a motion sponsored by Munir Agundi.

While moving the motion, he said the worsening conflict was “deteriorating by the hour.” He said there were a number of Nigerians in Ukraine who may be impacted by the conflict, hence the need for immediate evacuation.

“We have a significant number of undergraduate and graduate students currently studying in Ukraine of which a portion is under government scholarships. This is in addition to a number of Nigerian diplomats and their families in the Kyiv embassy and Nigerian expatriates across Ukraine. If a strategic plan is not put in place to secure and provide safe passage for our citizens, they may be trapped or worse, harmed.”

Speaker Femi Gbajabiamila said the situation requires urgent action. He assured that the House was ready to intervene by collaborating with Airpeace to ensure the evacuation, as the bureaucratic bottleneck might slow down the process.