While Nigerians in Ukraine seeking to flee the war-torn country continue to wait for help from the Nigerian government, the two officials who should lead the rescue efforts are on their way to Kenya.
Geoffery Onyeama, Nigeria’s foreign affairs minister, and Abike Dabiri-Erewa, the chief executive officer of the Nigerians in the Diaspora Commission (NiDCOM), will Tuesday join President Muhammadu Buhari on an official trip to Kenya, the president’s office said.
The Nigerian leader is set to participate in the commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP).
Mr Onyeama had on Monday informed the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, that the ministry will on Wednesday start evacuating Nigerians fleeing Ukraine. They will be evacuated from neighbouring countries like Romania, Slovakia, Poland and Hungary, where some of the Nigerians have fled from Ukraine.
Before Mr Onyeama’s statement, Mrs Dabiri-Erewa was leading the efforts to convince Nigerians that the Nigerian government was concerned about its citizens in Ukraine. Apart from going online, including joining a Twitter Spaces discussion organised by PREMIUM TIMES, to communicate with Nigerians, her agency circulated relevant press statements by Nigeria’s embassies in Ukraine and its neighbouring countries.
Although none of the over 5,000 Nigerians in Ukraine has been successfully brought back home, the two officials are now set for the Kenyan trip.
PREMIUM TIMES contacted Ms Dabiri-Erewa to find out how her Kenyan trip will affect the evacuation of Nigerians in Ukraine.
Responding to a text message sent by this reporter, she said, “how do you think it will affect it? We are all working as we speak.”
Mrs Dabiri-Erewa said an inter-agency team has already been established to continue work on the evacuation process.
“There is an inter-agency team made up of permanent secretary ministry of foreign affairs, NEMA, NiDCOM, NIA, Immigration, coordinating the evacuation expected to begin tomorrow. All Nigerians who have successfully crossed to Poland, Romania, Hungary, etc have been received and catered for by our missions,” she wrote in the message. “The minister of foreign affairs and the Nigerian ambassador to Poland are doing everything to resolve the non-admittance of particularly African migrants at the Ukraine / Polish border and as announced by the minister, evacuation begins Wednesday.”
PREMIUM TIMES also reached out to the ministry of foreign affairs whose spokesperson, Francisca Omoyuli, asked this reporter to “kindly see the interview granted today to NTA Good Morning by the permanent secretary, ministry of foreign affairs.”
Attempts to listen to the interview on NTA’s YouTube channel were unsuccessful as the interview was inaudible. When this reporter informed Ms Omoyuli of the audio challenge, she asked this reporter if she was accredited to the ministry and provided no further information on whether or not Mr Onyeama’s trip would affect the evacuation process.
Jessica Orakpo, a Nigerian student in Ukraine, said she does not trust the minister’s words.
“It does not sound believable to me, they are only making those announcements because of media pressure.”
Ms Orakpo narrated how she had to walk for 12 hours to the Ukraine-Poland border where she was refused access and discriminated against. She said she had to return to Ukraine after that incident to find her way to Hungary where she is currently seeking shelter.”
“The trip to Kenya sends a red flag. The foreign minister of affairs, when asked about the Ukraine issue on television, laughed and walked away. Now he is in Kenya, how are they doing their jobs? If you truly want to evacuate your citizens, you will not go to Kenya, you will be disturbed,” she said.
Another Nigerian student in Ukraine, Anjola Philips, said he had no care for politics. “I listened to the minister yesterday and I really hope it comes through; people are tired and just want to go home.”
PREMIUM TIMES reported how Nigerian students in Ukraine called on the government to evacuate them. This newspaper also reported the inhuman and discriminatory treatment of Nigerians and other citizens of African countries, who are being denied the same right of passage out of Ukraine.
A student who identified herself as Yemisi narrated how despite her friend fainting as a result of frostbites at the Ukraine-Poland border, they still were not let in.
“My friend who was showing signs of hypothermia fainted, we revived her. I had to sit on the floor for her to sit on my lap while we tried to keep her warm. I told one of the officials and asked if he could let us into a warm place or get through the border; the woman asked us to call an ambulance which meant going back into Ukraine.
“There were a lot of Ukrainian women who kept being racist but we were not going to let them because this was a matter of life and death; a lot of them were jumping the queue but the officials kept asking us to stay in the queue.
“I could not feel my feet, it was minus 2 degrees. A Ukrainian woman went to the official who asked the border officials to move the black women to the men’s line but an Afghanistan lady spoke up and said they could not do that because we had been here for hours,” Yemisi narrated
Another student, Princewill Nanakumor, said he did not experience any form of discrimination owing to the help of his Ukrainian girlfriend who helped him cross the border.
Social media platforms are awash with videos of Africans who are being denied access to different borders because of their skin colour.
Russia launched a military attack on Ukraine on Thursday and has sustained it despite sanctions by the U.S. and its allies.
Five days into the crisis, the situation remains tense with major Ukrainian cities like Kyiv and Kharkiv already targeted. Russia, however, says it is only targeting military facilities.
Russia and Ukraine have commenced unconditional talks at the Ukrainian-Belarusian border.
More than 500,000 people have fled Ukraine while about 3 million require humanitarian aid, according to the UN.
The exact death tolls are unclear as of Monday, but the United Nations (UN) has said 102 civilians have been killed and hundreds wounded. The UN however said the figure is likely a vast undercount.