February 26, 2022

Russia/Ukraine War: Trapped Nigerians seek evacuation as FG summons Ukraine, Russia envoys

Republic of Benin not aspiring to be part of Nigeria — Onyeama

Geoffrey Jideofor Kwusike Onyeama

By Henry Ojelu & Victoria Ojeme with agency report

As Russian continues it’s bombardment of key Ukraine regions and critical facilities, some Nigerians resident in the country have appealed to the Federal government to urgently evacuate them.

Since Russia announced military offensive against Ukraine on Thursday, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said over 137 people have been killed so far, including civilians.

The UN’s refugee agency have also said that about 100,000 Ukrainians have been displaced, with thousands fleeing to nearby European states.

Western powers including NATO have announced sweeping sanctions on  Russia.

Nigerians seek help

Nigerians in Ukraine are desperately pleading to be evacuated out of the Eastern European country as Russian bombs continue to drop on military installations and residential buildings.

Russian bombs have been dropping mostly on the two most important Ukrainian cities of Kyiv and Kharkiv where many Nigerians live.

Obinna Ezugwu, a Nigerian based in Ukraine told a Nigerian news platform, TheNiche that though his city of resident has not been raised, him and many other Nigeria live in fear and slept in the basement to avoid Russian bombs.

He fears that although the bombs haven’t started raining in Sumy City, the temporary respite may be short-lived as Russian troops appeared to have doubled down on their unprovoked offensive against Ukraine.

He said, for now, they survive with the cash in their hands and worry that once the money runs out and supplies stop coming, their plight might become acute.

He said: “We are all prepared to leave to Poland if the border is still open but the problem is that no car is leaving due to the state of emergency imposed.”

ALSO READ: Ukrainian president says expects Russia to storm Kiev overnight

Anjola Ero-Phillips, president of the Nigerian Students Union in Lviv, told Al Jazeera that as situation is getting worse, the Nigeria government have shown no serious concerns for the safety. Ero-Phillips lamented that there have been no proper community from the Nigerian embassy in Ukraine

FG summons  Ukraine, Russia  envoys

Meanwhile, the Federal Government, yesterday,   summoned the Ambassadors of Russia and Ukraine to Nigeria,   Alexei Shebarshin and Kirdoda Valerii respectively over the evacuation of Nigerians from both countries.

The Minister of Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Onyeama, who met with the envoys separately behind closed doors, disclosed that during his meeting with the Russian envoy, he told Shebarshin that the Government of Nigeria could not condone as a country, the violation of the territorial integrity of a United Nations member state, a country with which Nigeria has diplomatic relations.

Onyeama also told Shebarshin that Nigeria urged Russia to revert to the status quo before the military action and to prioritise diplomacy and dialogue. 

“This is really the position of the government. And also, that we have 5600 Nigerians in Ukraine and we are very concerned about what we are hearing and what we are seeing regarding missiles and bombs about the safety of our Nigerian citizens there, that we would like to be able to evacuate them. 

“This would be communicated to his headquarters and that obviously, they consider Nigeria a friendly country and Nigerians; and that they would do nothing to harm Nigerians and assured me that their action is targeted at military installations and that they are not about to start attacking civilian areas and so forth,” Onyeama said. 

Onyeama disclosed that he also discussed with the Russian envoy about the practicalities of how Nigeria can get her citizens out of Ukraine, those who want to leave the country and what measures they could do as they are moving in, to facilitate and help and to safeguard Nigerians in Ukraine. 

Onyeama added that the Russian envoy insisted that civilians are not being targeted and that hopefully, it won’t last long. 

Asked about the issue of the evacuation of Nigerians in Ukraine, Onyeama said the issue can only come up when the airports open. 

Onyeama also said the Russian envoy stated that they would also see some airports as military targets possibly.

Curfew rolled out in Lviv

Ukraine’s western city of Lviv has introduced a curfew, the Interfax Ukraine news agency reports, citing a city official.

The curfew is introduced from 22:00 to 06:00. We will provide passes to residents of the region employed in critical infrastructure,” Interfax quoted the head of local military administration Maxim Kozitsky as saying.

Thousands of Ukrainians have fled west in a bid to avoid Russia’s assault, which has targeted Ukraine from the north, south and east.