Parents of Nigerian students in Ukraine have protested at the Russian Embassy in Abuja, calling for peace in the Slavic nations.
“Peace,” the parents, who carried placards, echoed as they sued for a resolution between Ukraine and Russia.
“We want peace in Ukraine,” one of the protesting parents said. “We want our children to study well.”
Monday’s protest was triggered by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Hundreds of people have fled the country since Vladimir Putin launched the attack on its neighbours.
The Nigerian government had in the wake of the invasion rolled out plans to evacuate its citizens from Ukraine, although many faulted their move for being belated. In a statement on Sunday evening, the Federal Ministry of Foreign Affairs said 256 Nigerians have so far left Ukraine.
“We assure Nigerians that all hands are on deck and arrangements are being put in place to effectively evacuate our citizens, in safety and dignity,” the ministry said.
Earlier, the presidency had condemned reports of officials barring Nigerians from leaving the country to neighbouring nations. It described the development as “unfortunate”.
“We understand the pain and fear that is confronting all people who find themselves in this terrifying place,” a presidential aide, Garba Shehu, said in a statement issued on Sunday.
“We also appreciate that those in official positions in security and border management will in most cases be experiencing impossible expectations in a situation they never expected. But, for that reason, it is paramount that everyone is treated with dignity and without favour.
“All who flee a conflict situation have the same right to safe passage under UN Convention and the colour of their passport or their skin should make no difference.”
‘Everybody Receives Equal Treatment’
But Poland’s ambassador to Nigeria Joanna Tarnawska dismissed claims of unfair treatment.
“Everybody receives equal treatment. I can assure you that I have reports that already some Nigerian nationals have crossed the border into Poland,” she told local media.
Nigerians could stay for 15 days. Even invalid documents were being accepted to cross the border and Covid-19 restrictions were lifted, she added.
Nigeria is not the only African with evacuation plans for its citizens stranded in the conflict. A group of South Africans, mostly students, have been stuck at the Ukrainian-Polish border, the country’s foreign ministry spokesman, Clayson Monyela, said on Twitter.
The South African ambassador to Warsaw was at the site trying to get them through, according to Monyela who on Sunday had said Africans were being “treated badly” at the Polish-Ukraine border.
Ghana’s government said it would meet with parents of students stuck in Ukraine on Tuesday and sent embassy officials to border points to help.
Ivory Coast, which according to state media has 500 nationals in Ukraine, said it was also making arrangements for their evacuation.
Kenya’s foreign affairs ministry said 201 citizens were in the country, most of them students. It said last week all Kenyans were safe and accounted for but that some were stuck at the Polish border because of visa restrictions.