About 400 Nigerian students are currently trapped in university hostels at the Sumy State University, Sumy Oblast in Ukraine, FIJ can report.
Scores of Nigerian students gathered outside Sumy State University on Saturday to remind the Nigerian authorities that they have not been evacuated or allowed to leave Sumy, as they have been blocked off by the violent conflict between Russian and Ukrainian forces.
“Fellow Nigerians, once again, what do we want?” one of them can be seen asking in protest videos obtained by FIJ.
“We want to go home!” his compatriots replied him.
“They told us, they said it’s because they are paying us; that’s why we are staying here. How much do you want to pay us (for our lives)?” one student asked.
“We are addressing the Nigerian government, whatsoever is going on there, it’s a lie; it’s a ruse. We are not being paid. We want to come home, contrary to what everybody is saying. Why won’t we want to come home?”
Expressing fears about bombs exploding close to their residences, they urged the Nigerian government to quickly devise a means to retrieve them from Sumy.
“We want to go home, please. We have nothing at all to do with this war,” said another, a medical student.
“Early this morning around 5am, 4am, we were woken up with six bombs. Next thing, we want to go home and they increased the price of taxis. Who pays almost N2 million to go back to Poltava?
“Two hours journey, they are asking us to pay almost N2 million. From Kaduna to Abuja is two hours, two hours journey too, who pays N2 million for that? That is not all. We said we were going to pay it, but now they have locked us up in these hostels. What did we do wrong? Nothing!”
Continuing, she rued the fate of students who “just came to study medicine” but now “haven’t even showered in three days”.
“There’s no light in the hostels; there is nothing. Everything is running out,” she said.
“This place is not safe. Many of us are suffering mental trauma already. You can’t close a door without people running. We have nothing to do with this war; this is not our country. If it was our country and we were fighting, we would understand. But please, we want to go home.”
The students said they were releasing these videos to inform Nigerians at home that not every student has been evacuated from the war-torn cities in Ukraine.
“The Nigerian government is saying that it has withdrawn all the students from Ukraine. We are still here, and we are not at the border. We are not in Poland; we are not anywhere else. We are in Sumy, and we are stuck in Sumy,” a student said.
“This is Day 10. People don’t have water; people don’t have light in hostels. It is getting cold in the hostels. There is no food at this stage; we are running out of supplies. For how long are we going to continue to wait? Whatever is going on, we are calling on the Nigerian government, we are calling on the Foreign Affairs Ministry; we want to go home.”
Yet another student said: “There has been a route to leave Sumy since, but school has refused to provide us with buses… with transportation to leave this place. We know like 50 students who have already left Sumy for Poltava. At any amount, we do not care. Now they have decided to block that route. At this point, I don’t know what is going on and we are not going to be used as bait. Please, let us go. We do not want to be a part of your war.
“The last explosion that happened took place very close to my house. I was just in my kitchen trying to prepare something and I saw how my house shook. I ran into my room and it has been very traumatising. Trust me, you don’t want to experience it. I’m just in my room. I am alone. At every sound, I shiver. At every noise, I quake.
“It’s very bad. All we are asking for is, can we cease fire and let the students of Sumy move? Everywhere is blocked; there’s just something fishy about this whole thing that I cannot place. Please, we are calling on everybody to help get a lot of us out. We are many here, we are stranded, and we are stuck. Please, we appeal to you.”
Abike Dabiri-Erewa, Chairman of Nigerians in the Diaspora Commission (NiDCom), on Sunday said she was “hopeful”, as Geoffrey Onyeama, the Foreign Affairs Minister, “has made progress with diplomatic moves with the appropriate authorities”.
Some 368 Nigerians make a majority of the student population stuck in the hostels of Sumy State University. The neighbouring cities of Kharkiv Oblast and Chernihiv Oblast have received some of the heaviest damages from Russian shelling, which has led to the death of scores of civilians.
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