Top officials in Nigeria are calling for fair treatment of its citizens following reports that they aren’t being granted passage to the borders to neighbouring countries Poland, Romania, and Hungary.
Locals and foreigners alike are fleeing from Ukraine nearly a week after Russia initiated a military operation on the country, blasting through infrastructure in cities such as Kharkiv and the capital Kyiv. The death toll from both sides of the conflict is almost 5000 with the Russian forces facing a slight delay in their plans as of late.
As people continue to escape the violence, other news sources say some Africans are being blocked from riding trains and buses away from Ukraine. One Nigerian man, Isaac, has told the BBC that he and other Africans got hit by police with sticks and they were told that the officers were ‘not tending to Africans’.
Fellow Nigerian Osemen has also told the BBC that he wasn’t allowed to board the train from Lviv to Poland as only Ukrainians were allowed to ride it. Meanwhile, a medical student named Ruqqaya says she had to walk from Kharkiv to Medyka in hopes of getting to Poland but when she got there, she saw several black people sleeping on the street.
Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari took to Twitter to express his concerns regarding his citizens as well as other Africans who are being discriminated against when they are trying not to get caught in the crossfire. He states the 4000 Nigerians stranded in Ukraine are forced to go to the border with Hungary instead since they have been denied entry to Poland.
His tweet stated, ‘All who flee a conflict situation have the same right to safe passage under the UN Convention, and the colour of their passport or their skin should make no difference’.
Statements on the Poland issue
Meanwhile, Polish Ambassador to Nigeria Joanna Tarnawska has denied reports of Nigerians being denied entry to her home country, telling Nigerian journalists that ‘everybody receives equal treatment’ and that some Nigerian nationals have already arrived in Poland.
Despite this, Nigeria’s Foreign Minister Geofrey Onyeama has talked to his Ukrainian counterpart Dmytro Kuleba on the matter and was promised that an investigation will be conducted.
Kuleba has reiterated his directive to border officials to let everyone who wants to flee Ukraine cross the borders without restrictions. On the other hand, Onyeama has encouraged Nigerians not to pursue their plans to go to Poland for the meantime and instead head over to the Hungarian or Romanian borders.
So far, around 500,000 Ukrainians have successfully fled their homes to seek refuge in neighbouring countries. Some Africans and Asians have also been given free accommodation in Warsaw, the capital of Poland, medical student Asya told the BBC.
Keep tuned into The Leader for more details on how the Russia-Ukraine conflict affects Nigeria.