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Nigerian returnees from Ukraine recount ordeal: ‘We saw hell at Poland border’

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Nigerians who escaped Russia’s ongoing military offensive in Ukraine arrived in Abuja, the nation’s capital, on Friday, narrating how they escaped the intense bombings and missiles fired by Russia’s military forces.

The war, which has led to the death of hundreds of civilians and troops, leaving thousands injured and many more displaced, has seen millions of foreign nationals fleeing Ukraine for neighbouring countries.

As of Friday night, no fewer than 775 Nigerians had been flown back to the country. The first batch comprising 415 persons arrived from Romania in the morning while the second batch, comprising 180, arrived from Poland at about 6:30 pm. Another 180 arrived in the third batch. They were all received at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja. One more batch was being expected from Hungary and Poland as of the time of filing this report.

Some of the returnees who fled Ukraine to Romania explained how they were able to escape the invasion. Despite appeals for diplomacy and the heavy sanctions imposed by other countries, the European Union and other allies, the Russian forces, under the strict orders of President Vladimir Putin, have continued to launch bombs and missiles into different parts of Ukraine, the second largest city in Europe.

Anuoluwakintan Olawoye, a 300-level medical student at the University of Ternopil, said apart from the racial discrimination, she starved, trekked and stood for long hours. She noted that the reports of the invasion and bombs going off in different parts of the country were enough to plant fears in anybody, but that she was happy she was able to escape.

She said, “I do not wish my enemy what I went through, even though mine was not as bad as others’. There was a curfew, we starved because there was nothing to buy, no store opened and sirens blared every time! No taxis to move from one place to another. We had to trek for hours. The city was becoming vacant. We couldn’t sleep knowing that the country was at war.

“On Thursday morning, there was a bombing in Kyiv but thankfully I was in Ternopil so I escaped. Again on Friday, some parts of Lviv were bombed; Lviv is two hours journey away from Ternopil.”

Olawoye said she made for the Romanian border after trekking for hours but on getting there, she found that preference was given to Ukrainian citizens.

She added, “We got to the border around 4 pm and we were told to wait. We waited till 8 pm and they didn’t allow us (blacks) to go inside. We attempted to make a move when they called on women and children and they turned us back. They only allowed their citizens to go. It was two hours after they left that they said they would come back to us.

“We pleaded with the officers that the snow was much outside, I was shivering as a result but they did nothing. I crossed about 2 am and it was by luck. Some were not that lucky. The racism that I encountered at the Ukrainian border was not for the weak. They were pushing us aside just to allow their trucks to move. They shouted at us, pushed us and did all sorts.”

Olawoye, however, said she was treated very well in Romania, noting that she would be proceeding to meet her parents. She added that she would love to return to Ukraine to complete her studies once the war ends.

Also, Abraham Praise said she never believed she could experience such in her lifetime, especially with the bombs and missiles that had killed both troops and civilians in different parts of the country.

She said, “I trekked for three hours non-stop. I had friends who trekked for more hours. You just had to forget you have legs while you keep going. The thought of you keeping yourself alive would keep you going. Some people fainted along the road. The stronger ones among us had to give them support. I never thought I would have to experience something like this.”

Abraham called on the government to assist evacuees with therapy to get over the experience, saying people who survived war, no matter how distant, needed some counselling.

She said, “Everyone who has gone through this experience needs therapy. Although we are a strong people, to have made it out alive and be able to see your friends and families is exciting. For some of us, the future is still uncertain because of the disruption in our academics. I am in my third year while some others are in their final year and are meant to graduate in June.”

Praise added, “Although I am happy I would be seeing my family, this is not just the way I wanted it. But there is still life and there’s hope. If this is where we would have to start from to move ahead, we are ready.”

Rabia Zalka who was in Ukraine with her sister said she didn’t know if she would survive, but that to have made it back to Nigeria alive despite the invasion, rising tension, the bombing of cities and even the capture of the Nuclear plant by the Russians, meant a lot to them.

“I didn’t think it was really serious until my sister and I walked a long distance to the Romanian border. I trekked for hours. It was not easy. We were keeping an eye on each other and helping each other,” said Zalka.

Another returnee, Peter Ajuwon, said the Ukraine war should serve as a lesson to Nigerians on the importance of peace.

He said, “War is not a favourable situation. Every aspect of life gets affected. I encourage people to embrace peace in Nigeria. Our experiences crossing the border to Romania were not pleasant. Getting to Romania was hell, but we had a pleasant experience in Romania. We got a lot of support from the Romanian government and the Nigerian Ambassador there. Some Romanian NGOs showed us love too; they didn’t discriminate.”

Some of the parents and relatives who came to receive them were visibly elated seeing their children alive. Some of them had kept vigil at the airport, awaiting the return of their children.

Other parents whose children had yet to arrive were seen lurking around and anxiously waiting for their children’s return.

Mrs Zalka whose two daughters were among the first batch said she was happy to have her daughters back in the country. She told our correspondent she could not eat, she cried almost every day and prayed for the safe return of her daughters who were schooling in Ukraine.

Zalka said, “We thank God they are back with us. I was not eating, I cried almost every day and prayed fervently while they were away. I don’t have anything to say but to thank God.”

When asked about the next plans for her daughters, she told our correspondent that she would enrol them in another school in Nigeria.

She said, “I have secured admission for them in the country, so by next month they should be back in school. There are a lot of universities looking for students, particularly those from Ukraine.”

Another mother, who was very excited noted that reuniting with her daughter was something of joy to her.

Alimat said, “Reuniting with my daughter means a lot to me. With explosions and bombings that we see on a daily basis on the television, I almost thought it wouldn’t be possible for me to see my daughter again. I have nothing to say but thank God and the Nigerian government for bringing them back.”

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Nigerian students’ association threatens to shut down all international airports over prolonged ASUU’s strike

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ASUU to begin fresh strike

The National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS) Southwest Zone D has threatened to shut down all international airports over the failure of the Nigerian government to address the lingering strike action of the Academic Staff Union of Universities and other staff unions.

Coordinator of the NANS Zone D, Adegboye Olatunji in a statement said the students had waited long enough for the government to resolve the crisis.

He added that students would take the bull by the horns and no longer keep quiet, pointing out that President Muhammadu Buhari’s position on the crisis could ruin their future.

The statement read, “It is timely and urgent to address this press conference today with a view to putting an end to the long lingering strike action of ASUU and ASUP (Academic Staff Union of Polytechnics), a total reformation of the educational sector.

“The Leadership of the National Association of Nigerian Students Southwest (Zone D) in conjunction with the National Association of University Students Southwest (NAUS) has taken it upon herself to categorically stand against the dilapidated state of the educational sector in Nigeria.

“We are at a time when Nigerian Students have lost hope and do not know what’s next on the radar. ASUU strike has been on for over 3 months without forgetting the ASUP warning strike of 2 weeks.

“We have also waited for long to see if the Federal Government will dance to the music of Nigerian students who have been clamouring for an end to the ASUU strike but the reverse is the case. We’ve had several press conferences, granted several interviews, and held several meetings to plead with both ASUU and Federal Government. Our future is been jeopardised. We’re in a country where age is a key factor in labour market.

“Aviation unions gave a 2-day warning strike on shut down of flight operations. A meeting was scheduled by the Federal Government and strike action was called off in less than 24hours because the first-class citizens would be affected. But it is so obvious that none of them is affected by ASUU/ASUP Strike. They have their children all over the world enjoying a smooth educational system.

“On Monday, May 16th, 2022, the Accountant General of the Federation, Ahmed Idris was arrested over alleged money laundering and diversion of public funds of at least N80 Billion by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC). Where is the integrity of the government preaching against corruption? How much of the public funds would have settled the educational sector and put an end to the yearly ASUU/ASUP Strike action.

“For so long, ASUU/ASUP strike has been ongoing and the Federal Government has not been showing concern through the Minister of Education.

“We are ready to take the bull by the horns as Nigerian students will not keep silent and watch our future being ruined by the prolonged ASUU/ASUP Strike.

“According to the Commandment of Solidarity, we’re on the last C of ALUTA which is Confrontation. This is the time to call on all Nigerian students across all zones to come out in mass to take over all international airports in the country. Nigerian students are tired of the long-overdue strike action.

“The leadership of the National Association of Nigerian Students Southwest (Zone D) in conjunction with the National Association of University Students (NAUS) hereby declares a massive protest to shut down all international airports in Nigeria. We must state categorically to the Federal Government that all activities shall be shut down by over twenty-two million five hundred and twenty-seven (22,575,000) Nigerian students across Southwest Nigeria until ASUU / ASUP Strike is called off totally.”

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VIDEO: Tension as Okada riders, policemen clash in Lagos

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There is tension in the Ojo Local Government Area of Lagos over an attempt by policemen to enforce the state government ban on the operation of commercial motorcycle operators also known as Okada riders.

The state government had on Wednesday issued a total ban on the activities of the Okada riders in six local government areas of the state over the killing of a sound engineer, David Imoh, at Lekki.

Policemen from Onireke Police Station, Ojo, had impounded some commercial motorcycles for operating along the Mile 2 – Badagry expressway, an action which the riders resisted.

The riders attempted to overrun the station and possibly set free some of their members who were arrested by the policemen.

The riders set fire in the middle of the road, while the owners of vehicles abandoned them by the side of the road due to the chaos.

The crisis led to a stampede as pedestrians fled for fear of being caught up in the crossfire.

Moreso, the incident created heavy vehicular movement on both sides of the road.

While the policemen fired several shots into the air to disperse the commercial motorcycle operators, the riders themselves pelted the officers with stones, daring the policemen to come after them.

A yet to be ascertained number of persons sustained different wounds as they tried to run away from the trouble zone.

Presently, a combined team of anti-riot policemen and some soldiers have been deployed to return normalcy to the area.

WATCH THE VIDEO OF THE CLASH BELOW:

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Army Major commits suicide 3 days to court-martial verdict

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A former Battalion Commanding Officer who led the fight against Boko Haram in the North East, Major UJ Undianyede, is said to have committed suicide.

According to sources, he killed himself less than 72 hours to the verdict of a court-martial trying him for alleged military infractions during the war.

The sources, who confirmed the incident last night, said the Major killed himself on Monday on the premises of the Nigeria Defence Academy (NDA) in Kaduna, with his service pistol.

“I think he killed himself because of the judgment of the court-martial which has been fixed for tomorrow (today, May 19). We only learnt about his death today (Wednesday).

“In prosecuting the war, the Major with some of his colleagues allegedly committed some infractions for which he was being tried at the 1 Division in Kaduna,” one of the sources said.

The offences listed against the deceased officer by the court martial in the 1 Division included misappropriation of funds, abandonment of military post, insubordination, and desertion, among others.

Another source attributed the Major’s death to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), noting that he had been in the North East for some time battling Boko Haram terrorists.

The Major, a Course 55 Regular Officer and other members of his class, were said to be due for promotion to the rank Lieutenant Colonel this September.

When contacted, the spokesman of the Nigerian Army, Brig.-Gen. Onyema Nwachukwu, said he had not been briefed.

However, the Public Relations Officer of the NDA, Major Bashir Jajira, dismissed the report, saying no officer of the academy was involved in suicide.

“No personnel of the academy was involved in suicide as reported, and in fact, our cadets are presently in Kachia for combat shooting training, they are not in the academy. So, no such training took place.”

In the same vein, the Assistant Director, Army Public Relations, 1 Division Headquarters, Kaduna, Major Musa Yahaya stated that he was not aware of any court-martial taking place in the division as earlier reported.

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