On Friday morning, the first group of over 400 Nigerians who escaped the ongoing crisis in Ukraine following the Russian incursion returned to the nation, appreciative of the government’s assistance.
However, many more have pledged not to return to the nation, citing concerns about what they would do if they did.
On a Max Air aircraft, the first group landed at Abuja’s Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport.
The students landed on a chartered Max Air aircraft from Bucharest, Romania’s capital, soon after 6.30 a.m., one of the hubs from which African nations are trying to evacuate trapped residents.
“415 Nigerians largely students escaping the Ukraine-Russian war from Bucharest,” said Foreign Ministry spokesman Gabriel Aduda, who tweeted photographs of the group onboard an airplane late Thursday.
Many appeared exhausted yet pleased that their quest had come to an end.
As she went off the runway and into the Abuja terminal building, one young woman said, “I’m extremely delighted to be back home, thank you, Nigeria!”
Before the conflict, there were around 5,600 Nigerian students and 8,000 Nigerian nationals in Ukraine, according to Minister of Foreign Affairs Geoffrey Onyeama.
On Monday, he claimed an anticipated 1,000 Romanians, 200 Slovakians, and 250 Hungarians and Poles were ready to be picked up.
According to the UN, a million refugees have fled Ukraine so far, with millions more expected to depart unless the attack is stopped soon.
Ghana became the first African country to repatriate its citizens on Tuesday, returning home 17 of the 500 pupils who had been stranded.
Meanwhile, while the returnees are delighted to be back in Nigeria, many more Nigerians have opted to remain in Ukraine or flee to one of the neighboring countries rather than return.
Nnamdi Okafor, one of them, told TheNiche in a phone interview on Thursday that he would rather die in Ukraine than return to Nigeria.
“What am I doing in Nigeria?” says the narrator. “Has anything changed in our country?” said the Anambra State resident, 32.
Okafor, who describes himself as an economic migrant to Ukraine, says that in the worst-case situation, he would leave Ukraine for any nation except Nigeria.
Okafor, who said he studied engineering in a Nigerian polytechnic, said he had no plans to return to the country.
“For the time being, I am still in Ukraine.” I used to live in Kyiv, the capital city, but now I reside in one of the border villages, which is now reasonably secure.
“However, if the battle comes there, with God’s help, I will flee to another nation.” But, if death is my fate, then so be it. I’d rather stay here as a refugee than go back to Nigeria.”
When asked why he won’t take advantage of the Nigerian government’s free evacuation and return home, he responded that living in Nigeria was “absolute hell” that he didn’t want to go through twice in his life.
“The question you should have asked, my brother, was why I left Nigeria in the first place.” I’ve been in Ukraine for two years. Before then, I had been jobless in Nigeria for five years following my Youth Service. My country assaulted me mentally. I felt irritated and depressed. I was on the verge of giving up hope in life. I was in a bad mood.
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“However, when I arrived in Ukraine in early 2020, it took me just two months to get a solid work.” Life was beginning to take on new meaning for me if it weren’t for this pointless conflict.
“So, if I get on a plane because I saw a cheap airfare, what happens when I land in Abuja, Lagos, or wherever?” Has there been any change in Nigeria? Will I now be able to acquire the job that I was unable to get before?
“I’m not returning.” One day, this battle will come to an end. But if it doesn’t, we’ll have to figure out what to do next. Returning to Nigeria, however, is currently out of the question. And don’t get me wrong: I’m not the only one who’s remaining put. Students brought here to study by their wealthy parents may return home, but I doubt any economic migrant like me would dare to do so,” he said.
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