• Sunday, June 16, 2024
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BusinessDay

Russia-Ukraine crisis and the rest of us

How Russia-Ukraine war affected Nigeria’s economy

The staccato nature of the academic calendar in Nigerian universities has led many affluent Nigerians to mobilise resources and send their children abroad for tertiary education. Often, which mostly is not known to all, is the fact that these young Nigerians are either studying in Western Europe or the United States of America.

Although the statistics may not be absolutely right; on the other hand, however, most Nigerians schooling in Eastern Europe are from middle-class families, and top among their reasons for choosing that part of the world are low fees and evidently, an uninterrupted school calendar.

In these trying times, however, what obtains at the moment is that, in view of the ongoing war between Russia and Ukraine, there are stranded Nigerian students whose fate is becoming uncertain by the day.

These students are currently between the rock and the hard place or you may say “between the devil and the sea.” If they were in Nigeria, they would have been out of school because of the ongoing Academic Staff Union of Universities’ (ASUU) industrial action.

Meanwhile, in Ukraine, their condition is not certain since nobody knows when the war would end.

In a normal situation, Russia/Ukraine losses are supposed to be Nigeria’s gains, but unfortunately, Nigeria is not well placed to leverage the opportunities provided by the crisis to improve itself; nor…

Evidently, these Nigerian students are now part of the number of refugees swelling the various borders of Eastern European nations. These helpless and hapless students are now stranded abroad. And as if to worsen matters, Nigeria has little or no muscle to intervene in the war with a view to ensuring a speedy end to the conflict.

The implication of the immediate foregoing is that a cloud of uncertainty currently hangs over these young Nigerians.

Meanwhile, civil rights groups have criticised the President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration for its slow response to the message sent to him seeking immediate evacuation of Nigerians in Ukraine. This may well explain why Geoffrey Onyeama, minister of foreign affairs; Abike Dabiri-Erewa, the chairman of the Nigerians in Diaspora Commission (NIDCOM), and the Nigerian Embassy in Kyiv, the Ukrainian capital, were castigated for foot-dragging on the request of over 5,000 Nigerian students in the wake of the bloody invasion of Ukraine by Russian forces.

However, the Federal Government has since approved $8.5 million for the immediate evacuation of at least 5,000 Nigerians fleeing from Ukraine to Poland, Romania, Hungary and Slovakia.

Zubairu Dada, minister of state for foreign affairs, who briefed newsmen after the approval, said Air Peace and Max Air airlines have been contracted to provide three aircraft and run as many shifts as possible to facilitate the evacuation.

Dada named those to be evacuated to include: 940 from Romania, 150 from Slovakia and 350 from Poland who have registered for evacuation.

It is instructive to appreciate here that the first batch of more than 400 Nigerians, most of whom were students, arrived Abuja early hours of last Friday on a chartered flight from Romania’s capital Bucharest, one of the hubs from where African governments are struggling to airlift their stranded citizens.

Many looked tired but relieved that their fears for now were over. “I’m very happy to be back home, thank you, Nigeria!” one lady said.

Read also: Russia – Ukraine Conflict: US bans oil import from Russia

Moreover, in the area of food Nigeria is also affected by this conflict. Russia and Ukraine account for 25 percent of global wheat exports to emerging economies like Nigeria, Egypt, Tanzania, Sudan, Algeria, Kenya and South Africa, therefore the war will certainly have adverse effects on many African nations who are net importers of this and other agricultural commodities.

Similarly, since Russia is one of largest world suppliers of crude oil and gas, and because Nigeria has both of these in excess chances are that export potentials will be boosted in these areas.

And since the COVID-19, global grains have been among the key drivers of global food price increases – inflation, and this will step up commodities prices further.

In a normal situation, Russia/Ukraine losses are supposed to be Nigeria’s gains, but unfortunately, Nigeria is not well placed to leverage the opportunities provided by the crisis to improve itself; nor are we able to maximise the economic benefits from the rise in oil prices, and gas industry. But possibly in the long term we may be ready and able to fill the space.

However, this would have been the best time for Nigeria to make some gains, if the proposed Trans-Atlantic Gas Pipeline was completed and functional, for the supply of gas to Europe.

It is not too late for us to embark on this particular venture. This is also the time for the government to step in to encourage our wheat farmers across the North Central.

We sincerely hope the war comes to an end soon, if not, wheat and imported grains and their variants will have their prices hitting the roof. The implication of this will be serious inflation in the area of food prices.

Most importantly, the returned students from Ukraine should be made as comfortable as possible, and promised either assimilation into our tertiary institutions (currently experiencing ASUU strike) or assisted to return when the war ends.

The implementation of these measures will go a long way to ensure that the harsh effects of the war are reduced to the minimum and tolerable level for Nigerians. Consequently, it is important for the government to rise to the occasion, and anything less will not do.