Chris Evocore, BBC News, Abuja
The message from the Nigerian Medical Council couldn’t be more harsh on student Moses Damilola Fehintola.
Trapped by the war in Ukraine earlier this year, he escaped with relief and got his medical degree online.
But one day, a WhatsApp message in capital letters rang on his phone saying that his distance learning diplomas would finally not be recognized.
The language was cold and formal.
“We would like to inform the general public that the medical and dental degrees awarded by medical schools in Ukraine from 2022 will not be recognized by the Medical and Dental Council of Nigeria until normal academic activity resumes.”
Mr. Fehintola jumps up and his vision blurs for a moment. “God,” he whispers irritably.
“What happened ?” her mother asks, looking into her face as they drive to the local market in Oyo State. Mr. Fehintola mumbles a few words and tries to smooth things over.
“This news struck me very much … So many thoughts swept over me,” he recalls. “In fact, I was looking forward to finishing my studies in Ukraine no matter what.”
He was in his sixth and final year at Sumy Ukrainian State University, with only a few months left before graduation when the city was besieged by invading Russian troops.
The 22-year-old was stranded for several weeks before being able to return home. He was among more than 1,000 Nigerians, mostly students, who returned from Ukraine.
Despite heavy fighting, Sumy State University and other Ukrainian universities managed to continue offering online courses, so Mr. Fehintola believed he could fulfill his dream of becoming a doctor.
Now, however, his plans are coming to nothing.
“I am currently in Nigeria trying to do clinical practice because I want to qualify as a doctor in Nigeria,” Mr Fehintola told the BBC.
I first wrote to the Ministry of Health in my state with a request to be assigned to a hospital, but when I arrived at the hospital, the head physician said to me: “Oh, you are from Ukraine, weren’t the certificates canceled by MDCN there?”.
I was so shocked that I could only answer “yes” because it’s true. Since then, I have had this view, and I knew that there would be a stigma – an attitude like “this guy is from Ukraine, his certificate is invalid.”
MDCN did not respond to a BBC request for comment.
Describing the policy as discriminatory, Mr. Fehintola says he thought about the announcement and chose to be motivated rather than see it as an inconvenience.
“I will say this to Nigeria: if Nigeria wants it, so be it. I will look for other countries to practice and that will be the loss of Nigeria.”
Grace Lady Musa agrees with her, who studied at the medical faculty of Kyiv Medical University for five years after the start of the war.
“It’s just not fair,” she said.
The 23-year-old tells the BBC that her plans for life have been turned upside down, first because of the war and then because her studies will be invalidated.
“I hope the Nigerian Ministry of Education will think twice about this.” Another medical student has even stronger words for the Nigerian authorities.
“Our own country rejects us,” says 17-year-old Emmanuella Oiza, a second-year medical student at Sumy State University.
“People are trying to get a better education so they can go home and improve the country, but you send them away.”
The only solution is to mobilize, said Samuel Otunla, 24, a veterinary student.
He plans to reunite returned Nigerian students and ask the government to reverse his decision and accuses him of failing to manage education to the point that studying abroad is the only option for those who can afford it.
The Medical and Dental Council of Nigeria advised students who are currently studying medicine or dentistry in medical schools in Ukraine to transfer to accredited educational institutions in other countries.
He states that online medical education provided in any part of the world is not up to accepted standards and will not qualify for any medical certificate issued upon completion of online education.
The government is revisiting its decision
The Nigerian government says it plans to admit students affected by the conflict in Ukraine to the country’s universities.
The move follows outrage over Nigeria’s Medical and Dental Council’s announcement last month that it would not recognize or accept Ukrainian university degrees after the country’s war with Russia began.
It appears that this decision was revised on Monday. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has now asked interested students to register on its website in order to facilitate admission to various Nigerian universities.
“The federal government of Nigeria wishes to inform Nigerian students who have returned from Ukraine as a result of the conflict in that country that efforts are being made to facilitate their placement in various Nigerian institutions of higher education so that they can continue their studies,” the press release said in a statement. Secretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Franziska Omayuli.