Monday, 24 April 2023

FG To Begin Evacuation Of Stranded Nigerians From Sudan On Tuesday


The Minister of Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Onyeama, yesterday disclosed that the federal government would begin the evacuation of stranded Nigerians in conflict-torn Sudan within the next two days.

Fighting between forces loyal to Sudan’s army chief, Abdel Fattah al-Burhan and his deputy, Mohamed Hamdan Daglo, who commands the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF), has torn the country apart.

Hundreds of people have been killed since the crisis broke out on Saturday last week in Sudan’s capital between the forces of the two rival generals.

Thousands of Nigerians are in Sudan with 5,500 of them indicating interest to be evacuated to Nigeria.

Onyeama made the disclosure while speaking on a Channels programme, Sunday Politics.

“We are hoping that in the next day or two, we can start. We would have gotten approval from the Sudanese government to start moving our people out.

“I was in touch with our ambassador in Egypt, because Egypt is a country that is particularly close to Sudan, to also help to facilitate for this corridor and also a reception when they arrive there, their upkeep and so forth, the minister said.

He dismissed claims that the federal government was not showing enough concern about the plight of Nigerians in the troubled country.

“Nobody anticipated the Sudan crisis will escalate,” he said, maintaining that the security of the lives of Nigerians is the government’s utmost priority.

He disclosed that about 5,500 Nigerians were ready for evacuation from Sudan, adding that 80 per cent of them were students.

He added that agencies of government are working to get relief to those stranded.

“I have been in touch round the clock with our embassy there and they have given us the cost estimate, they have given us all the details and they have given us all the total figure of 5,500 ready for evacuation.

“All the agencies of government are working together, including NEMA, and they are being contacted to find out what their needs are before evacuation and how to get it through to them,” he added.

People fetch barrels with water in southern Khartoum amid water shortages caused by ongoing crisis


Students move to Ethiopia

Meanwhile, stranded Nigerian students in Sudan have announced planned evacuation to Ethiopia.

This was announced yesterday by the National Association of Nigerian Students, Sudan chapter, in a statement by its media committee.

The association asked its members to converge at three locations in Gadarif, the capital of the state of Al Qadarif in Sudan, before evacuation to neighbouring Ethiopia.

The association said departure time was 1pm and transport cost $100.

“This is to inform all Nigerian students to gather at any of these three locations to proceed with the evacuation to Gadarif, then to Ethiopia. 1. Ifriqiyyah University 2. NANSS Office or 3. El-Razi University.

“Those who don’t have the funds should contact either their school or state president. Come along with your passport, original/photocopy or school ID card.

“Those that don’t have their passport at hand should also contact their state or school president,” the statement read in part.

Earlier yesterday, the Embassy of the Federal Republic of Nigeria in Khartoum asked Nigerian students in Sudan to remain indoors while it continued arrangements for their safe evacuation from the troubled country.

A statement from the embassy, signed by H. Y. Garko for the Charge D’ Affairs on Sunday, advised the students to disregard the notice circulated by the NANS in Sudan, calling on students to converge at the African International University, NANS office and El-Razi University, or to bring $100 or $200 for evacuation.

Trapped Nigerians cry for rescue

Meanwhile, Nigerian students stranded in Sudan say they’re gripped by fear and anxiety in the capital city of Khartoum.

In a video on social media, they said that they were in dire condition and want the Nigerian government to evacuate them.

One of the students, Fauziyya Idris Safiyo, who fled Khartoum to the border town of Gallabat on the Sudan-Ethiopian shore, said the situation was getting out of control.

“Two days ago, my sick sister and I fled Khartoum to Gadarif. Along the way, we could see the Sudanese also fleeing. We met Sudanese immigration to get exit visa to Ethiopian territory but we were rejected because of lack of entry visa.

“We even showed them a letter from the Nigerian Embassy in Sudan but they insisted on the visa. “Today is our third day stranded on the shores of the Ethiopian border.

“So, we applied for the visa and were charged $80 each but no one can tell when it will be ready as it is public holidays,” she said.

She also lamented that many Nigerians, mostly women, are still stranded in Khartoum.

“They’re starving, with no food, water and electricity. Explosions and heavy artillery fire were everywhere. “Some are taking refuge in the mosques. Movement in Khartoum has been halted and here we are at the border.

“We learnt that Ethiopian immigration is denying us visas. According to them, they’re issuing visas to only Sudanese, that they don’t recognize Nigerian passports,” she said.

Safiyo further explained that the Nigerian ambassador linked them to the Sarki Hausawa of Gadarif who gave them shelter.

She said they’re well fed with befitting accommodation by the Samaritans.

“He treats us as his own children and helps us to secure visas. He even told us that he has the capacity to accommodate all Nigerian students stranded in the country. He even denied Sudan authorities his guest house, maintaining that he reserved it for Nigerian students in Sudan.

“But the issue is that these students couldn’t leave Khartoum while other countries have since evacuated their students. Tanzania dispatched a bus which evacuated its students and Malawian students were given a bus by the school authorities. Syrian and Somali students have also fled since yesterday. It’s only Nigerian students who are stranded amidst the chaos.”

Of about 4,000 Nigerian students in Sudan, only seven were able to flee the capital city of Khartoum to the country’s border with Ethiopia, she said.

She noted that they’re calm and safe at the border town of Gadarif, adding “We’re only waiting for visas to go back home.”

“We used our money to flee from Khartoum but many students don’t have the means to flee. So, the government should find means to evacuate our colleagues, at least to bring them to Gadarif to process their visas and subsequently exit the country.

“We could hear gunfire and bomb explosions from every direction. Jet fighters are firing and shelling too. There’s no food, water and medicines. We couldn’t travel anywhere. We have run out of money. And there’s a surge of criminals all over,” she said.

According to her, “It’s only Nigerians that are left stranded, with many women among us. Some neighbouring countries like Ethiopia do not allow Nigerians to enter their countries without a visa,” she added.

Also speaking about the difficult situation they live in, Muhammad Nura Bello, President of Nigerian Students of Sudan International University said there is total blackout and that the Sudanese are also fleeing.

“Most of the students are very apprehensive as some had run out of foodstuffs and you can see even the nationals are running,” he said.


We’re having sleepless nights – Presidency

The Presidency, on Sunday, said the federal government was working to ensure the safety of Nigerian citizens in Sudan.

Garba Shehu, the Senior Special Assistant to President Muhammadu Buhari on Media and Publicity, stated this in a couple of tweets on his Twitter handle@GarShehu.

The presidential spokesman said Nigerian officials were doing a lot with the Embassy in Khartoum, and the Sudanese and Ethiopian governments.


Expedite action, ex-diplomat urges FG

A former Nigerian ambassador to South Africa and Venezuela, Martins Cobham, lamented the situation in Sudan.

He called on the Nigerian government to expedite action in evacuating stranded Nigerians from the troubled country.

Cobham said there are many Nigerians in Sudan, adding that some of them have lived there for years and may not be willing to return to Nigeria. He advised the federal government to take a record of those willing to be evacuated and begin the process of rescuing them immediately.

He said the government could approach other countries for help if it is finding it difficult to effectively carry out the exercise.


Crisis takes toll on commercial aviation as airlines avoid airspace

The crisis in Sudan has taken a toll on the aviation industry with airlines counting their losses as they avoid the Sudanese airspace.

Daily Trust reports that airlines plying from Nigeria to Saudi Arabia have been the most hit, thereby resulting in delays for returning pilgrims from the lesser Hajj (Umrah) in Saudi Arabia.

This impact was initially felt when President Muhammadu Buhari, who was in Saudi Arabia for one week to perform the lesser Hajj spent over seven hours from Saudi to Abuja on a journey of about four and a half hours.

Our correspondent reports that Jeddah is about four and a half hours from Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja and five hours via Murtala Muhammed International Airport (MMIA), Lagos.

As soon as the Saudi-bound aircraft from Lagos gets to Maiduguri, it crosses over to Chad, then Sudan to Jeddah Saudi Arabia which has been the established flight path.

Daily Trust reports that any airline plying Nigeria to Saudi would have to burn additional fuel for about three hours which is said to be adding to the cost of operation.

For instance, a wide-bodied aircraft used by the airlines flying the route, like the B747, consumes about 11,400 litres of fuel per hour. With an extra three hours added to the time of flight, that translates to extra 34,200 litres. If multiplied by N700 which is about the cost of a litre of aviation fuel, it implies an additional N23.9m incurred by the airlines on fuel.

Aviation analyst, Mr Olumide Ohunayo, in a chat with our correspondent, said the Sudan crisis, which he said was unexpected, has taken a toll on commercial aviation.

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