Nearly 6,000 Nigerians, including students, are still awaiting evacuation from the Northeast African country as the conflict between two top generals enters its third week.
At least 528 people have been killed and 4,599 wounded since the crisis began on 15 April, according to Sudan’s health ministry.
The first batch of Nigerian evacuees left the Sudanese capital last Wednesday 26 April for Aswan, Egypt – from where they would be airlifted to Nigeria. However, they were stopped at the Egyptian border by the country’s officials.
“They have finally opened [the border], with stringent conditions. They did not open for any African country except Sudan. With President Muhammadu Buhari’s intervention, they have now opened,” Abike Dabiri-Erewa, the head of the Nigerians in Diaspora Commission, told The Africa Report on 1 May.
She did not elaborate on what the “stringent conditions” were.
Race to evacuation
Countries have been rushing to evacuate their nationals since the crisis erupted on 15 April.
This follows a clash between two powerful military forces: the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) led by General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan and the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) led by General Mohammed Hamdan Dagalo ‘Hemeti’.
As of 25 April:
- Saudi Arabia had evacuated 5,197 people of 100 nationalities, including 184 Saudis;
- Almost 1,000 Americans had left Sudan;
- Egypt had evacuated 6,399 nationals;
- Germany had ended its operation after flying out over 700 people, including about 200 Germans;
- Italy’s military planes had taken 83 Italians home;
- South Africa had evacuated all 77 of its stranded citizens;
- Chad conducted its first evacuation flight with over 200 people;
- The Kenyan government had flown 342 people from Port Sudan to Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.
Today we airlifted 102 Kenyans who we had shuttled to Renk, South Sudan from Khartoum. Grateful for @kdfinfo who did this jump to Nairobi and brought this distressed diaspora home. Pictures from Paloich where a number of nationalities await rescue. 🙏🏾#SudanConflict pic.twitter.com/dsZjBjYgDxApril 29, 2023
- Canada began its evacuation operation from Sudan on 27 April, airlifting nearly 550 people, including about 400 Canadians and permanent residents. The Canadian government, however, announced on 30 April that it had ended its operation “because of the dangerous conditions” in Sudan.
- As of 1 May, the UK government announced its final evacuation flights had left Sudan. Foreign Secretary James Cleverly said a total of 2,197 people, including 1,087 persons from other nations, had been flown out of Sudan.
Last week, Nigeria’s foreign ministry said it had paid $1.2m for the hiring of buses to evacuate its stranded citizens from Khartoum. The first batch of the evacuees was billed to arrive Egypt on 28 April and promptly airlifted to Nigeria.
Dabiri-Erewa said a Nigerian Air Force C130 aircraft has been on standby in Aswan, and will likely bring back the first batch of Nigerians “any moment”.
Analysts say the Nigerian government’s handling of the evacuation in comparison with other countries has been disappointing.
“It clearly shows a lack of sense of emergency, concern and care for Nigerian citizens caught up in a precarious situation and facing danger,” says Okechukwu Nwanguma, executive director of Rule of Law and Accountability Advocacy Centre.
Whats happening to Nigerians in Sudan at the Ethiopian and Egyptian borders clearly shows that Nigeria's africa centric efforts of over 5 decades was a waste of resources.— Bolu (@essentialbolu) May 2, 2023
We need to do better.
In response to the Sudan crisis, the Nigerian government has set up a situation room comprising the National Emergency Management Agency, ministry of humanitarian affairs, and the ministry of foreign affairs. They are tasked with ensuring a prompt evacuation of stranded Nigerians in the country, a source privy to the matter tells The Africa Report.
With the delay at the Egyptian border, the West African nation turned its attention to Port Sudan, nearly 900 kilometres north-east of Khartoum.
“We got approval from Egyptian authorities, we did not just pick Aswan on our own. The people that are manning the border saw visitors coming and they decided to follow their normal routine,” says the source who preferred not to be identified because he’s not authorised to speak on the matter.
“But Mr President has intervened. Even the Nigerian Mission in Egypt is on top of the situation.”
It is a clear pointer to the incompetence that has characterised governance in Nigeria under the APC-led government under Buhari. It’s truly a shame
The source says the Nigerian government is considering moving the evacuees to a location closer from the Egyptian border for quick airlifting.
“The Aswan that has been on the table, that everyone knows, is about four hours or so by road from the Egyptian border; but as it is now, approval has been obtained for the use of another town closer to the border.
“So, as soon as these people are granted border entry, they will not need to drive four hours before they get to the airport.”
The new location is Abu Simbel, situated on the western Bank of Lake Nasser, about 230 kilometres south-west of Aswan.
More airlines offer help
Last week, a Nigerian airline, Air Peace, offered to airlift Nigerian citizens free of charge if they are taken to a safe, neighbouring country. However, sources say since a NAF C130 has already been waiting in Egypt since 30 April, the airline may be compelled to move to Port Sudan, as soon as the relevant clearance is obtained.
Another airline, Azman Air, announced it had received approval from the Nigerian government to evacuate its citizens at the Egyptian border from 2 May.
Sudan has proven to us that some Nigerians are more Nigerian than others. Whoever thought of segregating our citizens based on their State of origin in a complex emergency situation is the devil himself. Allah ya Isa !May 2, 2023
On Monday, a video was circulated on social media in which a young man, who spoke in Igbo, alleged that the Nigerian officials left the Igbos, from Southeastern Nigeria, behind in Sudan. The Africa Report is unable to verify the authenticity of the claims.
However, Dabiri-Erewa described it as “most untrue.” She also clarified that the evacuees were bussed according to their states of origin to ensure orderliness.
“Non-Nigerians were jumping [into the bus] through the windows with daggers. That was the only way to bring some order in the chaos. No student was left behind,” she says, adding that priority was given to students, women, and children.
Nwanguma says the Nigerian government has shown a lack of coordination and mismanagement of a rescue operation for which a “humongous sum of money” was released to the agencies responsible for handling such a situation.
“It is a clear pointer to the incompetence that has characterised governance in Nigeria under the APC-led government under Buhari. It’s truly a shame,” he says.
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