The number of Nigerian students who have indicated willingness to return to the country from war-torn Sudan has risen to 1,700, but the Federal Government may have dashed their hopes of early evacuation as fighting rages in the troubled nation.
The government explained that the tense situation in Sudan was making it difficult for stranded Nigerian citizens to be evacuated from the country.
The Chairman/Chief Executive Officer, Nigerians in Diaspora Commission, Abike Dabiri-Erewa, said though the Nigerian Mission in Sudan and the National Emergency Management Agency had put in place arrangements to evacuate the citizens, it was impossible for any flight during this period of war.
This was contained in a statement signed by Gabriel Odu of the Media, Public Relations and Protocols Unit, NIDCOM, on Friday.
The statement read, “The Chairman/CEO, Nigerians in Diaspora Commission, Abike Dabiri-Erewa, has said while the Nigerian Mission in Sudan and the National Emergency Management Agency have put in place arrangements to evacuate Nigerian students and other Nigerian citizens stranded in Sudan, the tensed situation makes it gravely risky and impossible for any flights at this point in time, noting that aircrafts parked at the airport in the country were burnt yesterday (Thursday) morning
“Dabiri-Erewa noted that humanitarian groups are seeking ways of getting food, water and medical supplies across to people.
“She therefore appealed to the fighting parties to consider the Juba Peace Agreement enunciated by the Intergovernmental Authority on Development as a fundamental mechanism for the restoration of peace and tranquillity in the country.”
Stranded Nigerian students
Over 1,700 Nigerian students appealed to the Federal Government to evacuate them from the Republic of Sudan where a fierce military confrontation between the Sudanese armed forces and the paramilitary group, Rapid Support Force, has claimed 400 lives with 3,500 injured.
The figure is an increase from the 1,262 reported by The PUNCH on Friday as having filled the evacuation form on Wednesday night.
The clashes had also displaced thousands of civilians who fled the capital, Khartoum, even as some foreign nations, including Japan, Uganda and Tanzania, had begun evacuating their nationals as the violence, which started on April 8, entered its 13th day on Friday.
Until recently, the Sudanese Armed Forces, led by General Abdel al-Burhan, and the RSF paramilitary group headed by General Mohamed Dagalo, were allies.
In data made available to Saturday PUNCH by the Secretary-General of the National Association of Nigerian Students, Sudan, Adam Mohammed, on Friday, 455 Nigerian students also filled the evacuation form between Thursday night and Friday.
As of the time of filing this report, a total of 1,717 Nigerian students had filled the evacuation form.
When asked for updates on the Federal Government’s plan of evacuating the students, Mohammed said, “We have yet to hear from them.”
The secretary-general said about 12,000 Nigerian students were studying in Sudan, adding, “Most of them are currently in Nigeria for the Ramadan holidays because there is no academic activity during the holy month until after Eid.”
Similarly, the President, Jigawa State Students Association in Sudan, Umar Abubakar, who lives in Mujahideen, Khartoum, said Nigerian students were fleeing their residences for safety as heavy gunshots persist in Sudan, especially in Khartoum.
Abubakar sent a voice note to one of our correspondents on Friday with loud gunshots heard in the background, adding that his colleagues were ready to be evacuated.
“After prayer this morning, we are running for our lives. The situation is very serious as you can hear the gunshots in the background; please pray for us,” he stated.
After getting a safe place to hide, Abubakar said, “I got a safe place; I am good at the moment. No one has been hurt so far. I could not believe that a bullet fell in front of us, while running and we found some others in the place we hid.
“People were running in different directions, but the people around me were six; 90 per cent of the Nigerian students are studying in the capital city, Khartoum.
“We ran to another town that is safe, but that too, is not comfortable. What about the poor sisters that cannot withstand the ups and downs?
“It was interesting seeing our colleagues from Djibouti being evacuated today after the eid, and Kenyans, Indonesians and some other countries’ citizens are almost set for their evacuation.”
The President, Nasarawa State Students Association in Sudan, Al-Ameen Ahmad, said they could not sleep at night because of the continuous gunshots around the International University of Africa, which is behind the military barracks.
Ahmad said, “I could not sleep last night. We just pray to see the end of all this. Nigerians here are stranded and do not even know where to go.
“Almost 100 female students were evacuated from their hostel to a conference hall inside the school, which is much safer than the hostel.
“Students are still filling the form and to those with no smartphone, we are trying to reach out to them though their number is little.”
A graduate of the University of Garden City, Khartoum, Halilu Mohammad, said he lives in Soba Hilla, 20 minutes away from the International University Africa and had no issues in his residence.
Mohammad said, “These days, I am not facing any problem because where I live there is no problem, but we hear the sound of bombs and gunfire.
“But I got information that some students are leaving where they are for safety as they face electricity and water shortages as well as hunger issues.”
After appraising the situation in Sudan, the Federal Government on Thursday said it had requested permission to evacuate Nigerians, especially students, trapped in the conflict zone.
It also reiterated the call for a ceasefire to enable the evacuation of foreign citizens.
But speaking with our correspondent, an official who spoke on condition of anonymity, said, “Those countries evacuating their citizens have airlines, but we do not. Have they compiled their names with the mission to know how many of them are ready for evacuation? Nigeria is greater and bigger than those countries. How many people are they evacuating compared to us? It has to be properly planned.”
413 killed – WHO
The World Health Organisation said on Friday at least 413 people had died in the ongoing Sudan conflict.
This is even as the United Nations Children’s Fund said the conflict is taking a devastating toll on Sudanese children and the toll will increase if the violence does not stop.
Fighting erupted last Saturday between the Sudanese army and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces in the capital, Khartoum, and its surroundings.
Referencing figures from the government of Sudan, the WHO spokesperson, Margaret Harris, told a UN press conference that 413 people had died and 3,551 injured in the conflict.
The fighting is part of ongoing clashes between the country’s army and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces.
Haris said there had been 11 verified attacks on health facilities, including 10 since April 15.
She stated, “According to the Ministry of Health in Sudan, the number of health facilities that have stopped working is 20. And also, according to Ministry of Health numbers, the number of health facilities at risk of stopping is 12.
“So this means that all those people who need care, and this is not only the people who’ve been injured hearing terrible fighting, but that the people who were needing treatment before and continuing treatment are impacted.”
UNICEF also said at least nine children had reportedly been killed in the fighting, and more than 50 children reportedly injured as hostilities continue in Khartoum, the Darfur and North Kordofan.