Sudan crisis: No Nigerian life has been lost — FG

Aid workers fear a displacement crisis akin to the one triggered by the conflict in Darfur in the early 2000s. (AFP/File)

Sudan crisis: No Nigerian life has been lost — FG

—Says some evacuations already done via sea
—Diplomats to remain on ground to oversee exercise
–Gives priority to children, women
—Spends $1.2m to hire buses

The Federal Government on Wednesday, said that no Nigerian life has been lost in the war-torn Sudan, since the outbreak of the conflict on April 15 as a result of a power struggle between the leaders of Sudan’s regular army and a rival paramilitary group, the Rapid Support Forces (RSF).

Reports have it that over 400 people have died and nearly 3,500 have been injured, while several displaced in the confrontation which has forced hundreds of citizens to flee the capital Khartoum.

The RSF paramilitary organization, directed by General Mohamed Dagalo, and the Sudanese Armed Forces, under the command of General Abdel al-Burhan, were previously allies.

Briefing State House correspondents at the end of the Federal Executive Council, FEC, meeting presided over by President Muhammadu Buhari, at the Council Chamber, Presidential Villa, Abuja, the Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, Zuberu Dada, said the federal government in its efforts to ensure the safety of its citizens in Sudan, has successfully secured permission and authorization from the Sudanese government to evacuate Nigerians from the war-torn country.

According to him, “The evacuation is being done in batches to ensure the safety of all Nigerians. But the good news is that no Nigerian life has been lost so far. I think it’s important to stress that all Nigerians are very safe. And we’re very confident and hopeful that we shall not lose any Nigerian life Insha Allah shall in this exercise. All is well and we’re good to go.”

He further stated that the government has also arranged for security support and transportation for the Nigerians to the Egyptian border.

He said government was making every effort to evacuate as many Nigerians as possible during the 72-hour window ceasefire provided by the Sudanese government.

Fielding question on whether Nigerians will be evacuated before the 72 hour window, Dada said: “We have no problem about the 72 hour window. Because we’ve talked to all the authorities concerned and we’re on the same page. But talking about the window, we are making every effort to ensure that we make use of this window to evaluate as many Nigerians as we possibly can.”

He also disclosed that some Nigerians have already been evacuated by ship by the government of Saudi Arabia.

He said, “Let me also add that some Nigerians have actually been evacuated by ship, I guess from Port Sudan, by the government of Saudi Arabia. Don’t forget, this is a joint effort. We have friendly nations that are ready to assist, you know, so that we’re having to record that the Saudi authorities have been able to, pick up some Nigerians, they’re transporting them by ship, I guess to Saudi Arabia, to Jeddah in particular. From where, of course, again, we’ll link up and find a way of bringing them back from Jeddah those that succeed in going to Jeddah.”

On the order of priority of those to be evacuated, Dara said: “On how the operation is being handled, all lives are equal. Certainly, we won’t want to give preference to diplomats.

The diplomats are just as good as every other Nigerian, so we will take them all on board depending on who’s ready and available at any point in time.

Speaking more on the evacuation process, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr, Geoffrey Onyeama said, “Our diplomats are there to coordinate. So obviously, they cannot be evacuated before the students and others.

“They have to be there to coordinate, maintain contact with the Sudanese authorities, ensure that there’s security being assured for the convoy for the journey, and and keeping in touch, as the Honorable Minister of State mentioned with other friendly countries with whom we are coordinating. So their presence is very important.”

Onyeama also said women and children will be given priority.

He said: “Now as regards the gender question. I think that’s obviously something we will have to look into in a bit more detail, but I think ordinarily, it will be appropriate that women and children should be given priority I think that goes without saying.”

The minister also gave update on what transpired between Nigerians at the Ethiopian border, he said: “One of the first question regarding Ethiopia, there were seven Nigerians who came to the border apparently.

“And we’re not being allowed in apparently, for visa reasons. I reached out to my counterpart in Ethiopia, the Minister or Foreign Affairs, who also is the Deputy Prime Minister of Ethiopia. And I sent him the video one of the viral videos of the young person that was talking about their experience at the border.

“And there was some information he asked me to provide, get our embassy to get in touch with the Ethiopian Embassy in Sudan, Khartoum give the names which we did, and a Note Verbal asking for passage for them. And so I believe the matter was solved immediately after that.”

Onyeama also explained that the Director-General of the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), Muhammadu Muhammed, was already on ground in Egypt and coordinating the logistics with embassy staff to ensure a smooth evacuation process.

He said: “Now, regarding the evacuation process, what we are primarily responsible for, is to ensure the safe evacuation from Egypt, of all the Nigerians who want to leave. The numbers as the honourable minister has said, have left through various borders, and by ship thanks to the Saudis.

“So the exact numbers that will now make it on that convoy to Egypt is not exactly clear at the moment. But once they get there is from Aswan, as the Honorable Minister has also said, the director general of NEMA is there, and they are now going to take over with regards to getting them back to Nigeria.

“So whether they use military transport planes, C-130, I spoke to the Chief of Defence Staff, and he indicated that there were some military transport planes that will be available. And of course, you mentioned you know, Airpeace making that offer and there are other airlines, too, that their owners might also want to make an offer, but we will leave it to never to coordinate who they use to transport by air, these citizens of ours.”

In the order of evacuation, he said women and children will be prioritised, adding that diplomats will not be evacuated before the students and other Nigerians.

Onyeama said: “With regards to the evacuation of Nigerians in the Sudan. You’ll recall that the main challenge we had was securing some permission, first of all authorization of the Sudanese government and, and then, you know, some security support for the convoy because it’s been decided that we will transport or convey the Nigerians to the Egyptian border Aswan. So that’s what we decided.

“We are liaising with our embassy in Egypt as well. So we’ve been able to overcome a number of challenges and have started the process which we’re very happy about. We secured significant number of luxurious buses because the distances are quite considerable. We started the process and it will take, you know, maybe a couple of days to evacuate everybody.”

On how much it was costing Nigerian government, Onyeama said: “$1.2 million is what we’re being charged for all the 40 buses. We have huge transporter luxury buses made available to us to transport to the Egyptian border.

“Of course you know, because of the risks involved and so many other things, a lot of people are going to also take advantage, you’re going to hike up the price.

“We saw that the French convoy was attacked and so forth. It was difficult procuring these buses. But we had to do it because you know, Nigerian lives matters for us.”

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