Okechukwu Nnodim, Gift Habib, Lara Adejoro with Agency report
The Federal Government, on Monday, confirmed that some Nigerian students fleeing the conflict in Sudan were denied entry into Ethiopia, but stated that the situation was being handled.
The Federal Government said Nigerian authorities in Ethiopia were addressing the issue, as they had sought clearance for the fleeing students, stressing that it was, however, risky for the students to have embarked on such a journey.
This was as the United States Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, said on Tuesday that Sudan’s warring generals had agreed to a three-day ceasefire starting Tuesday (2200 GMT Monday), after previous bids to pause the conflict quickly disintegrated.
“Following intense negotiation over the past 48 hours, the Sudanese Armed Forces and the Rapid Support Forces have agreed to implement a nationwide ceasefire starting at midnight on April 24, to last for 72 hours,” Blinken said in a statement two hours before the truce was to go into effect.
“During this period, the United States urges the SAF and RSF to immediately and fully uphold the ceasefire,” Blinken said.
Blinken said the United States was also working with partners to set up a committee that would negotiate a permanent ceasefire in Sudan, where the conflict between rival generals descended into deadly violence 10 days ago.
Foreign countries rushed to evacuate their nationals from Sudan as deadly fighting raged into a second week between forces loyal to two rival generals.
More than 420 people have been killed and thousands wounded, according to UN figures, amid fears of wider turmoil and a humanitarian disaster in one of the world’s poorest nations.
The Director, Special Duties, National Emergency Management Agency, who doubles as the Chairman, NEMA’s Committee for the Evacuation of the Stranded Nigerians from Sudan, Dr Onimode Bandele, told The PUNCH that the students’ case was receiving the required attention.
“Yea, you must have been reading on social media that some students got into a town at the border of Ethiopia and they have not been able to grant them passage.
“The Nigerian Ambassador in Egypt, Nura Rimi, confirmed to me that the ambassador in Ethiopia is working on that, and hopefully they should be able to get a passage,” Bandele stated.
He, however, explained that “In our own humanitarian assignment, self-evacuation is at the risk of the person that is involved. If you decide to self-evacuate, whatever you meet is your headache, because you did not listen to the authorities that are supposed to cater for you.
“We empathise with them; we understand their situation; some of them are doing that out of panic or running to safety. But at the same time, self-evacuation has its own disadvantages.
“So, our appeal to Nigerians is that wherever they are, they should please wait for further instruction from the Federal Government, especially the ambassador that is with them in Sudan. He is there with his family too. It is not that he has run out and left them,” Bandele stated.
The NEMA official also said the Federal Government had considered using the services of the United Nations in evacuating Nigerians stranded in Sudan.
But this, according to him, did not work, because the UN said it could not support anyone now, due to the loss of five UN staff in Sudan.
“We were looking at the possibility of using the UN Utility Service and he (Rimi) said the UN had released a message that they cannot guarantee helping anybody.
“This is because the UN has already lost five staff in Sudan. So they are looking for a way to protect themselves and cannot guarantee anybody,” Bandele stated.
Students leave Tuesday
The PUNCH also learnt on Monday that trapped Nigerian students would leave Khartoum, Sudan capital, on Tuesday morning, for Cairo, Egypt, by road.
It was learnt that the journey from Khartoum to Cairo by road would take about 28 hours 27 minutes.
The PUNCH reports that the Federal Government said it was making preparations to evacuate about 5,500 stranded Nigerians out of Sudan through the Egyptian town of Luxor, adding that it was seeking Egypt’s support so that the stranded Nigerians could be moved to Luxor.
However, in a letter dated 23 April 2023, signed by the Charge D’ Affairs, Haruna Garko, and sighted by our correspondent on Monday, the Embassy of Nigeria in Sudan made a request for buses to convey students from Khartoum to Cairo on Tuesday at 6am.
The letter read: “I am directed to request the services of your 200-seater buses to convey 3,500 Nigerian students from Khartoum to Cairo Egypt on 25 April 2023, at 6am.”
Confirming this development, a student of the International University of Africa, Abdullah Zakari, said, “Tomorrow (Tuesday), we are going to leave for Egypt by 6am. We will go by road. It is a long journey though.”
Also, the President of the Jigawa State Students Association in Sudan, Umar Abubakar, said, “All preparations from Khartoum have been put in place and by God’s grace, we will leave tomorrow morning.”
A student of Noble College in Sudan, who pleaded anonymity, said, “The buses to convey the students are on the ground. All students would be evacuated by tomorrow morning to Cairo.”