Nigeria Begs for Aircraft
Nigerian government pleads for more aircraft to evacuate more than 2 million citizens stranded in Sudan as first batch of 400 evacuees arrive Abuja
The Chairman of the Nigerians in Diaspora Commission (NiDCOM), Abike Dabiri-Erewa on Thursday pleaded for more aircraft to evacuate the more than 2 million Nigerians trapped in the fighting in Sudan.
She made the plea at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport Abuja the federal capital as she welcomed the first batch of evacuees brought back by a Nigerian Air Force C-130 and a Air Peace Boeing 777.
According to Dabiri who is under fire for the shoddy arrangement of evacuating Nigerians after spending $1.2 million, stated that Egyptian officials insist that the airplanes sent from Nigeria must be able to accommodate the number of Nigerians available to travel, or else they would not let them evacuate anyone.
At Port Sudan where a hugh number of Nigerians are waiting to be evacuated, Dabiri said the Nigerian government was trying to get tickets as it was more difficult to get a flight to Port Sudan.
“At Port Sudan, we are trying to get tickets because it is even more difficult to get a flight to Port Sudan but they have an airline, so they are processing them now to get them tickets and then they come back home and if other airlines get the landing permit, they will quickly go to help evacuate them, she added.
“At least, they are coming back home and we are glad nobody’s life was lost and priority was given to students, women, and children. So, let’s just set our eyes on that,” she said.
With the Airforce only having one C-130 to spare and the 767 known as Air Force One in London, Azman Air announced Thursday that it was dispatching one Airbus 340 to Egypt on its Facebook page.
“Having obtained the necessary approval in Egypt, Azman Air Airbus A340-600 with registration 5N-AAM is on its way to Egypt to commence the evacuation of stranded Nigerians amid Sudan crisis. This is a call to serve and we are delighted to be of great service to our Country.”
The Nigerian airline in a tweet on Tuesday May 2, stated that it had received the approval of the Federal Government to airlift the stranded Nigerians. The Airbus 340 has a 400 seat capacity was said to have departed Abuja for Aswan at 1545 hrs.
Many of the evacuees that arrived Thursday recounted their ordeal.
One of the returnees, who shared his experiences, Mr Ibrahim Musa, a student who lives in the outskirts of the capital Khartoum, said he was devastated when he heard sounds of gunshots and grenades.
“At the time I started hearing the sound of gunshots, the first thing that came to my mind was to escape and I thank God this is where I am,” Musa said.
Another evacuee, Miss Fathai Adams Alliory said neither did the Nigeria mission in Egypt nor the Mission in Sudan take care of them.
“They didn’t give us food, they didn’t give us water, they didn’t give us anything. We had to pay to take our bath, you pay to brush your teeth, you pay to do anything you want to do and things were very expensive there.
“We got to know that one of the reasons that we were delayed for days was that the Nigerian Mission in Egypt was not ready to pay for our visa.
“So the Egyptian government was waiting for us to pay for our visa and we learned that the Federal Government gave them money to make all the necessary arrangements for us to leave the country,” she said.
Fierce fighting persisted in Sudan on Thursday despite a truce agreement as U.S. intelligence said rival forces were trying to gain the upper hand ahead of possible negotiations and the U.N. warned of the violence’s devastating toll on children.
The Sudanese army on Thursday sought to dislodge the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) paramilitary force from its positions near central Khartoum in intense battles.
“The situation in Sudan is teetering toward catastrophe, and children are increasingly caught in the crossfire,” Catherine Russell, executive director of the U.N. children’s agency UNICEF said in a statement. “For the sake of Sudan’s children, the violence must stop.”
The fighting has sparked another refugee crisis with millions fleeing to neighbouring countries with the risk of bringing in major powers to settle the conflict.
Akowe reporting from Abuja with additional material from Reuters