2 January 2014

Central African Republic Crisis...Thousands of Nigerians Languish At Embassy

Photo: Vanguard
Violence in Nigeria.

Thousands of Nigerians taking refuge at the embassy in the Central African Republic capital Bangui are living in harsh conditions, fearing outbreak of diseases, Daily Trust learnt yesterday.

People who fled the raging sectarian violence to the mission office said they had been there for weeks now, left without food, medical supplies and proper shelter.

A Nigerian who spoke to Daily Trust from the embassy yesterday said over 2,000 of them, mostly women and children, are staying in "very difficult conditions."

"As I am taking to you now, most of us are sleeping on the ground inside the embassy premises which is infested with mosquitoes. We don't have food, water, drugs or toiletries," he said.

He said the thousands displaced people had only two toilets to use, and embassy officials did not provide any help to them since they took refuge there on December 5.

"The situation is unbearable here. We are afraid that there would be outbreak of disease because there are only two toilets servicing over 2,000 people here," the source said.

Another stranded Nigerian, Hajiya A'isha Liman Kawai, who spoke to BBC Hausa radio, said other countries like Chad, Senegal and Cote d'Ivoire have since evacuated their nationals. But the Nigerians have been abandoned, she added.

Kawai frowned at the attitude of the embassy officials who she said denied them food.

"Most of us are now used to spending a whole day without food. The embassy has not given us even a slice of bread or a bar of soap," she said.

Kawai added that so far, four women had given birth in the open at the embassy premises, as other pregnant women and children become prone to diseases due to mosquito bites.

"We have been in a difficult situation for the past two weeks. We have been neglected by the Nigerian authorities, which is unfortunate to a giant of Africa. About 2000 people have been in the Nigerian embassy, which keeps on promising us a plane by the government of Nigeria," she said.

The National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) was supposed to have provided relief aid to the displaced people, but those who spoke to Daily Trust from Bangui said the agency has only been conducting documentation so far.

"They told us that Nigerian government has ordered a documentation of all of us, which the NEMA officials have been doing every morning in the last three days," Kawai said.

NEMA headquarters in Abuja declined comments when contacted by Daily Trust yesterday.

Another Nigerian who spoke to our correspondent by telephone from Bangui said: "We are still worried why we are targeted for killings. We are not politicians; we are only traders and businessmen."

The stranded Nigerians appealed to the Federal Government to quickly fulfill its pledge of evacuating them, to avert a humanitarian crisis at the mission office.

Also speaking to Daily Trust by telephone from Bangui, a leader of the northern Nigerian community, Malam Muhammed Kalanbai, appealed to the Federal Government to evacuate them as other African nations did.

Meanwhile, Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ambassador Martin Uhomoibhi, said the Federal Government would start evacuation of stranded Nigerians before the end of the week.

He confirmed to Daily Trust that there are about 2000 Nigerians at the embassy in Bangui but that officials were working to ensure their return.

"The government is working seriously to evacuate them and we are aware that there are 2000 Nigerians presently in our embassy in Bangui," the permanent secretary said.

When asked when the process will begin, he said, "By the Grace of God before the end of this week, the process will start."

The CAR violence broke out in March following the toppling of President Francois Bozize by then-rebel leader Michael Djotodia who is now the country's leader.

About 1,000 people have been killed in tit-for-tat clashes in Bangui in December and about 370,000 people, nearly half the city's population, have been displaced, aid agencies say.

Although community leaders said many Nigerians were among the dead, the Federal Government said those killed were descendants of Nigerians.

The African Union has sent nearly 4,000 troops to CAR while France, the former colonial power, has also deployed 1,600 soldiers there in an attempt to quell violence.

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