6 January 2014

Central African Republic: Hundreds of Nigerians Evacuated From Central African Republic

Photo: UNHCR
Nigerian refugees (file photo).

About 1,277 Nigerians have been evacuated from crisis-ridden Central African Republic (CAR) since the airlift began on Friday.

The Nigeria Air Force C130 and chartered Arik aircraft are involved in the operation being overseen by National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA).

They are being returned to the country through Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja.

The evacuation follows the struggle for power that has now snowballed into full-blown sectarian violence.

Speaking to journalist at the airport, Nigerian ambassador to CAR Prince Roland Ola Omowa said they have been overwhelmed by the sheer number of Nigerians that fled to the embassy for refuge.

"We use the evacuation as a last resort following the escalation of violence. It is our responsibility to protect Nigerians and if necessary to evacuate them like we are doing now," he said.

Receiving them at the airport, Director General of NEMA Muhammad Sani Sidi said that the people should be confident that, their country cares for them and assured them, that they will help them unite with their families through the SEMAs.

One of the evacuees, 65-year old Yahaya Muhammad who hails from Gumbiya village in Jigawa state, said the violence in the country is a pre-planned as Muslims were targeted for elimination including women and children.

"I came with some members of my family, but my wife Hussaina was left behind at the embassy; she might come with the other flight. But as you asked me we have suffered a lot, I spent over a month without sleeping for 30 minutes, I have been spending a whole day standing to protect my family and others from attacks by the Anti-Balaka who were targeting us to kill," he said.

A woman, Aishatu whose husband Ibrahim was killed in the crisis while trying to ward off attack on his family said the Anti-Balaka attacked their neighbourhood killing people including children.

"Apart from my husband, I know many people who were killed and cut into pieces during the attack. Even a pregnant woman will be cut open and the child brought out, cut into pieces and set ablaze by the attackers," she said.

A leader of the returnees Babangida Mohammed Lukman an indigene of Mubi in Adamawa state who spoke to our reporter said, he lived in CAR since 1993, and he has been a leader of the Nigerian community in Bangui and the surrounding towns since then.

He said he has been in touch with most of the Nigerians living in the country including those from the other parts of the country like the Igbos.

"I brought my family back since the coup, because I sensed that something will definitely happen and I advised many people to relocate their families or take away the women and children to safety but many of them refused. Another problem is that, there are many people what have not been in touch with their families back home, so they have to be helped to trace them," he added.

Many of them complained that their states of origins have abandoned them, especially Borno and Adamawa states who have most number of indigenes among the returnees.

Abia state has already sent a bus to transport its people back home.

Spokesman of the Nigeria Air Force Air Commodore Yusuf Anas told Daily Trust yesterday a C130 aircraft is on stand-by awaiting further directives to embark on more rescue missions, noting that, the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) has to conclude assessment of the refugees' situation before action can be taken.

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