Fierce armed clashes between Sudan’s military and a rival paramilitary force have accounted for the death of hundreds of people, including foreigners.

Thousands of others have been thrown into despair and sent fleeing for safety in the past fortnight.

There have been reports of heavy gunfights around the country, while bombers and heavy artillery target parts of the capital, Khartoum.

The face-off had been anticipated since the 2019 ousting of former Sudanese dictator Omar al-Bashir, who built up formidable paramilitary forces which functioned parallel to, and in rivalry with, the military.

The Sudanese armed forces are led by Gen Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, the country’s de facto ruler, while the paramilitaries of the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) are led by the former warlord, Gen Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, known as Hemedti.

Following the threat posed to Sudan’s civil populace and foreigners by the fighting, foreign governments have moved in to evacuate their citizens.

Meanwhile, the United Nations (UN) continues to sue for peace and push for security and relief efforts in the interest of the distressed general populace.

The US and European nations, as usual, have moved in briskly and efficiently evacuated hundreds of their diplomatic staffers and citizens, while Nigeria and other African nations lag painfully behind.

The US, the UK, Germany and others rescued their citizens in swift operations deploying helicopters and airplanes, directly from Sudan in the first instance and then by sea, and briskly negotiated safe land corridors to neighbouring countries for further evacuations in some instances.

An operation to evacuate people from Sudan has been “extremely successful”, a UK government minister said at the weekend, as that country ended its evacuation operation. Some 1,888 British nationals have been rescued from Sudan, the government said.

The UK Foreign Office said the last flight left the Sudanese capital, Khartoum, at 22:00 local time (21:00 BST) on Saturday, the BBC reports.

“We can’t stay there forever in such dangerous circumstances,” said UK Foreign Office Minister Andrew Mitchell.

At the start of the fighting, very little was heard from the Nigerian authorities until stranded Nigerian students in that country raised an alarm in the media about their plight, fears and desperation.

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Meanwhile, a joint statement on Saturday from Nigeria’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, as well as Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management, and Social Development, said Nigerian evacuees were then in Egypt but would arrive in Nigeria at a yet unstipulated time.

“In the time being, the first batch of Nigerian evacuees who have arrived at Aswan (Egypt) are expected to be airlifted to Nigeria in the coming hours by the Nigerian Air Force and Air Peace airline, who have been on standby for the operations,” the statement said.

The statement, signed by Foreign Affairs Ministry’s Amb. Janet Olisa and Humanitarian Affairs Ministry’s Nasir Sani-Gwarzo, said over 600 Nigerian evacuees from the Sudan had been taken to Egypt and that more were expected to join them Saturday.

The ministers noted that the first batch of 13 buses conveying 637 evacuees had arrived at the identified safe borders at Aswan, Egypt, and are undergoing necessary documentation and clearance before admission into the Egyptian territory for their eventual evacuation to Nigeria.

“The movement of the second batch of 29 buses will commence on Saturday, 29th April 2023,” the statement said.

Then came news of evacuation efforts halting and stalling on account of documentation and clearance hitches occasioned by the Egyptian authorities.

This was followed by promises repeated for days on end but with no sign of progress by Nigerian authorities. All this time, stranded Nigerians languished in fear, want and anxiety.

It would seem that the only speedy and conclusive effort made was in the collection of $1.2 million to hire 40 luxury buses to shuttle the Nigerian evacuees from Sudan to Egypt. The money was approved, accessed and disbursed very swiftly but the attendant evacuation did not get such speedy traction.

It was refreshing to hear, as at Wednesday night, that the first batch of 354 Nigerian evacuees from Sudan had touched down in Abuja. Good news, but here are observations and lessons that can be taken from this painful and embarrassing ordeal.

First, the response time to acknowledge the hazard to Nigerians in the Sudan was slow. We heard first from the afflicted Nigerian students in the Sudan, and then there was a loud silence before we heard from the responders. In the case of the US and European countries, news of the challenge and the solutions-in-progress came together or close together.

Next, in the Nigerian case, it would seem there were too many agencies in the fray, or acting in a turf which ordinarily should be the preserve of the Foreign Mission or Ministry of External Affairs. Agencies involved included the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, the Nigerians in Diaspora Commission (NIDCOM), the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FERMA), among others. In our view, the Ministry of External Affairs should have been leading the charge.

In the case of the US and European nations, we heard of the assessments by the foreign missions in coordination with the actions of the home governments coming hand in hand, hence the speedy and smooth attainment of the desired results.

Then, there was the seeming failure by the Nigerian authorities to take due advantage of historic, cultural, diplomatic, trade, spiritual and other ties between Nigeria and the Sudan. Nigeria has long ties and connections with Sudan in the areas listed above. Nigeria has an estimated seven million nationals, or persons who can trace their origins to Nigeria, living in the Sudan. Some of these work in government, in the armed forces, in trade and business and are themselves persons of influence, or are networked with persons and establishments of influence who could pull strings to get solutions to the problems at hand, but there were no reports or records of the deployment of this asset to bring relief to our stranded compatriots in the Sudan