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Breaking: 376 stranded Nigerian students in Sudan land in Abuja

Abuja- The Air Peace flight carrying over 270 Nigerian students from the Aswan Airport in Egypt has landed at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja.

The NAF C-130H jet also conveying about 80 persons also touched down moments later.

After over a week of assurances by the Federal Government, the Nigerian evacuees were finally airlifted home, escaping the deadly conflict in Sudan.

Since April 15, Sudan has been plunged into armed conflict with clashes between rival factions of the North African nation’s military government breaking out in western Sudan, in the capital city of Khartoum, and in the Darfur region.

Hundreds have since been killed while thousands of others have suffered injuries.

For nearly two weeks, the Nigerian government assured concerned citizens of evacuation plans, ultimately facilitating buses to convey Nigerians out of Sudan with a Nigerian Air Force plane deployed for the operation.

The evacuees arrived at the airport in the midst of heavy security presence, including mostly wingmen of the Nigerian Air Force.

The Minister of Humanitarian Affairs and Disaster Management, Sadiya Farouk; the Chairman/CEO of NIDCOM, Abike Dabiri-Erewa; and the Director General of the National Management Emergency Agency (NEMA), Ahmed Mustapha, were at the airport to receive the students.

Farouk said the returnees would be given N100,000 each to enable them settle in, adding that a full press briefing on the issues surrounding the evacuation had been scheduled for later on Thursday.
‘It’s Catastrophic’
Nigerian students in Sudan

On April 25, three Nigerian students trapped in Sudan shared their experiences, describing the situation as catastrophic.

Speaking to media, the students, Lukman Abdulhayatu, Bilyaminu Muhammad and Bashiru Achida,

Abdulhayatu said he woke up on the morning of Saturday, April 22 to “heavy bombings and fire everywhere”, adding that “it is catastrophic”.

Muhammad, who stated that he had been in his room for three days, disclosed he had never heard the sound of a gun in his life until the experience in Sudan.

“This is my first experience,” he said. “I had only seen it in the movies.”
NAF Jet Deployed
FILES: Nigerian Air Force (NAF) at Aswan Airport, Egypt awaiting Nigerian evacuees from Sudan. Credit: Twitter/@nidcom_gov

At the height of the crisis rocking Sudan, the Federal Government said the Nigerian Air Force (NAF) would commence the airlifting of Nigerian evacuees from Egypt on Friday.

“The Nigerian Air Force (NAF), Air Peace and other Airlines have received clearance to fly to Egypt. The NAF C-130H is scheduled to leave Abuja tomorrow, 28th April, 2023 to commence the airlifting of the evacuees,” said Amb. Janet Olisa of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

This came as the government informed the public that arrangements were being concluded to airlift all Nigerians that had already escaped on their own to safety in other countries neighbouring Sudan.
$1.2m, 40 Buses And 5,500 Evacuees

Minister of Foreign Affairs Geoffrey Onyeama, on April 23, spoke on the situation of Nigerians stranded in Sudan, saying there were 5,500 who were ready for evacuation.

According to him, the affected Nigerians would be evacuated by road as airports were being bombed. He also said the evacuation would be commenced by Tuesday, April 25.

“We have been given the cost estimate and all the details. They gave us a figure of 5,500 who are ready for evacuation,” Onyeama said on Channels Television’s Sunday Politics.

Later, the minister said the Federal Government had hired 40 buses for $1.2 million to evacuate the stranded citizens.
Buses evacuating Nigerians from Sudan. Credit: Twitter/@nidcom_gov

In a separate update, the Chairman/CEO of Nigerians in Diaspora Commission (NIDCOM), Abike Dabiri-Erewa, on April 27, noted that about 7,000 nationals, including Nigerians, were stranded at the Egyptian border on their way from Sudan.

Revealing that the Egyptian authorities were not allowing the foreigners to cross its border from Sudan since their arrival on the evening of Thursday, April 27, she appealed to Egypt to allow the already traumatised pan-African travellers to transit to their final destinations.

Later, she confirmed that some Nigerians stranded in Sudan had reached Egypt, adding that 13 buses of about 60 people had left Sudan.

Giving a breakdown of the $1.2m spent on the bus fare to evacuate the citizens, the Permanent Secretary of the Humanitarian Affairs Ministry, Nasir Sani-Gwarzo, last Sunday, explained that $30,000 was paid per bus and that 40 buses were procured for the evacuation of Nigerian citizens stranded in Sudan.

According to him, the owners of the buses demanded full payment, though sending money to Sudan could not be done directly but through middlemen.

However, Sani-Gwarzo, who also served as the chairman of the situation room on evacuation of Nigerians from Sudan, added that the Department of State Services (DSS) and the Nigerian Financial Intelligence Unit (NFIU) were being carried along in the payment process.

He also attributed the protracted holdup of Nigerians at the Egyptian borders to delays in payment caused by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) amid a request for visa payments by the Egyptian government.
Bus Mishap And Alleged Discrimination
FILES: Passengers take out luggage as they disembark off a vehicle at a rest-point by a desert road at al-Gabolab in Sudan’s Northern State, about 100 kilometres northwest of the capital, on April 25, 2023. (Photo by AFP)

On Monday, there were reports that one of the buses conveying the Nigerians from Khartoum suffered a burst tyre on its way to Port Sudan.

Confirming the incident, NIDCOM’s Head, Media, Public Relations and Protocols Unit, Abdur-Rahman Balogun, said, “It was a tyre that got burst. No bus caught fire.”

All nine Nigerian students on the bus were confirmed to have arrived in Port Sudan on Tuesday.

According to a source from the Sudan evacuees’ situation room, the students joined another bus sent by the transport company.

On Tuesday, a viral video on social media of a man claimed that the Nigerian Embassy in Khartoum, Sudan had refused to evacuate people of Igbo extraction from Sudan.

In response, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said, upon investigation, there was “no truth whatsoever” to the allegation.

“The Nigerian Embassy in Khartoum confirmed that evacuees of Igbo extraction were among the first batch of 637 Nigerians evacuated to Aswan Border, Egypt where they are presently awaiting their eventual return to Nigeria,” it said.

“In addition, the Embassy noted that before the commencement of the movement of buses deployed for the evacuation exercise in Khartoum, there were scuffles between the students and other Nigerian residents due to the limited number of buses.

“However, more buses were made available to accommodate every Nigerian national in Sudan who indicated interest to be evacuated.”

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