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The first batch of Nigerians fleeing the war-torn Sudan through Egypt has arrived Nigeria.
Some of the citizens evacuated from the country were on board Air Peace aircraft.
According to reports, they landed at exactly 11:35pm at Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja.
The aircraft had departed Aswan International Airport, Egypt at about 5:30pm.
The Air Peace flight departed at about the same time with that of the Nigerian Air Force, which used its Charlie 130.
Altogether, the two aircraft had 376 passengers, who entered into Egypt through the Aqeen border.
About 4,000 Nigerians were stranded in seeking to flee 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.
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.
There is a heavy presence of security officers, mostly wingmen of the Nigerian Air Force.
$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 had also said the evacuation would be commenced by Tuesday.
“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.
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
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.”