THE Nigerians in Diaspora Commission (NIDCOM) has highlighted some of the challenges and hurdles encountered in the evacuation of Nigerians stranded in Sudan.
NIDCOM Head of Media, Public Relations and Protocol Unit Abdulrahman Balogun highlighted the challenges while speaking during a Twitter Space titled ‘Sudan Crisis: Evacuation of Nigerians’, organised by The ICIR on Thursday, May 4.
He explained that the Federal Government would have used the Sudanese airport to evacuate the over 5,000 Nigerian students in Sudan if the situation was conducive.
“Some foreseen and unforeseen circumstances arose during the course of evacuation. For instance, Ethiopia is a very close border to Sudan and also closer to Khartoum where we have sizeable number of Nigerians and the emergency agency already planned to start the evacuation from Ethiopia but Ethiopia closed its border against Nigeria and all entities.
“It was when this was turned down that the Federal Government had to hire 40 buses to the tune of $1.2 million to convey Nigerians to a neighboring Egyptian border which is about 14 hours journey with the hope that the Egyptian authorities will allow Nigeria to equally use their facility to be able to evacuate.
“The Sudanese airport is not really conducive for evacuation purposes because crossfires and bombs are going off here and there and in fact we heard that a particular airline was bombed while trying to evacuate because they mistook it for the enemy’s airline. So the Nigerian government can’t take that risk.”
The NIDCOM spokesperson explained that, on arrival at the Egyptian border, the Nigerians were stranded due to challenges faced in securing the facility for their evacuation.
He added that the Federal Government had to sign an MOU before the Nigerians gained access to Egypt.
“We also met a block at the Egyptian border. At that time about eight to nine vehicles conveying 50 passengers in each of them had already been dispatched towards the Egyptian border so there’s nowhere to put them and they had to be stranded at the border for almost four to five days before there was a high level diplomatic touch here and there.”
He said that the agreement signed by the two countries, Nigeria and Egypt, for the evacuation, implies that “if you’re bringing 300 people into the country, then the plane too must have a capacity to take 300″.
According to Balogun, the cumbersome procedure of securing clearance for the Nigerians and the buses was another problem faced during the evacuation.
He added that Nigeria not having its own airline contributed to the delay in evacuation.
“All the other countries that you’re comparing to Nigeria have their own airlines and Nigeria don’t have a airline, until maybe before May 29 as the Honourable Minister of Aviation has assured and is still assuring Nigerians that before the handover date Air Nigeria will fly.”
The ICIR reported that the first batch of Nigerians fleeing the crisis in Sudan arrived Abuja late on Wednesday, May 3, and received N100,000 cash, each, for transportation to their various homes.
The batch comprised a total of 376 persons.
Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Sadiya Farouq, received the evacuees at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja, in the early hours of Thursday, May 4.