NIGERIANS fleeing Sudan were initially denied access into Egypt, and Ethiopia, due to fears that they might refuse to leave, the Nigerians in Diaspora Commission (NIDCOM) explained on Thursday, May 4.
NIDCOM spokesman, Abdur-Rahman Balogun, who disclosed this during a Twitter Space organised by The ICIR, said the two countries feared that many of the Nigerians might flee into the city, rather than go directly to the airport, where they would be evacuated back to Nigeria.
The Twitter Space focused on the evacuation of Nigerians stranded in Sudan.
Nigeria has the highest number of foreigners in Sudan, according to the NiDCOM spokesman.
“There are about 5,000 Nigerian students in Sudan and a total of about two to three million Nigerians. No country has that number of citizens in the country.”
Last week, The ICIR reported that stranded Nigerians fleeing Sudan had arrived the Egyptian border. However, the Egyptian authorities refused to allow them to cross into their territory, leaving them stranded for days.
Egypt eventually gave stringent conditions for the Nigerians to cross its border.
Some of the conditions, according to Balogun, were: “Details and schedule of the aircraft; capacity of the aircraft; a strong pledge that once our citizens depart the border, they will be conveyed directly to the designated airport; a comprehensive list of the evacuees, with passport numbers and valid travel documents.”
Balogun said the Egyptian and Ethiopian authorities were being cautious. The country’s government did not want Nigerians fleeing the war to settle in their country as undocumented immigrants.
The NIDCOM PRO said, regardless of the war situation, “the countries were deeply afraid of Nigerians entering into the country and not going out”.
He said the authorities “worried that some Nigerians might hide and never come out”.
“Do you know of any country having as high 5,000 citizens in Sudan? The highest I have seen for any country is about 75 citizens and there are about 3-4 million Nigerians spread across Sudan.
“Before they let Nigerians in, the Federal Government had to sign a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) which ensured that the number of Nigerians brought into the country will be the same number of people that will leave the country.”
“They don’t want anyone to escape into the city,” he added. “The MOU was even broken when the evacuees were at the airport and that caused another challenge.”
Nigerians were transported to Egypt and Ethiopia border because of the risk of evacuating from the Sudan airport in Khartoum.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs had disclosed that flight operations in Sudan were difficult and unsafe due to the tension in the country.
As disclosed by the ministry, citizens are to be first evacuated by road to the Egyptian or Ethiopian border before they are flown to Nigeria.