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Sudan: Nigerian students trapped in desert
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Sudan: Nigerian students trapped in desert

Buses evacuating Nigerian students stranded in war-torn Sudan were yesterday stopped in the middle of the Sahara desert, as the transporters insisted on completing their payment. Recall that chairman of

  • PublishedApril 28, 2023

Buses evacuating Nigerian students stranded in war-torn Sudan were yesterday stopped in the middle of the Sahara desert, as the transporters insisted on completing their payment.

Recall that chairman of Nigerians in Diaspora Commission, NiDCOM, Mrs Abike Dabiri-Erewa, had said on Monday that the federal government provided N150 million for the hiring of 40 buses to evacuate the stranded students to Cairo in Egypt.

The Minister of Foreign Affairs, Geoffery Onyeama, also told State House correspondents on Wednesday that the government had expended $1.2 million on the evacuation of Nigerians stranded in Sudan.

This is even as Air Peace, which promised to airlift those evacuated to Egypt back home, said yesterday that the stranded students may have to wait a little longer in Cairo as the Egyptian government has denied it landing permit, insisting on diplomatic approval from the federal government.

Contacted, the spokesperson, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Mrs Francisca Omayuli, simply said: ‘’I will respond when I am less busy.

Consequently, several calls pulled through her mobile phone were neither replied to nor returned.

However, some of the evacuated students were seen in a viral video yesterday, protesting their ordeal in the hands of the transport company which asked its drivers to stop the journey halfway, complaining that only about 30% was paid to them.
One of the protesting Nigerians who spoke on condition of anonymity, expressed disappointment with the mode of payment to the bus drivers.

He said: “ Why are our children always going through bitter experiences, we dont even know were we are. There is no water nor food here.’’

Reacting to the video at a briefing in Abuja yesterday, Dabiri-Erewa said the evacuation process was a tedious one, adding that challenges were expected.

She said the government was in touch with the students and that relevant agencies would resolve the situation in no time.

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She said: “I’m seeing reports on Twitter, don’t believe everything on social media – -but I’m seeing reports that they’re stranded somewhere because the bus driver is demanding for some kind of full payment but whatever is happening will be resolved by NEMA and the Nigerian mission in Sudan and Ethiopia.

“There will be challenges along the way. It’s a very very complex and fluid situation. So whatever challenges are being faced now, I believe that relevant agencies will resolve them.

“We’re in touch with some of the students and whatever it is they talk about, we try to convey to the relevant agencies and we’ve resolved quite a few.

“Whatever it is they’re going through now, two hours away to where they are, will be resolved, and let’s understand that it’s a very fluid situation. And at the end of the day, we believe Nigeria will be one of the countries to rescue most of its citizens in Sudan.”

Speaking separately in an interview on Channels Television, Dabiri-Erewa disclosed that more Nigerians other than students who were documented for the evacuation from Sudan to Egypt, had opted to be brought back to Nigeria.
She disclosed that 13 buses left for the evacuation process in Sudan , adding that there might be additional ones.
“ Thirteen buses of about 60 people left yesterday for two universities in Sudan. By the grace of God, we are monitoring them and they are all good. Mission officials are waiting to receive them.

‘’Another set of buses hopefully will be released too. But the transporters are insisting that they want their cash before they will renew the next set of buses.

“The cheering news is that no life has been lost as the Minister of Foreign Affairs announced and our students are progressing to their destinations in Cairo, Egypt. So far, the three missions are working to ensure that our students are protected.

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‘But there are some little challenges. 3500 students, yes. But some Nigerians are now coming, without following any kind of documentation; they said they want to come back. Sudan is where we have our largest Diaspora population.

‘’So the mission is now bombarded, people that never registered, that never showed preparedness to come are now saying they want to come home.

“There is a lot of tension. Those who never showed interest wanted to jump into the buses through the window but they were told to be orderly and they broke them into various groups.

“Let us just pray that the ceasefire will become a permanent ceasing of fire . There have been a lot of talks with the AU and the two factions. There is nothing better than peace in all this situation,” she stated.
Air Peace denied landing permit to evacuate stranded Nigerians

Meanwhile, stranded Nigerians being evacuated from war-torn Sudan, to Cairo, the Egyptian capital , may have to wait a little longer at the airport , as the Egyptian government has denied Air Peace airline landing permit .
The airline planned to deploy its aircraft to Egypt yesterday to commence airlift this morning but couldn’t do because of this denial.

Recall that the Chief Executive Officer of Air Peace, Allen Onyema, had volunteered to pick the stranded Nigerian students from Egypt free of charge.

However, as of yesterday, the Egyptian government insisted there must be a diplomatic approval from the federal government before Air Peace aircraft would be granted landing permit in its airport.

Making the disclosure in an interview on Channels Television, Chief Executive Officer of Air Peace, Allen Onyema, called on the federal government to take the necessary steps towards bringing the Nigerians students back home.

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He said: “ In the last five hours, our pilots have been waiting at the Murtala Mohammed International Airport. Egypt is yet to give us the landing permit. The Air Peace flight planners told us that they (Egypt) kind of declined initially, saying until there is diplomatic approval from the Nigerian government, they will not grant it.

“So, we call on the Nigerian government to get across to them. The Minister of Foreign Affairs is on top of the game.
‘’Of course, our Ambassador in Egypt, Nura Abba Rimi, is doing a huge job there. He has been working tirelessly, he has not slept in days, he has been running around doing what he has to do. All we are waiting for is the landing permit. The moment we get it, Air Peace will be airborne to Egypt.”

He stated emphatically that the gesture by Air Peace was free, expressing displeasure over comments on social media, on the move.

“ What we are doing is to foster unity and love in our nation. I don’t like some of the things I have been seeing on social media. This is meant to create ethnic harmony in Nigeria, not to create disharmony. I beg Nigerians to see this as a national call.

“ I didn’t ask anybody for money and nobody offered me money. We are doing this to get our citizens evacuated. However, if the number becomes overwhelming, then of course, the government can step in to help offset the bill because one man alone cannot carry it. Also, other airlines can join.”

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