Wednesday, April 26, 2023

Sudan conflict: FG begins evacuation today, releases N150m

The Federal Government of Nigeria has begun the evacuation of approximately 5,500 Nigerian citizens, including students, who are stranded in Khartoum and other cities in Sudan. The government has released N150m to hire 40 buses that will transport the citizens from Sudan to Cairo in Egypt. The Central Bank of Nigeria made the payment to an undisclosed transport company on Tuesday at 12:37 pm through the National Emergency Management Agency. The Chairman of the Nigerians in Diaspora Commission, Abike Dabiri-Erewa, confirmed that the evacuees would take off on Wednesday morning.


The evacuation comes against the backdrop of a three-day ceasefire that the Sudanese armed forces and the Rapid Support Force declared, allowing foreign countries to move their nationals out of Sudan. Deadly fighting between the two forces has entered the second week, and the conflict has so far claimed about 500 lives, with thousands injured and millions displaced. Foreigners are also fleeing the capital Khartoum in a long United Nations convoy, while millions of frightened residents are hunkering down inside their homes, many running low on water and food.


The Federal Government had planned to repatriate Nigerian nationals on Tuesday but had to shift the evacuation to Wednesday for security reasons. The government sought the support of the Egyptian authorities to evacuate the 5,500 stranded Nigerians out of Sudan through Luxor, Egypt. The Director of the Special Duties, National Emergency Management Agency, who doubles as Chairman of NEMA’s Committee for the Evacuation of the Stranded Nigerians from Sudan, Dr Onimode Bandele, said the government met with government officials in Egypt on how to move Nigerians through Luxor.


The National Association of Nigerian Students arranged the transportation of some students through Ethiopia, but the students were denied access to Ethiopia by the country’s authorities because they lacked security clearance. Bandele advised Nigerians against self-evacuation, warning them that such an arrangement was risky.


In a letter dated April 23, 2023, signed by the Charge D’ Affairs, Nigerian Embassy in Sudan, Haruna Garko, the mission requested 200 buses to convey 3,500 students from Khartoum to Cairo. The Federal Government through NEMA transferred N150m to one Abubakar Ali through Jaiz Bank for the transportation of the beleaguered citizens, according to the payment receipt sighted by The PUNCH.


The embassy has explained the challenges it is facing in its efforts to bring back the students and other stranded Nigerians. The message sent on Monday evening reads in part, “Good evening dear parents, I wish to respectfully update you on our efforts since morning. Fortunately, we are alive to tell the story. Three of us (Embassy officials) were harassed and almost killed by RSF forces on our way to get the buses).”


In another message sent to the students, the embassy attributed the delay to logistics issues. A copy of the receipt obtained by our correspondent showed that the N150m was paid on Tuesday at 12:37 pm for the purpose of the Sudan evacuation. The funding bank was the Central Bank of Nigeria through NEMA.





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