The Federal Government will today commence the evacuation of about 5,500 Nigerians, including students stranded in Khartoum and other cities in Sudan. To facilitate the repatriation, the government has released N150million for hiring 40 buses to convey its desperate citizens from Sudan to Cairo in Egypt.
The money was paid to an undisclosed transport company on Tuesday at 12:37 pm by the Central Bank of Nigeria through the National Emergency Management Agency. The Chairman of the Nigerians in Diaspora Commission, Abike Dabiri-Erewa, confirmed on Tuesday that the payment had been made, noting that the evacuees would take off on Wednesday morning.
The evacuation is taking place against the backdrop of the three-day ceasefire starting midnight Tuesday declared by the Sudanese armed forces and the Rapid Support Force. Foreign countries are taking advantage of the temporary suspension of hostilities to move their nationals from Sudan as deadly fighting between the two forces entered the second week.
The clashes broke out between erstwhile allies, General Abdel al-Burha, who heads the Sudanese Armed Forces and leader of the RSF paramilitary group, General Mohamed Dagalo, over a power-sharing disagreement. The conflict had so far claimed about 500 lives with thousands of others injured and millions displaced.
Foreigners are also fleeing the capital Khartoum in a long-United Nations convoy, while millions of frightened residents hunkered down inside their homes, many running low on water and food. Across the city of five million, army, and paramilitary troops have fought ferocious street battles since April 15, leaving behind charred tanks, gutted buildings, and looted shops.
Several ceasefires that were agreed by both sides were ignored, including a three-day pause to mark the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Fitr, which started on Friday. The Federal Government had planned the repatriation of Nigerian nationals in that country on Tuesday but had to shift the evacuation to Wednesday (today) 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, had said the government met with government officials in Egypt on how to move Nigerians through Luxor.
Following the delay in evacuating students from Sudan, the National Association of Nigerian Students arranged the transportation of some students through Ethiopia. The students were, however, denied access to Ethiopia by the country’s authorities because they lacked security clearance. Bandele, who advised Nigerians against self-evacuation, said such an arrangement was risky.
“Whatever you meet is your headache, because you did not listen to the authorities that are supposed to cater for you,” he had warned Nigerians. There were indications on Tuesday that the Federal Government had intensified efforts to evacuate the students and other stranded Nigerians.
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. According to the payment receipt sighted, the Federal Government through NEMA transferred N150million to one Abubakar Ali through Jaiz Bank for the transportation of the beleaguered citizens.