Federal Government of Nigeria has given reason why the first set of Nigerian Students evacuated from the war torn Khartoum, the Sudan capital and later abandoned at Sahara desert by the bus drivers over non payment could not enter into Egypt after they were rescued from the desert.
Chairman of Nigerians in Diaspora Commission, Abike Dabiri-Erewa said while reacting to a tweet during the week that the rescued Nigerian Students arrived the Aswan border in Egypt at a time the border was already closed.
“Baba wa Ayanlola. Difficult to be judge in this instance but I’m sure @FMHDSD and @nemanigeria would clarify. However, the first set has arrived the Aswan border in Egypt but the border is already closed. They will leave early morning and then proceed to the airport”, Abike Dabiri-Erewa said in quote.
It would be recalled that the Federal Government of Nigeria had released ₦150,000,000 for hiring 40 buses to convey its desperate citizens from Sudan to Egypt.
Despite the money was said to have been paid to a transport company on Tuesday at 12:37 pm by the Central Bank of Nigeria through the National Emergency Management Agency, a disturbing videos went viral on Thursday about Nigerian Students abandoned inside Sahara desert by bus drivers over non payment of the transportation cost after they departed Khartoum on Wednesday.
It was gathered that the students spent over five hours in the desert before they were rescued or the bus drivers decided to continue the journey.
The Federal Government had also on Thursday said that the Nigerian Air Force, Air Peace, and other airlines had received clearance to fly to Egypt to pick up the evacuated Nigerians but the first set of the Nigerian Students expected to arrive Nigeria on Friday could not make it due to diplomatic issues yet to be resolved between Egypt and Nigeria governments.
Spokesperson for the National Emergency Management Agency, Ezekiel Manzo, according to Punch Newspaper blamed the problem on a border issue. He said in quote: “The border issue is the cause of the delay because all arrangements are in place. We are the ones that arranged for their road trip from Khartoum down to Aswan. We also have arrangements for their airlifting.
“But the problem is the border for them to cross into Egypt and that is the reason why their arrival in Abuja today (Friday) will no longer be possible. Assuming they are already in Egypt, the promised time for their arrival would still have been possible today.
“They are still at the border. So, we have to wait. I am not justifying this but these nationals are escaping from a war zone, and it is natural for the government of Egypt to tighten up its nodes around the border”.
Embassy of Nigeria in Sudan has said the second batch of the evacuation of Nigerians in Khartoum to Egypt will commence on Saturday.
This was contained in a statement signed by the Charge d’ Affairs, H. Y. Garko, on Friday.
The Minister of Foreign Affairs, Geoffery Onyeama, 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, reportedly said during the week that the stranded students may have to wait a little longer as the Egyptian government has denied it landing permit, insisting on diplomatic approval from the federal government.
Some of the evacuated students were seen in a viral video on Thursday, 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.
Some of the protesting Nigerians expressed disappointment with the mode of payment to the bus drivers.
Reacting to the video at a briefing in Abuja few hours the videos went viral, 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.
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 (each) 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.
“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”
However, estimated five buses filled with Nigerians studying at Sudanese universities left a muster point Wednesday afternoon, but the buses halted before they reached the Egyptian border, the students said.
“The drivers that parked said they won’t move an inch if they are not paid. Their company told them not to move further. It’s a directive from their company,” a student said.
The number of stranded students could be as many as 250, each of the buses has a reported capacity of 50 passengers.
In a recorded voice note, one of the stranded evacuee said: “From the way they talk, it is obvious that we are not far from the border. We don’t know if they will dump us there or take us back to Khartoum. We are stranded in the desert in five buses. No internet, nothing.”
The Chairman of the Nigerian Community (Elders Forum) in Sudan, Dr Hashim Na’Allah, stated: “People are hungry and there is no concrete information from either the Embassy or the Committee in charge of the buses. People are sitting outside under high temperatures. The temperature is very high that people are thirsty. Nowhere to find water to drink or buy food to eat.
“In the next two to three days, if nothing is done to address this situation, Nigerian students might start dying.”