By Joshua Odeyemi, Aliyu Jalal (Abuja) & Zahraddeen Y. Shuaibu (Kano)
More than 500 Nigerian students being evacuated from Khartoum, the capital of war-torn Sudan, to Egypt have been stranded on the northern and western borders of the two countries, Daily Trust gathered last night.
Over 100 of them are trapped in a village called Wadi Halfa, less than 100 kilometres away from Egypt over bus fares.
It was gathered that the Nigerian ambassador in Egypt and other officials were at the border waiting to receive the students, but they could not cross last night.
“No Nigerian student has crossed to Egypt. Sudan has not allowed them to leave the country. They charge $400 per vehicle and $10 per individual,” the source said.
- Fake soldier arraigned over trafficking of young girls for prostitution
- Firm plans N30bn pan-African resort
It was further gathered that while Egypt is asking for security clearance, the Sudanese soldiers were extorting the students.
“Some have crossed to Saudi Arabia through Port Sudan on personal arrangements,” a parent said.
Daily Trust gathered that the students in Wadi Halfa were dumped in an open space and have been sleeping on the bare floor.
In a voice note sent to Daily Trust, a source familiar with the situation said the failure of the relevant stakeholders to work collectively led to the situation.
He said the Nigerian Embassy in Sudan was not given the resources to pay for the buses.
“The basic issue that causes the problem is how the agencies saddled with the responsibility of repatriating the students failed to work harmoniously. The Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development and the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) are the relevant authorities working on this, but they refused to give the embassy in Sudan (Khartoum) the resources to pay for the repatriation. They just directed them to get the buses,” he said.
He added that instead of the embassy handling the whole issue, the relevant agencies said they would pay the money themselves, which they had yet to do.
Another source also alleged that the Nigerian authorities didn’t negotiate with their Egyptian counterparts to secure permission for the students to enter their country, which is also posing a serious challenge to the repatriation process.
“Now that they are less than 100 kilometres from Egypt, but they won’t be allowed in as there is no bilateral agreement between Nigeria and Egypt. Seven of them are in desperate condition, and they really need assistance presently. They were dumped in a village with no hospital, no food,” he said.
Meanwhile, for the remaining students that have yet to be repatriated from Khartoum, the source said their trip was being delayed because their payment issues were not settled.
“They were loaded into 27 buses at one university called Afriqiyya. Each bus carries 49 students, but as they were about to go, the drivers turned off the engines and directed the students to alight.
“So, they had to go back. They are still there in Khartoum, and nobody knows the situation they are in. Only God knows,” he added.
We are doing our best – Envoy
The Nigerian Ambassador to the Republic of Sudan, Safiu Olaniyan, has assured that the embassy officials are fully on the ground in Khartoum to ensure the evacuation of the students.
The envoy, in a voice note, clarified that the embassy was not in charge of hiring buses to convey evacuees out of Sudan, and pleaded with those aggrieved to rethink an alleged plan to attack embassy officials.
He also raised concern about lack of food and water while reacting to complaints and allegations levelled against the embassy on the situation in Sudan. He said the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development and the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) were in charge of the buses.
Olaniyan said, “So our own is to get the necessary instructions that this and this have been arranged, and we just give instructions to the students to meet at so-and-so place and that’s what we’ve been doing.”
The envoy said efforts were still being made to convince the Egyptian authorities to allow Nigerians fleeing Sudan to pass through their country, from where they would be flown back home.
He said, “With regards to those who are on the border of Egypt, the issue is for security clearance to be issued for the evacuees to be able to move across into the Egyptian side of the border.
“All that needs to be contacted in Nigeria are being contacted for them to contact their counterparts in Egypt for this clearance to be issued. It’s unfortunate that it has not been issued, but within a very short time, all this will be in the past.
“Once again, I urge you to be calm and await the necessary developments. Nobody is sleeping. We know that you’re there because we’re also here, and we’re not going to leave you to your own fate. We’re in this together, and we’re not leaving until you’ve all left for safety and to Nigeria.”
3 NAF planes land in Egypt
The federal government has deployed three Nigerian Air Force C-130 aircraft to evacuate stranded Nigerians who are currently at the Egyptian border back home, Daily Trust has gathered.
A commercial airline, Air Peace, is also on standby to airlift the evacuees from Egypt.
“The plane landed a few hours ago at Aswan. The first set of evacuees will depart today,” a source told Daily Trust.
The federal government has assured that it will do everything possible to get the stranded Nigerians back home from Sudan, even as the window provided by the warring factions to enable foreign countries to evacuate citizens is expected to elapse today.
However, the Egyptian authorities have denied affected Nigerians entry into their country despite repeated pleas.
The FG is still making arrangements to get clearance for the Sudan evacuees to be allowed into Egypt by road, from where they will join flights back home.
We are dealing with a difficult situation – Ministry
Meanwhile, Nasir Sani-Gwarzo, Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development and Chairman, Sudan Evacuation Situation Room, has explained that the situation in Sudan is complicated.
He gave the explanation on Sunday evening during a press conference after a closed-door meeting of the ministry in Abuja which was monitored by our correspondent online.
While explaining the delays in payment, he said the owners of the buses demanded complete payment, noting that sending money to Sudan could not be done directly but through middlemen.
“They asked for a deposit and we sent them some money but they calculated the amount and sent only the vehicles it covered. That is why they sent 13 vehicles.
“When we asked for the remaining vehicles, they demanded the balance. We are not speaking the same language. So, we have to send the remaining money,” he said.
Sani-Gwarzo allayed fears over the expiration of the ceasefire window to enable countries to evacuate their citizens, saying the window had been extended.
Dangote partners FG, Air Peace on resettling evacuees
The Board of Trustees of the Aliko Dangote Foundation has resolved to be fully involved in the evacuation and resettling of thousands of Nigerians that are stranded in Sudan.
Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer of Aliko Dangote Foundation (ADF), Zouera Youssoufou, has been in contact with the management of Air Peace and the Federal Government to indicate the foundation’s readiness to support the stranded Nigerians.