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Sudan crisis: Nigerian evacuees airlifted from Egypt without luggage

By Joshua Odeyemi, Adam Umar & Idowu Isamotu   Nigerian evacuees, who fled crisis-ridden Sudan, were airlifted from Aswan Airport in Egypt yesterday. The Nigerian…

By Joshua Odeyemi, Adam Umar & Idowu Isamotu


Nigerian evacuees, who fled crisis-ridden Sudan, were airlifted from Aswan Airport in Egypt yesterday.

The Nigerian Air Force plane, NAF C130, and an aircraft belonging to Air Peace, with a capacity of 274 passengers, were earlier scheduled to depart by 1pm Nigerian time, but did not.

Egypt had insisted that all the evacuees leave its soil at once.

Sources told Daily Trust that the evacuees were allowed into the Egyptian airport between Tuesday night and the early hours of Wednesday.

“About 25 extra passengers were even added to the NAF C130 against its normal capacity of 80 in order to meet the condition, but there were still others that could not get space, hence the journey was initially postponed.

“NAF’s pilot had agreed to accept them on the condition that they leave without their luggage.

“The Nigerian officials sought the opinion of parents and family members who agreed and said seeing their children is the priority. But few others insisted that they must leave with their luggage containing credentials,” a source said.

Eventually, extra passengers were added to the NAF aircraft without their luggage.

NAF spokesman, Ayodele Famuyiwa, later confirmed that the evacuees were homebound.

“I am pleased to inform you that the NAF C-130H aircraft that went to evacuate Nigerians stranded in Sudan has departed Aswan and is expected to touch down at the Nnamdi Azikiwe Airport Abuja by 2340hrs (11.40 pm) tonight,” he said in a statement.

At least, 350 stranded Nigerians from Sudan arrived Aswan Airport in Egypt at about 9.30am on Wednesday and boarded the flights before 12 noon.

However, they did not depart until last night.

Abike Dabiri-Erewa, chairperson of the Nigerians in Diaspora Commission (NiDCOM), explained the reason the airlifting was delayed.

She said, “Hours of delays, yes. The number of passengers did not match. Egypt insisted no one will leave if numbers are more than what aircraft can take. Bags in NAF were taken into Air Peace cargo to create more space. It took hours, but now sorted.”

Dabiri-Erewa later tweeted a video of the returnees, adding: “Finally, homeward bound as the NAF C-130H aircraft has departed Aswan and is expected to touch down at the Nnamdi Azikiwe Airport Abuja by 2340hrs (11.23pm) tonight.#Sudan. We pray for journey mercies,” she tweeted.

On Tuesday night, the Nigerian Ambassador to Egypt, Nura Abba Rimi, gave an insight about those given priority.

“TeamCairo has successfully moved our students from the Sudanese side to the Egyptian side of the Arqeel border.

“Priority was given to female students in the orderly movement of the 449 students across the border.

“The students are now being prepared for their departure to Abuja through Aswan Airport”, said the Nigerian Ambassador to Egypt.

‘We don’t have food, water’

Meanwhile, about 2,000 evacuees currently at Port Sudan have lamented their situation at the hostel where they are lodged.

They are complaining about the state of health of the children and women.

Some of the evacuees said they are passing the night in open spaces while some others sleep in the mosque.

One of them, a Nigerian teacher in Sudan, Abdulrrasaq Oladokun, said: “On arrival at Port Sudan, students and other Nigerians were distributed to different students’ hostels.

“The largest population was put in one hostel which could not take care of us all. Some of us are staying in the mosque and extension of the mosque.”

Another evacuee, Hamid Al-Hassan Hamid, shared a picture of a dilapidated hostel where they are lodged.

He said: “This is where we are now, no food, not even water. Yet they keep telling the world that they used 10,000 dollars to feed people.

Capturing the video of the hostel, he said: “The ladies are in another hostel, very similar if not exactly the same.

“This is going to be our toilet in the next days, weeks, months, and whatnot. This is the best Nigerian Embassy in Sudan can offer with a 1.2 million dollar evacuation allocation.”

The stranded students on the other side of the Egypt border, Wadi Halfa, are not finding it funny as well.

Some of the buses that conveyed them to the border had offloaded their luggage and left.

They are left without food, water and shelter.

A parent, who does not want to be mentioned said: “The Wadi Halfa front is in dire strait. ….our kids there are totally exhausted. Their willpower is slowly ebbing, a week in the ‘wilderness’ can break anyone. Right now, not a single means of transport to move them.

“A ridiculous amount is being charged by shylock transporters per head. Battling nature and broke.

“Someone should hearken to their cries for help. Could someone explain to me what’s going on, please?

While calling for understanding, the chairperson of the NiDCOM, said the federal government would continue to try its best to ensure that all stranded Nigerians in Sudan are returned home safely.

About the second group at the Egypt border, Dabiri-Erewa said: “The team at Abusimbel will be evacuating the Wadi Halfa group.

“Port Sudan border is the 3rd group that will be evacuated last.”

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