About 5,500 Nigerian students in Sudan will be evacuated due to the violence in the North African country, an official has said.
The chairperson of Nigerians in Diaspora Commission, Abike Dabiri-Erewa, said this Thursday at the weekly ministerial briefing organised by the Presidential Communications Team.
She said there are over three million Nigerians residing in Sudan and efforts are being made to evacuate as many of them as possible, if the war persists. Priority will, however, be given to children, students and women, she said.
Mrs Dabiri-Erewa said already, 13 buses carrying Nigerians have departed Sudan for the Egyptian border Aswan, from where the returnees would be airlifted back to Nigeria. The first batch are expected in Nigeria today, Friday, her spokesperson quoted her as saying at the breifing.
PREMIUM TIMES reported that the Nigerian government earlier announced that it had loaned 40 buses for the evacuation. The buses cost $1.2 million, an official announced Wednesday.
“We have some buses that have departed from the African International University in Khartoum, Sudan and as I speak, I think they are just about two hours away from Aswan in Cairo,” Mrs Dabiri-Erewa said Thursday. “Others departed from the Elrazi University also in Khartoum. All in all, 13 buses have departed for Aswan border in Egypt where they will be received by the Nigerian Ambassador there and the Director General of the National emergency Management Agency (NEMA), Habib Ahmed, who is already there with some officials.”
She allayed the fears that the buses conveying the Nigerians would be attacked by either of the two factions fighting in Sudan, saying the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Onyeama, already secured the understanding of the leaders of the factions before the transportation of Nigerians by road.
PREMIUM TIMES reported how fighting started on 15 April between the Sudanese army and paramilitary RSF, both headed by army generals. Over 400 people have been killed in the violence and many counties including the US and Saudi Arabia have commenced the evacuation of their citizens.
Mrs Dabiri-Erewa also said it is time for Nigeria to focus more on Nigerians in Sudan and other parts of Africa because there are many of them residing there.
“When we were talking about Diaspora voting, some people were saying when we do that, it may not augur well. But we said no, we need to go to places like Sudan where we have millions of Nigerians who migrated there years ago and they have relationships and businesses there.
“The data is being worked on but I want to tell you categorically that by the time we finish the research we are doing, perhaps Sudan would be one of the largest areas where we have the largest concentration of Nigerians in Diaspora. Everytime we focus on Europe, America and all that, it is time to focus on Africa and Africans in the Diaspora,” she said.
Nigerian laws currently do not allow citizens in the Diaspora to vote. However, there has been clamour that the laws should be amended. The electoral commission chairman, Mahmood Yakubu, is one of those who have asked that Nigerians in the Diaspora be allowed to vote.
Stipends for Returnees
Mrs Dabiri-Erewa said as the evacuees return to Nigeria, they will be given stipends to help them settle down before joining their families.
“NEMA will decide what would be given to the returnees because the funding is with the Ministry of Humanitarian affairs and Disaster Management. Usually is just a little amount. The last one, we gave them we evacuated people, we gave them $100. So, it depends on the budget they have.
“But we in NIDCOM, we give them recharge cards, SIM cards and sometimes phones. Usually they get $100 just to hold and these are students coming back to their families. They are not refugees, they have homes,” she stressed.
She also said challenges associated with the evacuation process are already being addressed. She urged NEMA to establish rapid response squads in all parts of the country and in the diaspora, to help address unforeseen circumstances.
“I think that moving on, it is very important for NEMA to have Rapid Response Squads with military formations in all parts of Nigeria and then in the diaspora with military attaches. There really has to be those teams set in place. It shouldn’t be when the crisis happens we start running around,” the NIDCOM chairperson said.
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