Air Peace willing to evacuate 2,800 Nigerians today from Sudan

The first batch of 2,800 stranded Nigerians in Sudan is expected to arrive today, the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) said yesterday.

NEMA said the evacuation will be done via road from Khartoum to Cairo in Egypt.

Among those to be brought home are students, embassy staff and their families.

Director of Special Duties of NEMA, Dr. Onimode Bandele, who spoke on Channels, said nobody has been evacuated yet.

“I just spoke to Ambassador Olaniyan in Khartoum. There are plans to get buses to start movement tomorrow morning (today).

“Director General of NEMA, Mustapha Ahmed, is already in Cairo.

“So, as confirmed by the ambassador, it is guaranteed that movement by road will start tomorrow (today).”

On the numbers to be evacuated, he said: “They are about 5,000 but the plan is for about 2,650 to 2,800 to move immediately, including families of embassy staff.

“As plans continue, the figures will be updated and the exact time of departure from Khartoum to Cairo will also be communicated.”

Bandele said the number to be moved will depend on available buses.

“If you are evacuating in a situation of internal crisis as we have in Sudan, you have to be mindful of the number of buses in your convoy so you can easily manage it security-wise,” he said.

On why it has taken Nigeria this long to move the people out, he said: “It was not safe for anybody to start any movement and there was a total lockdown.

“It was just some few days ago that they got the window to move, but they still have to tread softly because we don’t know what the situation might be.

“As much as we feel the pains of our citizens, we should do it right so that we don’t have casualties on our side.

“We are aware that some of the students self-evacuated to the border, about ten of them.

“The ambassador in Ethiopia has sent a note to the government of Ethiopia to allow the citizens to pass through their country.

“As of yesterday (Sunday) night, we spoke and efforts are still ongoing. 

“So, we are aware they are there but we are advising that communication should be directed to the Embassy in Khartoum because they are the sole representative of the Nigerian government in that country.”

On plans for those who arrive, he said: “The process for home reception is to get a dignified place to receive them, make provision for meals and get them to return home by the provision of transport fare. That is the process.”

Air Peace offered to airlift Nigerians free of charge, according to the Chairman of the carrier, Allen Onyema.

He said it was part of its patriotic contributions to the country.

The Air Peace chairman said if the Nigerians could be moved to a neighbouring country, the airline would fly there and evacuate them, as Sudan’s airspace is closed for civil aviation flights.

Onyema was compelled to help because Nigeria cannot afford to lose her citizens in Sudan.

He said: “Again, Air Peace is willing to evacuate Nigerians stranded in Sudan free of charge if the government can get them to a safe and secure airport in any of the neighbouring countries bordering Sudan.

“Everything must not be left for government and government alone. 

“It will be a privilege and honour of tremendous pride that we will be out there to give every Nigerian stranded in Sudan a sense of pride and oneness in their country.

“We are very ready to do it immediately. No time wasting. Any action that would promote national pride, national cohesion, peace and unity, we are for it.

“Again, we have no apologies for believing in our nation and loving the nation despite certain national challenges. If they are moved to Kenya or Uganda or any other country, we will move in to get them out.

“Some parents have started calling on us to help. We are ready to do this again and again,” he said.

In 2019, Air Peace deployed flights to evacuate Nigerians in South Africa following xenophobic attacks.

Also yesterday, the Chairman/Chief Executive Officer of the Nigerians in Diaspora Commission (NIDCOM), Abike Dabiri-Erewa, warned Nigerian students in Sudan against leaving their universities without authorisation.

She stressed that the Nigerian mission has informed the students about where the buses will pick them up from.

The Coalition of Northern Group (CNG) said everything must be done to ensure Nigerians are safely returned.

Its spokesperson, Abdul-Azeez Suleiman, said in a statement: “We urge more action by Nigeria, as the mother of Africa, in managing the conflict in Sudan and not to abandon a sister African nation to the machinations of evil foreign powers.”

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