The first set of 637 Nigerian students evacuated from Sudan is stranded at the Egyptian border with the war-torn country, making it difficult for Airpeace to airlift them to Nigeria.
Foreign Affairs Minister, Geoffrey Onyeama, who spoke yesterday, said the Egyptian authorities had not opened its border with Sudan for the students, three days after their arrival.
Onyeama told the Nigerian Television Authority (NTA) that the Egyptian authorities had insisted on clearing all the 637 Nigerians before they could be allowed entry into their country.
He expressed regret that a C-130 Hercules plane had arrived in Egypt from Nigeria to bring home the Nigerians but it has not been possible.
He explained that the Federal Government might move the students to Port Sudan for evacuation if Egypt delayed further.
Port Sudan is 825 kilometers from Khartoum, the Sudanese capital and the epicenter of the ongoing battle for the soul of the country by rival army generals.
Nasir Sani-Gwarzo, permanent secretary of the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management, and Social Development, explained at a news conference in Abuja yesterday that 420 out of the 637 Nigerians had so far been cleared by the Egyptian authorities.
Giving an update on the ongoing evacuation, Sani-Gwarzo added that each of the evacuated Nigerians was mandated to pay $9 at the Sudanese border to exit and an additional $25 before they could gain entry into the Egyptian border.
He also said that other Nigerians still stranded would be moved to Wadi Alfa, Ethiopia, and Saudi Arabia.
His words: “The reason is the border arrangements in those locations are different from the usual border arrangements we are used to in West Africa. You need a visa, you need to pay a fee to exit a country and you need to pay a fee to enter a new country.
“What the Sudanese border is asking Nigerians to pay is equivalent to $9 each person for an exit, and the equivalent for the Egyptian is asking per evacuated citizen is $25. It’s not the money that matters, it’s the permission.
”The Board of Trustees of the Aliko Dangote Foundation has indicated interest to be part of the evacuation and resettling of the affected Nigerians.
Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer of Aliko Dangote Foundation (ADF), Zouera Youssoufou, said they had made contact with Air Peace and the Federal Government on the matter.
Warplanes on bombing raids drew heavy fire over Khartoum as fighting between Sudan’s army and paramilitaries entered a third week with the UN chief warning the country was falling apart.
More than 500 people have been killed since battles erupted on April 15 between the forces of army chief Abdel Fattah al-Burhan and his former number two Mohamed Hamdan Daglo, who commands the paramilitary Rapid support forces (RSF).
They have agreed to multiple truces but none has taken hold as the number of dead civilians continues to rise and chaos and lawlessness grip Khartoum, a city of five million people where many have been cloistered in their homes lacking food, water, and electricity.
Tens of thousands have been uprooted within Sudan or embarked on arduous trips to neighboring Chad, Egypt, South Sudan, or Ethiopia to flee the battles.
“There is no right to go on fighting for power when the country is falling apart,” UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres told Saudi-owned Al Arabiya television.