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FG assures on airlifting remaining 1,700 stranded Nigerians

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The Federal Government on Friday assured Nigerians and the International Community of its resolve to evacuate the remaining 1,700 stranded Nigerians from war-prone Sudan within the next three days.

Permanent Secretary, Federal Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster management & Social Development, Dr. Nasir Sani-Gwarzo gave the assurance while addressing the Second batch of stranded Nigerians numbering 130 – 128 women and two infants as well as two men – who were airlifted onboard B737-300 aircraft from Port Sudan at about 3.13pm.

Dr. Sani-Gwarzo who spoke during the brief reception at the Hajj Pilgrimage Terminal at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja, disclosed Federal Government through the Ministry of Education is working out plans to ensure seamless enrolment of all the students in various Universities of their choice, without delay.

According to him, “Mr. Speaker, Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila was very emphatic on this and we assured him that our report will not be complete without articulating the plan for the children to have a smooth transition to new study environment.”

He also gave a vivid account of how two unruly Nigerian students stalled plans to evacuate 500 stranded Nigerian Nationals.

“I am always hesitant to give a time space for activities that are planned beyond your control. Within our control it’s two days, beyond our control depends on what happens.

“And I will just give an example of two students who had unruly behaviour who crossed the line without necessary documentation and caused the entire 500 students to be returned and punished because of their unruly behaviour. That has set our clock back 10 hours and the 10 hours is about whether we are able to conclude before night falls by the time it’s night falls the gates are closed, we can no longer guarantee the 10 hours, it has to be the next morning.”

He disclosed that the 132 Evacuees who arrived Nigeria on Friday are the first batch of Nigerians moved out of Khartoum but sent to the Egyptian border.

“We have successfully removed everybody that needs to be removed out of Khartoum, none of your Colleagues today are in Khartoum, all of them have moved. You are the first batch to move out of Khartoum but sent to the Egyptian border.

“We still have a few of them. We have a few of them that have arrived. The large majority will be arriving in the next eight hours or more. So, by that time, no Nigerian would have been left in the Egyptian border. Those of you that are on this flight came from the Port Sudan. And I’m happy to also let you know that the Director General of NEMA will give you more updates on that.

“But we have made adequate arrangements for everybody to be airlifted within the next few days. We have almost 1,700 people over there and we have made adequate arrangements for flights to bring them back home. The good news is that no life has been lost. Every Nigerian that wants to move back is safe.

“Some of you may have encountered difficulties for all of you, but it will soon be over. You will be reunited with your families and the trauma will be over. So, we welcome you back home. And we look forward to peace returning not only in Sudan, in the whole of Africa and the world at large.”

While confirming that one of the Nigerian women delivered at Port Sudan is doing well and the baby, Dr. Sani-Gwarzo said: “she’s still left behind there. I want to assure that she will be brought back home as soon as her child is strong enough.”

He assured that Federal Government will continue to prioritize the airlifting of women, sick persons as well as men, adding that all the medical bills have been paid by the Federal Government on behalf of those who were sick during the period under review and back to the hostel until the time of airlifting of the Evacuees back to Nigeria.

According to him, Nigerians that found their way to other borders like the Ethiopian border and the Saudi Arabia borders have been well received by the respective embassies adding that possible arrangements are being made to bring them back home.

He added that one of the women who was due for delivery gave birth before boarding the plane and has been adequately taken care of including all who had health issues.

Dr. ani-Gwarzo further assured that necessary arrangements are being made to bring all the Nigerians who found their ways to the Ethiopian and Saudi Arabia borders, through direct travelling arrangements.

“There are other Nigerians that have been shipped by the Saudi Arabian government along with other fleeing nationals. They took them to Jeddah and from Jeddah Ambassador the Consul General indeed they received them, house them and we’re making arrangements to bring them back home.

“One promise that we gave our ministers and Mr. President is that no single Nigerian will be left in Sudan that wants to come back home that needs to be back home we shall bring them back home. So, we are going to leave behind a mop up operation after this main activity. Even when the last plane touches ground in Nigeria. We have left behind a mop up operation plan that will keep mopping up and bringing back Nigerians to safety as the need arises.

“So, I want to reassure everybody that yes, we had hitches. Yes, we had challenges, but that is the natural situation of war. That is a natural situation of any human endeavor.”

One of the returnees studying in Sudan International University, Keret Isah from Bauchi State who spoke with our Correspondent, expressed gratitude to the Nigerian authorities for evacuating them. She however, expressed displeasure on the treatment they were given by the Nigerian embassy in Sudan.

“We had difficulties with places to stay, lack of water, food and so on. We experienced this for almost three weeks. We moved from Khartoum to Sudan, then from Sudan to Nigeria.

While noting that about 2,000 Nigerians who were evacuated from Sudan at the location went through these challenges, she said: “I won’t allow anyone to have this kind of experience because it was very tough.”

On her part, a female Returnee who studies in Sudan International University, Miss Sumaya Yusuf from Oyo State, expressed displeasure over the treatment they were given by the Nigerian Embassy in Sudan.

She disclosed that the Returnees were stuck along the road for about 24 hours and the Embassy didn’t say anything.

“I was part of the students evacuated from Port Sudan to Nigeria and thankfully we are here now in our home country and I’, really grateful to the authorities and agencies responsible for evacuating us, we really thank you a lot for all you’ve done.”

According to her, “The whole journey took more than a week, going to the pick-up venue, waiting for the buses, going back home, staying in the sun. It was a long time, we’re all tired.

“Nigerian Embassy in Sudan, I was really disappointed with their response or with your communication methods. To be honest, they didn’t really communicate the way I would have liked because I mean, during the days where we were in Port Sudan.

“For an instance, when we were on our way to Port Sudan, we were stuck in-between the road for like 24 hours, and the Embassy didn’t say anything about that. We didn’t even know who to contact. We didn’t know who to talk to. It was really hellish.

“Sudan was a really good place, it was such a good place to be even though people were like woah, what were Nigerians doing there? I mean, it was really a good place to be. In terms of people, culture, infrastructure, some infrastructure are not that developed but at least it was peaceful and my life was still safe compared to this place.

“To be honest, if it wasn’t for this war, I would go back, over and over again.”

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