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Nigeria To Spend $1.2 Million On Buses To Evacuate Citizens From Sudan

Nigeria will spend about $1.2 million (about N550 million) on the hiring of luxury buses that will transport its stranded citizens from Khartoum, the Sudanese capital, to Egypt. The citizens will then be airlifted from Egypt to Nigeria, an official has said.

The Minister of Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Onyeama, said this while addressing journalists at the State House, Abuja, at the end of Wednesday’s meeting of the Federal Executive Council, chaired by President Muhammadu Buhari.

PREMIUM TIMES earlier reported that Nigeria has commenced the evacuation of its citizens from Sudan following the recent fighting between security agencies in the North African country.

“Just to provide an update on what is happening with regard to the evacuation of Nigerians in Sudan,” Mr Onyeama said.

“You recall that the main challenge we had was first of all securing the authorization of the Sudanese government and then security support for the convoy.

“This is because it has been decided that we will transport or convey Nigerian to the Egyptian border Aswan. We are liaising with our embassy in Egypt as well so we have been able to overcome these challenges and we have started the process which we are very happy about.

“$1.2 million is what we’re being charged for all the 40 buses. We have huge transporter luxury buses made available to us to transport our citizens to the Egyptian border.”

The minister said the price for the hiring of the buses was hiked by the providers because of the risks involved.

“Of course you know, because of the risks involved and so many other things, a lot of people are going to also take advantage; you’re going to hike up the price.

“We saw that the French convoy was attacked and so forth. It was difficult procuring these buses. But we had to do it because you know Nigerian lives matter to us.”

No Nigerian killed

In his comments, the Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, Zubairu Dada, disclosed that no Nigerian has been killed in Sudan since the conflict broke out on 15 April.

The violence has pitched Sudan’s regular army against a paramilitary group, the Rapid Support Forces (RSF). The RSF is led by an army general, Mohamed Dagalo, while the Sudanese army is led by another general, Abdel al-Burhan.

“The evacuation is being done in batches to ensure the safety of all Nigerians. But the good news is that no Nigerian life has been lost so far,” Mr Dada said.

“I think it’s important to stress that all Nigerians are very safe. And we’re very confident and hopeful that we shall not lose any Nigerian life Insha Allah shall in this exercise. All is well and we’re good to go.”

Over 400 people have been killed since the fighting began in Sudan, AlJazeera reports.

Mr Dada said the Nigerian government was making every effort to evacuate as many Nigerians as possible during the 72-hour window provided by the Sudanese government.

On whether all Nigerians will be evacuated before the 72-hour window, he said: “We have no problem about the 72-hour window. Because we’ve talked to all the authorities concerned and we’re on the same page. But talking about the window, we are making every effort to ensure that we make use of this window to evaluate as many Nigerians as we possibly can.”

He also disclosed that some Nigerians have already been evacuated by ship by the government of Saudi Arabia.

Over 1,000 people arrived in Saudi Arabia by ship from Sudan on Wednesday, with the majority of them being foreigners, Saudi officials said.

Mr Dada’s statement thus means that some of those who arrived in Saudi Arabia were Nigerians.

“Let me also add that some Nigerians have actually been evacuated by ship, I guess from Port Sudan, by the government of Saudi Arabia,” he said.

Don’t forget, this is a joint effort. We have friendly nations that are ready to assist, you know, so that we’re having to record that the Saudi authorities have been able to pick up some Nigerians, they’re transporting them by ship, I guess to Saudi Arabia, to Jeddah in particular. From where, of course, again, we’ll link up and find a way of bringing them back from Jeddah those that succeed in going to Jeddah,” he said.

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