The first batch of 2,800 stranded Nigerians in Sudan is expected to arrive today, the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) said yesterday.
A domestic carrier – Air Peace – had volunteered to evacuate citizens from the crisis-ridding country.
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.”
Sudan crisis: dangerous to region, UN warns
United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, warned that the violence in Sudan “risks a catastrophic conflagration within Sudan that could engulf the whole north-east African region and beyond”.
He called on Security Council members to exert maximum leverage for a ceasefire.
The UN top official said humanitarian aid workers should be allowed in by both sides.
He said: “Let me be clear: the United Nations is not leaving Sudan. Our commitment is to the Sudanese people, in support of their wishes for a peaceful and secure future. We stand with them at this terrible time.
“We must all do everything within our power to pull Sudan back from the edge of the abyss.”
Diplomats urged Europe not to turn its gaze away from Sudan once it has evacuated its citizens.
Finland’s Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto said the conflict could spread to neighbouring countries and warned of a “big migration wave” if there is no ceasefire.
“We shouldn’t only think of our citizens, but we should think of ordinary citizens in Khartoum who need help at the moment,” he said.
Israel offers to host warring factions
Israel has proposed hosting rival Sudanese leaders for ceasefire talks after “very promising” progress in mediation efforts led by a senior Israeli official over the past few days.
“Since fighting erupted in the country, Israel has been operating in various channels to reach a ceasefire, and the progress over the past few days in discussions with the sides is very promising,” Foreign Minister Eli Cohen said in a statement.
The statement gave no further details other than saying the official had been holding discussions with the warring generals.
The U.S. is positioning some naval assets in the Red Sea to assist any Americans leaving Sudan but no major evacuation is underway, White House spokesman John Kirby said yesterday.
UK plane lands to evacuate Britons, France shuts Embassy
An RAF plane has landed at a port city in the north-east of Sudan as a British minister said that the UK was evaluating further military options for rescuing non-diplomats from the country by land, sea and air.
France said it was closing its embassy in Sudan, where clashes between the army and paramilitary forces have sparked evacuations of foreigners.
The French mission in Khartoum will be shut “until further notice”, the Foreign Affairs Ministry said, and would no longer serve as a rallying point for expatriates trying to leave the country.
France has airlifted 491 people from 36 countries, including 12 EU nations, to Djibouti since Sunday, according to the ministry.
Kenya said it will not be withdrawing its diplomats from Sudan as it wants them to help negotiate a “peaceful solution” to the conflict.
The foreign secretary Alfred Mutua spoke at a press conference alongside US Secretary of State Antony Blinken.
On Twitter, he went on to say some students have already been withdrawn and the country is in the process of rescuing another 300 people.
He called for all Kenyans in Sudan to register with the embassy to enable their evacuation.
Uganda has withdrawn more than 200 of its citizens as well as six foreign nationals. They are being transported on buses through Ethiopia, according to Uganda’s ambassador to Khartoum Rashid Ssemuddu, Agence France-Presse reports.
His office said the evacuees left Sudan’s capital Khartoum on four buses on Sunday, travelling hundreds of kilometres (miles) through Ethiopia before arriving in the Ugandan city of Entebbe.
Last week, Egypt evacuated 177 of its soldiers from Sudan and another 436 citizens left by land on Sunday. More than 10,000 Egyptian nationals are thought to live in Sudan.
Chad, which already had thousands of refugees fleeing the conflict arriving over its border, said it was sending planes to convey 438 citizens who are leaving the capital, Khartoum, by bus for Port Sudan, which is at the centre of rescue efforts.
South Africa has begun evacuating dozens of its citizens, including embassy staff.
Mauritania’s top diplomat Mohamed Salem Ould Marzouk said 101 citizens were taken by ship to the Saudi port of Jeddah on Sunday.
North African countries Algeria and Tunisia have also begun their operations.
The fighting is between the Sudanese Armed Forces, led by Gen. Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, and the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) paramilitary group, led by Gen. Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo.
The leaders of the two forces were allies, having worked together in 2019 to overthrow Sudan’s dictator Omar al-Bashir, who ruled over the country for three decades.
In 2021, al-Burhan, who had become chief of the power-sharing council, dissolved it, declaring he would instead hold elections this year.
The current fighting broke out between the army and the RSF as a result of a negotiation breakdown over how to integrate the two forces ahead of the restoration of civilian rule.
There was also disagreement over which General would be subordinate to the other, and how quickly the RSF would be incorporated into the Sudanese military.