The Chairman of Nigerians in Diaspora Commission (NIDCOM), Mrs Abike Dabiri-Erewa says over 5,500 Nigerian schooling in war-torn Sudan are among the first batches of Nigerian citizens being evacuated from the troubled country.
Dabiri-Erewa made the disclosure at the weekly ministerial briefing organized by the Presidential Communications Team, on Thursday in Abuja.
According to her, there are over three million Nigerians residing in Sudan and efforts are being made to evacuate as much as possible from the country, if the war persists.
She, however, maintained that priority would be on children, students and women.
She said already, 13 buses had departed Sudan for Egyptian border Aswan, from where the returnees would be airlifted back to Nigeria.
She said: “We have some buses that have departed from the African International University in Khartoum, Sudan and as I speak, I think they are just about two hours away from Aswan in Cairo.
”Others departed from the Elrazi University also in Khartoum.
”All in all, 13 buses have departed for Aswan border in Egypt where they will be received by the Nigerian Ambassador there and the Director General of the National emergency Management Agency (NEMA), Habib Ahmed, who is already there with some officials.”
According to NIDCOM chairman, it is now time for Nigeria to focus more on Nigerians in Sudan and other parts of Africa because there are many of them residing in other African countries.
“When we were talking about Diaspora voting, some people were saying when we do that, it may not augur well. But we said no, we need to go to places like Sudan where we have millions of Nigerians who migrated there years ago and they have relationships and businesses there.
“The data is being worked on but I want to tell you categorically that by the time we finish the research we are doing, perhaps Sudan would be one of the largest areas where we have the largest concentration of Nigerians in diaspora.
”Everytime we focus on Europe, America and all that, it is time to focus on Africa and Africans in the Diaspora,” she said.
Dabiri-Erewa said as the evacuees return to Nigeria, they would be given some stipends to help them settle down before joining their families.
“NEMA will decide what would be given to the returnees because the funding is with the Ministry of Humanitarian affairs and Disaster Management. Usually is just a little amount.
”The last one, we gave them we evacuated people, we gave them $100. So, it depends on the budget they have.
“But we in NIDCOM give them recharge cards, SIM cards and sometimes phones. Usually they get $100 just to hold and these are students coming back to their families. They are not refugees, they have homes,” she said.
She also noted that the continuation of the students’ education would not be a problem, adding that President Muhammadu Buhari has approved funds for the purpose and the welfare of those affected.
Dabiri-Erewa equally rued the situation in Sudan, calling for peace among the warring factions.
“The 72 hour is lapsing, there is a lot of tension, a lot of desperation. There is been a lot of talks with the AU and two warring factions and there is nothing better than peace in all these situations,” she said.
“What the mission had to do was to ensure that only students come first because that was what we agreed.”
Her comments come hours after the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Onyeama, gave an update about the evacuation, noting that no Nigerian life has been lost.