By Suleiman Umaru
Barely two weeks to the Handover the reigns of governance to Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, a former governor of Lagos state, and the President-elect on the platform of the ruling All Progressive congress, APC, President Muhammadu Buhari,heaves a sigh of relief that the Nigerian Airlforce, NAF, under the clse watch of AirMarshal Isiaka Olayinka Amao, Air Peace oned by Allen Onyeama, a Lawyer and three other airline operators , appear to have done a good job in evacuating stranded Nigerians from the war torn Sudan.
Recall that when the war broke out in Khartoum, Capital of the North African country of Sudan, on April 15, 2023, the Nigerian government was reluctant to move into action to evacuate the nationals trapped in the war-torn country as the two war Lords Generals Abdel Fatah al- Burhan, Commander of the Sudan Armed Forces, SAF and Mohamed Hamdam Dagalo, the Leader of the Rapid Support Force, RSF, were said to have made movement impossible in the city and its environs.
The tension in the Sudan Capital city grew worse within days of the outbreak of the war that Nigerians and other who could not stand it who could not stand it, particular students had raised alarm, calling on their home governments to come to their rescue.
The few courageous Nigerian students who were said to have braved the odds to flee to South Sudan, Egypt, Libya, Ethiopia, Eritrea and the West African country of Chad, which shares border with Nigeria through the north eastern state of Borno, were awaiting for the Nigerian Government to come to their rescue while others remained stay-put with hope that help would eventually come their way.
The Nigeria government may have woken up to the challenge as it shares border with Chad from the north eastern state of Borno which also shares border with Sudan. More importantly, the two countries are prominent members of the Lake Chad Basin Commission, LCBC, founded on May 24, 1964, by the Forth –Lamy N’Djamena Convention including the Central African country of Cameroun. Other members of the Commission included Niger Republic, Central African Republic, was said to have joined in 1996, and Libya, which was admitted in 2008.
The Katsina state born Nigerian President may have allowed Geofrey Onyeama, minister of Foreign Affairs and Hajia Sadiya Umar Farouq, his Counterpart in Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Relief Development including Abike Dabiri –Erewa, Chairman, Nigerians in Diaspora Commission, NiDCOM and Ahmed Mustapha Habib, Director General, National Emergency Management Agency, NEMA, to come up with solution to address the crisis situation at hand in the country: evacuating the stranded Nigerians in the war –torn Sudan.
The twwo ministers and the two other political appointees were said to have created a Situation room at Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory, FCT, to effectively monitor what is happening in Khartoum, the Sudan Capital city where the war between the two Generals, was getting worse on a daily basis, forcing countries continue to evacuate their nationals and Nigerian government may not have been left out due to pressure from several quarters, both within and outside the country.
As a prelude to getting the stranded Nigerians in Sudan back home, the government officials who were said to have found the Aswan border between Sudan and the neighbouring country of Egypt as one of the safest to use in evacuating the stranded Nigerians in Khartoum and its environs to Egypt out of the seven international borders shared by the two countries may have resorted to the plan B. This is because of the heavy presence of the SAF, on the road leading to the Aswan border with Egypt without the RSF, interference.
There is no gain saying the fact that Buhari, who is expected to will quit office on May 29, 2023 already , has one thing going for him: successfully evacuating the stranded Nigerians in Sudan including the tertiary Institutions students back to the country.
There have been two different accounts on the number of Nigerians staying in war torn Sudan including those schooling in various tertiary Institutions in the country. One Account has it that 11 million Nigerians are leaving in the member country of the African, AU but no fewer than 2,000 of them were said to have been trapped in the three week-old war.
. Another account has it that five million Nigerians were leaving in the country but over 5,500 of them are currently trapped in Khatoum awaiting to be evacuated back to Nigeria. Safiu Olaniyan, the Nigerian Ambassador to Sudan Sudan, may have corroborated the Nigerian President’s words when he declared that the stranded Nigerians in Khhartoum, would be evacuated,noting that the embassy officials are fully on ground monitoring the situation.
True to his words, as at Saturday, May 13, 2023, NAF, and the four other Local airlines , which had made their planes available in airlifting the stranded Nigerians evacuated from Sudan to Egypt and those who were said to have found their way to Port Sudan International airport, on agreed arrangement, particular ,students were said to have been back to Nigeria numbering 2, 371 which many had described as encouraging.
Out of the total number which was said to have been airlifted back to the country by NAF and the four Local airlines operators in the last two weeks, the most recent was the Tarco Aviation aircraft which had carried 125 passengers which had arrived at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport last Saturday from port Sudan.
Recall that Last Thursday, May 11, 2023, there was an arrival of 126 students , out of the 4000, that were said to have been stranded in the city as alleged by the Nigerian Students, NANS, Sudan Chapter.The Saturday, May 14, 2023, evacuation , according to the NiDCOM officials, was the fifth batch where 125 Nigerian students had arrived at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja.
The airlifted students from port Sudan International airport who are those could not have make it by road to the Aswan border by joining the government owned buses that was provided for the evacuation exercise from Sudan to the A border due to the heightened tension in Sudan Capital city and its environs .
There are fears in both local and international circles as that the inordinate ambition of two Army Generals, fighting for control of Khartoum, the Sudan Capital out of their own selfish interest and not for the interest of the people may destroy the country going by the level of destruction I the war-ravaged country over the last four weeks.
Perhaps, to ensure that there were no infiltration of foreigners among the Nigerians being airlifted back to the country either from the Aswan International Airport, Egypt or Port Sudan International airport, tto avoid exposing the most populous African country to crisis , worse than the Islamic Fundamentalis Fundamentalist Group, Boko Haram and the Islamic State of West African Province, ISWAP, and the Bandits Group , operating in the northern part of the country, may have informed why ‘’the evacuees were processed by the Nigerian Immigration officials alongside their Colleagues from NEMA and the National Commission for Refugees, Migrants and Internally Displaced Persons’’.
It is record,that Air Peace, under the Chairmanship of Allen Onyeama, a Lawyer, was the first airline, to arrive the Nnamdi Azikiwe International air, Abuja, the FCT, with the first set of evacuees, numbering 270 passenger It was said to have been closely flowed by the NAF C-130H Jet which had conveyed 80 otherpassengers.
Indeed, the successful airlifting of the stranded Nigerians in Aswan border airport, Egypt by NAF and Air Peace, may have opened the door way for Azman Air, Max Air and Tarco Aviation to join the fray to support the Nigerian government in helping out in the evacuation of the stranded Nigerians in the Sudan intractable war , which had entered its fourth week and the extension of the operation to port Sudan airport, amidst tight security.
With the continued evacuation of the fleeing Nigerian students from the war ravaged Sudan in the last two weeks, NiDCOM officials could beat their chest , that with the support of the Nigerian President, more stranded Nigerian students in Khartoum, the Sudan Capital would be successfully evacuated in the next cople of days. Vintage Buhari.