Reports on the arrival of 130, 000 Nigerians at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja from war-ravaged Sudan at the weekend were quite reassuring. The evacuees arrived the airport with Taco Airlines about 4pm with 128 females and children and two male adults. This flows from the initial glitches in the evacuation of Nigerians and the anxiety it created in the country.
The Director-general of the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), Mustapha Ahmed, said another team of 800 Nigerians were already on their way to the Egypt airport for onward movement to Nigeria.
Ahmed, who has been in the forefront of coordinating the evacuation of Nigerians from Sudan, said Max Air, with capacity of 560 passengers and Azman Air with capacity of 400 passengers were already in Egypt waiting for the passengers. He also said Air Peace had been activated and the federal government would do everything possible to evacuate all Nigerians from Sudan.
Some of the evacuees narrated their ordeal to newsmen, noting that they were happy to return home. Hajia Medina said the harrowing movement to the Port of Sudan and the Egyptian border was not worth remembering at all. She appreciated the federal government for coming to their aid.
Head of NEMA media, Ezekiel Manzo, said additionally, in response to the basic humanitarian needs of Nigerian citizens at the Egyptian border, NEMA had continued to provide food, water and other essential supplies to them while awaiting the clearance into Egypt for onward airlift to Nigeria.
“The food arrangement was made by NEMA and the Nigerian Embassy in Egypt. By engaging other airlines, the evacuation operation will be accelerated. Similarly, Taco aviation based in Sudan has been engaged to enhance the movement of our citizens back home from the Port of Sudan. The director general of NEMA appreciates the approval granted by President Muhammadu Buhari to the agency to carry out the evacuation.
Addressing the evacuees, the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs and Disaster Management, Dr. Nasir Sani Gwarzo, said, “Today we are celebrating unique moments in the history of this evacuation exercise. We have successfully removed everybody that needs to be removed out of Khartoum.”
Gwarzo said two days ago, the ministry brought in evacuees from the border of Sudan and Egypt through one port and all the evacuees that arrived yesterday came from the Port of Sudan.
“This is unique because the bulk of our people after facing initial difficulties at the Egypt border, then we moved them to the port of Sudan and we are now arranging flights to bring them back home.
“This flight is not only a successful outing but an eye-opener for the remaining part of the journey. More flight has been activated,” he said.
It is noteworthy that th Aliko Dangote Foundation (ADF) has commenced the disbursement of N100,000 and Dignity Packs to each of the Nigerian returnees from Sudan. The largesse was given out to the evacuees on arrival at the airport in Abuja. All the evacuees, irrespective of the number, will be given N100,000 and Dignity Packs each, by the ADF once they step into the country.
Speaking in Abuja soon after the arrival of the returnees, a representative of the foundation, Maryam Buhari-Shehu, said the Board of Trustees of the Foundation has resolved to be fully involved in the evacuation and resettling of thousands of Nigerians that were stranded in Sudan.
She said 362 returnees including children were registered by the ADF for the exercise on the first day. Three hundred and fifty people received the support. According to her, the intervention was in collaboration with the federal government through its agency, NEMA, and Air Peace to provide succour to the returnees.
Mrs. Buhari-Shehu, who was representing the Managing Director of the ADF, Zouera Youssoufou, noted that ADF will continue to support the government in its humanitarian effort.
One of the returnee students and a beneficiary of the ADF donation, Mr. Yusuf Bulama, said: “First and foremost, I want to thank Allah for bringing us back home safely. Second, I want to thank Alhaji Aliko Dangote for this huge intervention through the Aliko Dangote Foundation. My message to Dangote is to pray that Allah continues to help him and support his numerous businesses.”
Another beneficiary of the ADF’s donation, Miss Muneerah Abdul, expressed appreciation, adding that N100, 000 for each returnee was a huge sum. She prayed to Allah to continue to bless Alhaji Aliko Dangote.
We commend the Federal Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs and Disaster Management as well as NEMA for their relentless efforts at ensuring the evacuation of Nigerians, who were stranded following the war that broke out in Sudan in April, back home. Notwithstanding the delay in the airlift, which was largely due to some extraneous factors, the Nigerian government deserves accolades for the success of the exercise.
But of more significance is the ADF’s humanitarian gesture, which will go a long way to provide succour to the returnees. Blueprint, therefore, recommends the adoption of the ADF model by other organisations and good spirited individuals given the fact that government alone cannot afford the needs of the increasing number of displaced persons in the country.