The federal government says about 1,519 stranded Nigerians in Sudan are expected to leave Khartoum via hired buses to Port Sudan and other designated border points for their onward evacuation to Nigeria.
This development followed the extension of another 72-hour ceasefire agreement between the Sudanese Armed Forces and Paramilitary Rapid Support Forces in Sudan.
Port Sudan is a port on the Red Sea in the eastern part of the country.
The permanent secretary of the federal ministry of humanitarian affairs, Sani Gwarzo, confirmed this while briefing journalists on the situation on Sunday in Abuja.
Mr Gwarzo, the chairman of the government’s evacuation situation room, explained that the stranded students are expected to leave on April 30.
He said the government had already secured 31 buses in addition to the reserve buses kept in case of unforeseen circumstances.
“We have given the bus company our word that under no circumstances shall they leave anybody on the ground; even if it is one more person that is remaining, let them activate our reserve list and bring out the new buses,” the government official explained.
He added, “And I spoke to the student leader and the embassy in this regard, so we are expecting each bus will carry 49 persons, and if you calculate this number times 31 buses, it will give you the number of persons to be evacuated today.”
The government also clarified the controversy over the $1.2 million used for the hired evacuation buses from Khartoum to the designated border points.
“Do you know how much it takes to hire a bus from Khartoum to the border? It is $30,000 per bus, and you times it by 40 buses, that is where $1.2 million comes from. So, we transfer the first tranche of the money approved by the federal government, which is $400,000, to them as a deposit; if you take our $400,000, what does it come to you is 1/3 of the total sum,” explained Mr Gwarzo.
He further stated, “So, they gave us 13 buses times $30,000 it will give us 390,000 dollars believing that will continue with the evacuation, but they stopped giving us buses that our money has expired. But, they kept the remaining $10,000 and told us that our money had finished until we completed the remaining balance because we were meant to understand in Sudan, there is nothing like you deposit money until an assignment is done before you complete the remaining balance.”
The official revealed that the government “started transferring the remaining balance” in tranches.
“Believe me; you don’t transfer money to Sudan directly. You have to get somebody who knows the company who will transfer and give them cash, then go into an agreement,” added Mr Gwarzo. “And the transport company threatened that they would not move on with the evacuation process, and whoever thinks that $1.2 million will be enough to move people from Khartoum to the border and airlift them to Nigeria is being economical with the truth.”
Mr Gwarzo further explained that the federal government had to agree with the transport company to ensure due process was followed to transfer the funds.
“We signed an MoU with them, and at every stage, we report this to DSS and NFIU so that they can monitor the movement of the money. And the company, too, should know that in Nigeria, if you transfer money from a government account, it does not go direct because it has a dashboard that it can be seen,” stated the official.
He revealed that the ministry had to alert the SSS and NFIU before “we send this money, though in the process the money got delayed by the central bank system, and this is what they call swift electronic cash transfer system, it got delayed.”
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