The First batch of Nigerian evacuees from the crisis- ridden Sudan touched down at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja, in the early hours of on Wednesday.
This comes just as the Chairman and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Air Peace Airline, Mr. Allen Onyema, yesterday, observed that Nigerians abroad are overly stigmatised by their host even when no evidence of crime had been established against them.
The returnees were ferried in a Naval Airplane as well as an Air Peace aircraft.
Speaking with journalists, the Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development, Mrs. Sadiya Umar-Farouq, disclosed that about 350 Nigerians were evacuated in the first batch.
“About 350 have arrived and we are expecting more than 1,000; it is a continuous process. The first batch has arrived and the planes are going back to get more,” she added.
The minister thanked the president, other agencies involved in the exercise as well as Air Peace for the support.
“The situation in Sudan is very pathetic and as Nigerians we should continue to pray for peace in our country,” he added, even as she attributed the delay encountered in evacuating the Nigerians to logistics challenges.
“This war is in Sudan, but we move them to Egypt and we had to get clearance from the Egyptian authority,” she added.
One of the parents, who spoke with journalists, Mrs. S. Yerima Mohammed, who said two of her children were in Sudan, commended the government for the effort, even as she revealed that she was traumatised by the outbreak of the crisis.
The Chairman Nigerians in Diaspora Commission Mrs. Abike Dabiri-Erewa said, it was a huge relief to receive the returnees, bearing in mind what they went through in Sudan.
The flight bringing back the Nigerians from Sudan had been delayed as they were not allowed to board for hours as the Egyptian authorities denied the prospective passengers clearance to board as the numbers of passengers were far over the capacity of the flight.
Information made available to journalists on the Nigerian in Diaspora Commission’s (NIDCOM) Sudan Situation Room earlier had stated that: “There was hours of delays in boarding as the number of passengers did not match the capacity of the plane.
“Egypt authorities insisted no one will leave if the numbers are more than what the aircrafts can take.”
The situation was however addressed later as the luggage were taken from the NAF aircraft into Air Peace cargo to create more space for passengers.
The information on the Situation Room read: “Took hours to address but now sorted, and the flight have airlifted the evacuees.”
Also, the Nigerian Air Force (NAF), in a notice sent to newsmen by its spokesman, Air Commodore A.K. Famuyiwa, earlier yesterday, had disclosed the NAF C-130H aircraft that went to evacuate Nigerians stranded in Sudan had departed Aswan, Egypt.
“I am pleased to inform you that the NAF C-130H aircraft that went to evacuate Nigerians stranded in Sudan has departed Aswan and is expected to touch down at the Nnamdi Azikiwe Airport Abuja by 2340hrs (11.23pm) tonight,” it had stated.
Nigerians Are Overly Stigmatised, Says Air Peace Boss
However, Onyema, the Chairman and CEO of Air Peace, has observed that Nigerians abroad are overly stigmatised by their host even when no evidence of crime has been established against them.
He made the observation yesterday, night while speaking on challenges faced in air lifting Nigerian evacuees from Egypt.
Speaking on Arise News ‘Prime Time’ programme, Onyama disclosed that the country had experienced some challenges in airlifting Nigerians evacuated from Sudan.
According to him, the airline had entered Egypt on Tuesday, but could not access the evacuees until Wednesday, adding that his crew had to sleep at the airport until the Egyptians were set to grant leave to the evacuees.
Onyema, disclosed that even after the two aircraft belonging to Air Peace and that of the Nigerian Air Force boarded their full capacity, the Egyptians denied them take off on the grounds that no evacuee should be left behind in Egypt.
According to Onyema, while there were about 371 evacuees on ground, Air Peace planes could only take 281 passengers and that of the Nigeria Air Force Above 80 or 90, thereby leaving about 15 passengers on ground.
“Egypt said both planes would not leave Egypt without the remaining passengers”, he said, a situation which prompted him to suggest that the luggage in the Air Force plane be transferred into Air Peace planes to enable the Air force plane airlift the remaining passengers.
“What happened this afternoon was a fall out from the confusion caused by the Egyptians.
“I don’t blame the Egyptians also, they need to protect their country from infiltration, they have to be sure of the people that come into their country,” Onyema said.
Nevertheless, he argued that, “Nigerians are overly stigmatised, they don’t want to know the number of Nigerians in foreign jails for something they know nothing about.
“All you need to be condemned is to carry that green passport, all you need to become a villain is to be identified as a Nigerian, you are a suspect even before you are judged, so this is the problem we are having.
”You can imagine Ethiopia, they were to go through Ethiopia, Ethiopia blocked them, Ethiopia is making a lot of money out of Nigeria.”
The Air Peace boss however described Nigerians as very good people.
“When we come back here we remember we are Yorubas, we are Hausas, we Fulani, we are Ijaws, we are Ibibios and all that kind of things, we stereotype ourselves too.
“Nobody can love you more than yourself.
This is the reason I do some of these things, not because I have money, I am not richer than anybody, but I love this country, I want this nation to be one because I believe in this nation, I believe that this country can be greater than it is.
He lamented that for somebody who has contributed so much to the nation, he ought not to be repaid in that way, adding that the action of the two trade unions is so insensitive, which must not be condoned.