• en

Gbajabiamila: Lawmakers Will Probe Egypt’s Reluctance To Give Returees Access To Their Country

The speaker assured Nigerians that the issue will be looked into so that situations like this will not occur again, as he invited Onyeama and Dabiri-Erewa to give an account of the status of evacuation.

The Speaker of Nigeria’s House of Representatives, Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila, has said lawmakers would look into the circumstances that led to the hard diplomatic stance of the Egyptian authorities over the plight of Nigerians who were affected by the ongoing crisis in Sudan.

Gbajabiamila also disclosed that the House would examine, to eliminate the apparent confusion over the roles and jurisdiction of relevant ministries and agencies of government in the management of the crisis involving Nigerians abroad.

The speaker also during plenary, invited the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Onyeama, and Chairperson of the Nigerians in Diaspora Commission (NIDCOM), Abike Dabiri-Erewa, and National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) to appear before the House to give account of the status of evacuation of Nigerians stranded in Sudan.

Speaking on Tuesday, during a situation report and update meeting, the Speaker said no room should be given to jeopardise efforts of the federal government to safely evacuate Nigerians from the war-torn country.

Those at the meeting included the Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, Amb. Zubair Dada; Dabiri-Erewa; Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs Social Development, Nasir Gwarzo; and other officials of government.

The Speaker expressed displeasure over the report that though Nigerians were evacuated from Sudan, they got delayed at the Egyptian borders because the authorities there denied them access to their territories to continue with their journey.

He assured Nigerians that the House would look into the matter and ensure that it did not happen again. He said the House would revisit the law that made the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) the agency responsible for taking charge of such evacuations for a possible review.

He said, “Now we know what has been done so far. It is also heart warming that borders are now open in Egypt. But we will take it up in parliament to find out why they didn’t open the borders in time, especially in a period of crisis like this.

“We are happy that all 5,500 Nigerians willing to leave Khartoum have been evacuated and are on their way home to Nigeria.”

Gbajabiamila was briefed that so far, close to 5,500 Nigerians, the majority of whom are students, were safely evacuated from Khartoum, the Sudanese capital, and centre of the factional military confrontations.

Giving the details of the evacuation operations, Gwarzo stated that though Nigeria responded immediately to the situation by using a multi-sectoral approach involving his ministry, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and NiDCOM, the plans faced some initial challenges.

He said these included the isolation of Sudan as a country from the outside world with loose financial operations, making it difficult to move funds easily for emergencies.

Gwarzo, explained that the initial hitches had been addressed, saying all Nigerians willing to return home had been evacuated by buses to Port Sudan, from where they would be air-lifted. “Our work is 24 hours on and we are in contact with all student groups. Some of the videos you see on social media are a bit exaggerated and most of the issues have been well taken care of already,” the permanent secretary said.

He added that up to five airlines, including a Sudanese carrier, would be involved in the air-lifting, while another option of travelling by naval vessels within a seven-day duration was also being considered.

The Speaker however urged the group to consider the option of evacuating the returnees with large vessels that can accommodate almost everyone at once or twice.

He cautioned political actors to learn lessons from the ongoing war in Sudan and its dangers, urging them to put aside political interest and ensure unity in the country.

The speaker said while the House priority was to ensure the welfare and well-being of citizens caught in the war, they must further revisit the statutory and other frameworks that have left the nation seemingly unprepared to respond promptly and effectively.

Gbajabiamila said, “Over the last few weeks, the Republic of Sudan has descended into war. Unfortunately, this rapid descent into the carnage of violent conflict has entrapped many Nigerians resident in that country.

“Efforts are underway to ensure that our citizens resident in the Republic of Sudan, as students, business people and in other vocations, are evacuated quickly and safely. The conflict in the Republic of Sudan reminds us once more of the fragility of nations.

“In pursuing our political objectives, we must never lose sight of the fundamental truth that in war, everybody loses; in peace, everybody can win. All our personal, partisan and sectional interests must always succumb to the overarching and overriding interest of ensuring the unity and stability of Nigeria. If we fail in this regard, nothing else will matter, and none of us will be absolved in the judgment of history.”

Michael Olugbode and Udora Orizu in Abuja

Follow us on: