Nigerian Students Stranded in Sahara Desert Amid Bus Payment Disputes

Nigerian Students Stranded in Sahara Desert Amid Bus Payment Disputes

Buses transporting Nigerian students from conflict-ridden Sudan were halted in the Sahara desert yesterday, as transporters demanded full payment before proceeding further. The Nigerian government had allocated N150 million for hiring 40 buses to move the stranded students to Cairo, Egypt, with the Minister of Foreign Affairs stating that $1.2 million had been spent on the evacuation.

Air Peace, which had offered to fly the evacuated students back to Nigeria, announced that the students might face delays in Cairo, as the Egyptian government has denied the airline landing rights, insisting on diplomatic approval from Nigeria.

When contacted, the spokesperson for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said they would respond when less busy. Subsequent calls to their mobile phone were unanswered.

In a video that went viral yesterday, some evacuated students were seen protesting their situation as the transport company halted the journey, claiming that only about 30% of the payment had been made. A distressed Nigerian, who wished to remain anonymous, expressed disappointment with the payment arrangement for the bus drivers.

Addressing the situation at a briefing in Abuja, the chairperson of Nigerians in Diaspora Commission (NiDCOM), Mrs Abike Dabiri-Erewa, acknowledged the challenges but assured that the government was working to resolve them.

Dabiri-Erewa also revealed in a separate interview that more Nigerians, not just students, had chosen to return from Sudan to Nigeria. She confirmed that 13 buses had departed for the evacuation and more might be added.

The CEO of Air Peace, Allen Onyema, urged the Nigerian government to take necessary steps to secure the return of the students, stating that the airline’s offer to fly them home was free of charge. He expressed disappointment at the negative comments on social media and called on Nigerians to see the gesture as a national call for unity and love.

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