The Federal Executive Council (FEC) has approved $1.2million dollars for the immediate evacuation of Nigerians stranded in war torn Sudan.
Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr Geoffrey Onyeama, made this known while addressing State House correspondents on the outcome of the Council’s meeting, presided over by President Muhammadu Buhari, on Wednesday in Abuja.
According to Onyeama, the amount will be spent on the hiring of luxury buses that will transport the stranded Nigerians from Khartoum, the Sudanese capital to Egypt, from where they will be airlifted to Nigeria.
He said: “Just to provide an update on what is happening with regards to the evacuation of Nigerians in Sudan.
”You recall that the main challenge we had was first of all securing the authorization of the Sudanese Government and then security support for the convoy.
“This is because it has been decided that we will transport or convey Nigerians to the Egyptian border, Aswan.
”We are liaising with our embassy in Egypt as well; so we have been able to overcome these challenges and we have started the process which we are very happy about.
“$1.2 million dollars is what we’re being charged for all the 40 buses. We have huge transporter luxury buses made available to us to transport our citizens to the Egyptian border.
”Of course you know, because of the risks involved and so many other things, a lot of people are going to also take advantage.
”We saw that the French convoy was attacked and so forth. It was difficult procuring these buses. But we had to do it because you know Nigerian lives matter to us.”
Also commenting on the matter, the Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, Zubairu Dada, disclosed that no Nigerian life had been lost in Sudan since the conflict broke out on April 15.
He said: “The evacuation is being done in batches to ensure the safety of all Nigerians. But the good news is that no Nigerian life has been lost so far.
” I think it’s important to stress that all Nigerians are very safe. And we’re very confident and hopeful that we shall not lose any Nigerian life Insha Allah in this exercise. All is well and we’re good to go.”
Dada added that the government has also arranged for security support and transportation for the Nigerians to the Egyptian border.
He said the government was making every effort to evacuate as many Nigerians as possible during the 72-hour window provided by the Sudanese government.
On whether all Nigerians will be evacuated before the 72 hour window, Dada said: “We have no problem about the 72 hour window because we’ve talked to all the authorities concerned and we’re on the same page.
”But talking about the window, we are making every effort to ensure that we make use of this window to evaluate as many Nigerians as we possibly can.”
He also disclosed that some Nigerians had already been evacuated by ship by the government of Saudi Arabia.
“Let me also add that some Nigerians have actually been evacuated by ship, I guess from Port Sudan, by the government of Saudi Arabia.
”Don’t forget, this is a joint effort. We have friendly nations that are ready to assist, you know, so that we are having to record that the Saudi authorities have been able to pick up some Nigerians, they’re transporting them by ship, I guess to Saudi Arabia, to Jeddah in particular.
From where, of course, again, we will link up and find a way of bringing them back from Jeddah those that succeed in going to Jeddah,” he said.
On the outcome of the meeting, the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Mohammed Abubakar, revealed that the Council approved N6 billion for the construction of new corporate headquarters for the ministry.
According to him, the proposed headquarters will be a 10 story building and will be named, Agriculture House.
”The memo we presented was for the construction of our corporate headquarters here in Abuja.
”Since the relocation of the ministry to Abuja over 30 years ago, we’ve not had a corporate headquarters.
”We are currently using an office of the Federal capital Territory Administration which is just About three floors and cannot accommodate the entire ministry.
”We have about four departments which are outside the main ministry.
“So, the Federal Capital Territory Administration has allocated a plot to us in the cadastral zone, totalling about 1.84 hectares at a very strategic place for the construction of a 10-storey building which we will call Agriculture House,” he said
He said they had purchased a building in Abuja some years back but it later turned out not to be adequate for the services required thus, it would be sold and the proceeds would be added to a budgetary provisions (2022 and 2023) of the sum of N6 billion to commence the project.
According to the minister, the ministry will source for more funds through intervention from the presidency and other sources, to complete the project.
On the rising cost of rice, Abubakar disclosed that efforts had been intensified by the government to ensure availability of the commodity with a view to bringing down its price since Nigeria was the number one producer of rice in Africa.
He said: “There are 10 rice mills that are being constructed under a Public Private Partnership arrangement and the President has given us intervention to complete those mills.
”We will commission some of them before the end of this administration,” he said.