After the frustrating antics of South Africa authorities, the first batch of 188 Nigerians finally returned yesterday aboard Air Peace plane from South Africa following incessant xenophobic attacks on Nigerians and other foreigners in that country. The Air Peace airline Boeing 777 plane touched down at about 9.40 pm at the Cargo wing of the Muritala Muhammed International Airport, Lagos.
The plane flew by the airline chief pilot, Captain Charles Egonu left Nigeria 11:30 pm on Tuesday arrived OR Tambo International Airport, Johannesburg about 4:00 am on Wednesday and about 320 Nigerians were already waiting to be airlifted before the South Africa Immigration officials started their antics. They were demanding papers and accusing returnee Nigerians of travelling without the right document. The Nigerian High Commission had prepared travel documents for the Nigerians but South Africa Immigration wanted to know how the Nigerians came into the country in the first instance and began to arrest them, a Nigeria official in South Africa disclosed.
The atmosphere was quite lively as the returnees stepped out of the aircraft with smiles on their faces. Some of them were with placards written “say no to xenophobia” while others were shouting on top of their voices, “no place like home, if not for airpeace, we for don pieces, etc.
One of the returnees Nwabude Oluchukwu, 27, from Delta State who recounted his ordeal said he left Nigeria on June 10, 2017 and was dealing on clothes in Johannesburg and everything was fine until his shop was burnt by some South Africans. He said, “I was in my shop on that fateful day when I saw some boys burning other people’s shop and were approaching my shop. Immediately, I ran for my dear life but my shop was burnt before I returned and I was left in penury,”
Recall President Muhammadu Buhari had on Monday called for the immediate evacuation of Nigerians willing to return home from South Africa following the latest attacks on Nigerians and other nationals. Buhari gave the directive when he received the Report of the Special Envoy to South Africa, the Director-General of the National Intelligence Agency (NIA), Amb. Ahmed Abubakar.
The Chairman, Nigerians in Diaspora Commission, NIDCOM, Mrs Abike Dabiri-Erewa, had also pledged the Federal Government’s support to any Nigerian that wanted to return home. Dabiri-Erewa said this after a closed door meeting with the Senate Committee on Diaspora and Non-Governmental Organisations in Abuja.
She said that the returnees would be encouraged to enroll and participate in the various social intervention programmes of the government.”We will encourage them to enroll in small scale entrepreneurial programmes with the Bank of Industry under the social investment programme . So, there are things that they can do’’, she said.