After Initial Hiccups, 315 More Nigerians Return from S’Africa

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Chinedu Eze

Nigeria’s major carrier, Air Peace, Wednesday evacuated another batch of 315 Nigerians from South Africa as a result of the xenophobic attacks on blacks from other African countries by South Africans.

The Air Peace flight APK 7818 with Registration Number 5NBWI, touched down yesterday at the Murtala Mohammed International Airport (MMIA) at 7.22 pm local time.
The passengers were made up of 200 adults, 90 children and 25 infants.

In the first batch, Air Peace had evacuated 187 Nigerians, thus making the total number of evacuees to 504.

The Chairman and CEO of Air Peace, Chief Allen Onyema, said the airline would continue to evacuate Nigerians from South Africa, as long as there are Nigerians who are still willing to return home from that country.

He said that the evacuation provided opportunities for many Nigerians in South Africa, whose businesses were destroyed but have no means to return home, and many others, who were desolated but had to continue to live in the country without residence permit and other documentations.

He said: “This evacuation is not about Air Peace. It is about the 315 Nigerians that we brought back today. Last week we succeeded in bringing in 187, but 320 Nigerians were supposed to be evacuated but the South African government frustrated our efforts because they did not want the evacuation to take place. But today we succeeded in bringing in 315; so, in all; we have brought in about 504 evacuees from South Africa. That is my joy.

“This is all about the returnees; not about me. Some of you don’t even know the kind of stories they have got. Forget the political statements coming out of South Africa. A lot of gory things happened to these Nigerians. Some of them were stranded for the last 10 to 12 years with nowhere to go and afraid to move around because they have over-stayed their permit.

“They stereotyped and stigmatised Nigerians. This evacuation was a lifeline for them and they grabbed it with both hands. A lot of them were very happy coming home.”

The returnees were screened by authorities and gifts and cash worth over N100,000 was given to them by the federal government.
Airtel gave them N40,000 recharge card, while the Lagos State government gave them N20,000 each.

Speaking to journalists, the Executive Chairman/CEO, Nigerians in Diaspora Commission (NIDCOM), Mrs. Abike Dabiri-Erewa, said the federal government was happy to welcome the returnees, assuring that government has a lot of incentives to give them and make their lives comfortable in Nigeria.

She said: “We are glad they are back and this time around we have a lot of things for them. We have a team that is providing medicals for them. We have counselors here. Lagos State is also supporting them with cash for transportation. NEMA and some donors also have something for them. What they will be leaving here with today will be worth about N100,000 for each person in cash and kind.

“We thank those who have supported us and we call on Nigerians to also support them. The only crime is that they are Nigerians. States are also encouraged to support their citizens. We have profiled them according to states and we have written to state governments and they have all been responding and communicating with them. There is a Bank of Industry empowerment scheme for them. There are adequate programmes for every one of them.

“There is a widow among the returnees with four children and scholarship and others are coming in and I’m sure they are glad to be home. We have a medical team here on ground and anyone who needs to be treated will be treated.

“The first thing is for them to go home first, have some cash in their hand and thereafter states are getting involved and they will all be empowered. We are getting offers. I am glad at the response of the state governors. On the delays of the flight, our mission in South Africa has done very well and they are on top of the situation. I am sure they will make sure things are in place next time.”