THE first batch of Nigerian returnees from South Africa will be airlifted from Johannesburg to Lagos today, according to the Nigerian Consul-General, Godwin Adama.
The 320 passengers, who are among over 600 Nigerians to be airlifted by Air Peace Airlines, are expected to arrive the Murtala Muhamed International Airport, Ikeja at 9am.
Adama said their evacuation followed the conclusion of their documentation in the aftermath of the xenophobic attacks on Nigerians and other foreign nationals in South Africa.
He said: “We are documenting people through filling of relevant forms with information such as place of birth, state of origin, local government areas. We also check nationality and discourage wives with different nationalities to avoid bringing in other nationals. We equally discourage those wanting to take advantage of the flight.”
The Consul-General, who added that the second batch will leave South Africa tomorrow, shed light on the evacuation and flight schedules.
He said: “The manifest for the first flight is ready and we are working on the next flight. The two missions are working together to make a success of the evacuation. Nigerians will be conveyed in buses from the two missions to the airport at early hours of the morning to ensure smooth operations.”
The Chairman of Air Peace Airlines, Mr. Allen Onyema, who confirmed the deployment of the B777 aircraft to South Africa, said the returnees will be airlifted free of charge.
Onyema, however, lamented that he had received an e-email from South Africa that some unauthorised persons were illegally collecting 1,000 dollar from each Nigerian that wanted to take advantage of the flight.
He said: “We have not designated or recruited any agent in South Africa to collect money on behalf of Air Peace. So, nobody should pay money to anyone or group of persons posing as Air Peace agent or staff. Any Nigerian who has paid money for repatriation to Nigeria with Air Peace should request for a refund and report to appropriate authorities.”
Adama assured Nigerians of a hitch-free evacuation, saying that the Nigerian Mission in South Africa had put in place measures to ease the process.
He also said the mission had introduced measures to ensure that other nationals do not take the advantage of the free flight by Air Peace to come into Nigeria.
Ahead of the evacuation, the pan-Igbo socio-cultural organisation, Ohanaeze Ndi Igbo, appealed to Southeast governors to come to the aid of the returnees who are of Igbo extraction.
The President of Ohaneze, Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Mr. Odozi Nwodozi, who spoke at a news conference on the preparation for 2019 Igbo Day celebration in Abuja, said majority of the returnees are Igbo.
Chiding hostile South Africans for being ingrate, he recalled that, during the liberation struggle, Nelson Mandela, who later served as South African President, was at a time harboured by a first Republic Minister, Chief Mbazulike Amaechi, in Igboland.
He said: “It is not only a blight on South Africa but it is also a shame to the entirety of Africa, knowing the role that Nigeria played in the liberation of South Africa. Nigeria was a frontline State in that struggle. Nigeria in the 70s took responsibility in not only nurturing but empowering those that are today, leaders in South Africa.
“However, on the return of our brothers and sisters, Ohaneze is not empowered economically to assist. But, I am sure the states and the Federal Government must have done things to make sure that those people coming back don’t feel the effect of their unexpected disengagement from South Africa.
“So, Southeast governors must put things on the ground to assist those returning from South Africa, the bulk of who are Igbo people. We call on them to use this opportunity to put infrastructure that will cushion the effect of their unplanned dislocation from South Africa.”
Also decrying the violence against Nigerians in South Africa, the Virtuous Widows International Association, led by Mrs. Ifeyinwa Egbosiuba, said the ugly situation had further increased the number of widows in Nigeria.
Addressing reporters in Awka, Anambra State capital, Egbosiuba said the killing of husbands, fathers and bread winners had left permanent scars in the hearts of their widows.
She urged the South African government African government to set up a faith-based committee to address the losses suffered by the foreigners during the attacks to mitigate their sufferings.
Responding to world-wide criticisms of its handling of the attacks South African Government has unfolded plans to deal with Gender-Based Violence (GBV) and xenophobic violence.
But, the government also said that it was in the dark about the number of undocumented foreigners in the country.
The Minister of Defence and Military Veterans, Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula, said government would strengthen the police to ensure speedy arrests of perpetrators of violence in an intelligence-driven operation.
He said: “Intelligence agencies are working day and night to detect and prevent the occurrence of these violent incidents and we now know a lot of these have been nipped in the bud because of the early warning systems. We put a lot of emphasis on intelligence-driven investigations and operations and therefore, we are trying to avoid a situation of arresting wrong people and leaving out perpetrators of violence.”
The minister also disclosed that government will set up a committee of the SA Police Service (SAPS) and the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) to resuscitate cold cases.
Mapisa-Nqakula added: “SAPS has committed to training more female officers to deal with victims of GBV at station level. This will go a long way in ensuring that victims are not subjected to secondary victimisation.”
The minister said Police Minister Bheki Cele has been mandated to inform university vice-chancellors to review campus security, owing to the “high levels of sexual offences at institutions of higher learning”.
The Acting Resident Coordinator for the United Nations in South Africa, Ayodele Odusola, hs denounced violence against foreign nationals, particularly in the Gauteng Province.
In Cape Town where she was attending the World Economic Forum on Africa, UN Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed said: “There isn’t anything that justifies the level of violence against another person for trying to make a livelihood and, in particular, in the African context, a guest in your home should not be harmed.”
Also, in New York last week, Stéphane Dujarric, the Spokesman for the UN Secretary-General strongly condemned the violence.
He said: “The Secretary General has also very much noted President Ramaphosa’s unequivocal condemnation of that violence, as well as his call for strengthened accountability in line with democratic values enshrined in South Africa’s Constitution. The Secretary General urges all political leaders to clearly and openly reject the use of violence.”