Xenophobia: Second batch of 315 Nigerians return from South Africa

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*Nigerians returning from South Africa

Another batch of 315 Nigerians leaving South Africa arrived in Nigeria yesterday aboard a B777 aircraft operated by Air Peace.

The exercise came eight days after 187 Nigerians were airlifted from South Africa because of a series of deadly attacks on foreigners, many directed against Nigerian-owned businesses and properties.

The aircraft marked 5N-BWI, which departed Oliver Tambo International Airport, Johannesburg on Wednesday landed at the hajj and cargo wing of the Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Lagos at 7.22pm.

The evacuation of the returnees was initially slated for Tuesday, September 17 but was shelved due to late landing permit issued to Air Peace by the South African aviation authorities.

Initially, 320 were billed to be airlifted but it was gathered that five evacuees were dropped owing to documentation and related issues.

Narrating his experience, one of the returnees, Chuks Okoma from Delta State, thanked God for sparing his life considering the ordeal faced by Nigerians in South Africa.

He said he had been in South Africa for six years without a job and sleeping in the street.

Another returnee, Michael Udoh, narrated how some foreigners were burnt in South Africa, adding that they were unable to move around.

Udoh, who had been in South Africa for six years, said South Africa refused to renew his work permit after it expired thus making him jobless.

In an interview with journalists, the chairman and chief executive officer of Air Peace, Mr. Allen Onyema said many Nigerians were stranded in South Africa for over four years and could not return home due to financial difficulties and lack of proper documentation.

“What Air Peace is doing to freely evacuate Nigerians from South Africa is part of our support to the President Muhammadu Buhari administration and we are doing it wholeheartedly.

“The airline is only asking the government to do what it has been doing to facilitate the smooth return of the Nigerians.

“We are not asking for any refund because we knew that the cost of evacuating the Nigerians will exceed N300 million at the end of the day.

“We are so happy that even our pilots and crew that went to South Africa refused to take their allowances saying it is their own way of showing patriotism,” Onyema said.

He commended the Nigerian government for the matured diplomatic way it has handles the xenophobia issue with South African and called on other well-meaning Nigerians to assist in the resettlement of the returnees.

Meanwhile, the Lagos State government announced a cash gift of N20, 000 to each of the returnees.

The state governor, Mr. Babajide Sanwo-Olu who was represented by his senior special assistant, Mr. Jermaine Sanwo-Olu, said the money was a palliative for the returnees.

He said returnees from the state would be transferred to the Lagos State Employment Trust Fund (LSETF), where they would be trained on skill acquisition.

With NAN, Punch, AFP reports

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