By Chidi Nkwopara – Owerri
About 100 Imo indigenes who returned from South Africa as a result of the xenophobic violence that swept through the country, have appealed to Imo State Government for assistance and rehabilitation.
The returnees made the call when they stormed Maria Assumpta Cathedral, Owerri, to plead with the Catholic Archbishop of Owerri Ecclesiastical Province, His Grace, Dr Anthony J. V. Obinna, to intercede on their behalf.
Speaking on behalf of his colleagues, Mr Iheanyi Chukwu, narrated how they were traumatised, humiliated, distressed and transformed to paupers by their tragic experiences in South Africa.
“What we went through in South Africa is better imagined than experienced. We lost all our hard-earned properties. Some lost their lives and properties. We are very thankful to God for our safe return to Nigeria, but we have been pauperized”, the returnees told Archbishop Obinna.
While recalling how an official of the Nigerian Consulate in Johannesburg told them to reach their various state governments for assistance and rehabilitation, Chukwu, however, explained that they preferred reaching the government through the Archbishop.
Continuing, the group’s spokesman told the cleric that their counterparts from Lagos and Abia states have started receiving what he called “the much needed assistance from their home governments”.
“We do not know of any other person that can reach the government faster than our revered Archbishop Obinna. We are confident that you will help us reach the Governor”, the returnees pleaded.
Speaking after praying for them, Obinna thanked God for sparing their lives.
“I am not the State Governor, neither appointee of the Governor nor my office part of the Government House. I must commend the Igbo philanthropist and Chief Executive Officer of Air Peace, Barrister Allen Onyema, who provided the free aircraft that brought the returnees back to Nigeria,” Obinna said.
While urging them not to be downcast by their present ordeals, the cleric recalled that during the Nigeria/Biafra war, millions of people within the Biafran enclave, suffered worse things.
“Ndigbo, who were returnees from various parts of Nigeria, especially the North, also lost their lives and properties”, Archbishop Obinna said.