By Lawani Mikairu & Bose Adelaja
South Africa authorities seem bent on frustrating the federal government from evacuating Nigerians who have been prepared for the first batch of airlift from that country.
Nigerians who turned up for the airlift are still been arrested by South Africa immigration officials who are demanding to know how they were able to enter South Africa in the first instance.
Air Peace flight, which left Nigeria 11:30 pm yesterday arrived OR Tambo International Airport, Johannesburg about 4:00 am and about 320 Nigerians were already waiting to be airlifted before the immigration officials started their antics. They are 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 and began to arrest them, a Nigeria official in South Africa disclosed.
“South Africa is frustrating Nigeria. The Air Peace aircraft has been there since 4:00 am. Their Immigration started giving our High Commission problems. They said some Nigerians didn’t have papers. Immigration is arresting them, asking them to explain how they came to South Africa.
“About five minutes ago only 182 Nigerians were allowed to board the flight; the rest are being barred by South Africa Immigration. They are frustrating the Nigerian High Commission, taking the passengers away. They want to frustrate the airline and the Nigerian government. The aircraft has on, burning fuel since 4:00 am. They are not happy that Nigeria is evacuating its citizens. They don’t want the world to know that a Nigerian airline and Nigerian government is evacuating them.
“Our high Commission is having tough time with South African government. They are stopping and arresting Nigerians, saying they should explain how they came into the country,” the official said.
Air Peace airline has said “ the evacuation of Nigerians from South Africa would cost the airline about N300 million, which include the payment of passenger service charge, aeronautical and other charges in addition to the cost of operation”.
As at the time of filling this report, the returnees are now expected to touch down at the Muritala Muhammed International Airport around 10pm or 11pm.