By Lawani Mikairu
The first batch of 320 Nigerians will today return aboard Air Peace plane from South Africa following incessant xenophobic attacks on Nigerians and other foreigners in that country. The Boeing 777 plane departed South Africa by 9:00 a.m, Nigeria time, and arrived the Cargo wing of the Muritala Muhammed International Airport, Lagos.
Recall that the Chairman / CEO of Air Peace airline Barrister Allen Onyema last week said : “We are offering free trip to Nigerians in South Africa to return home after going through the traumatic experience of the attacks. Air Peace has said this is free and we are doing it in solidarity with the federal government.
“We have not designated or recruited any agent in South African 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 back to Nigeria with Air Peace should request for a refund and report to appropriate authorities., he added. ”
The Consul General of Nigeria in Johannesburg, Godwin Adama, has said that the first batch of the Nigerian returnees from South Africa would depart South Africa for Lagos on Wednesday. Adama said : “The first flight leaves by 09: 00 hours this Wednesday with about 320 passengers and the second batch will leave on Thursday all things being equal. We have over 600 who had indicated interest. All things being equal, without any hitches, the plane will take off by 09 : 00 hours this Wednesday. The manifest for the first flight is ready, and we are working on the next flight,” he said.
President Muhammadu Buhari had on Monday called for the immediate evacuation of Nigerians willing to return home from South Africa following the latest attacks on Nigerians and other nationals. Buhari gave the directive when he received the Report of the Special Envoy to South Africa, the Director-General of the National Intelligence Agency (NIA), Amb. Ahmed Abubakar.
The Chairman, Nigerians in Diaspora Commission (NIDCOM), Mrs Abike Dabiri-Erewa, had also pledged the Federal Government’s support to any Nigerian that wanted to return home. Dabiri-Erewa said this after a closed-door meeting with the Senate Committee on Diaspora and Non-Governmental Organisations in Abuja.
She said that the returnees would be encouraged to enroll and participate in the various social intervention programmes of the government.”We will encourage them to enroll in small scale entrepreneurial programmes with the Bank of Industry under the social investment programme. So, there are things that they can do’’, she said.