Following the offer given by Air Peace to evacuate Nigerians who are victims of the recent xenophobia attack in South Africa may not work as planned after all, just 300 Nigerians have indicated interest and be airlifted home free. Meanwhile, the planned faced a setback as the majority of Nigerians interested in coming back home were said to have expired passports.
South African police said on Friday that they were on high alert monitoring the violence that erupted earlier in the week in some parts of the country leading to the death of foreigners and destruction of their property.
The Force also said that some persons who had been looting shops since Sunday had continued till date.
It added that it had arrested more suspects who had been looting shops in the Gauteng Province.
Police spokesperson, Brigadier Mathapelo Peters, said 74 persons were arrested in Katlehong on Thursday, bringing the total number of arrests since the violence erupted in Johannesburg to 497.
Gauteng Provincial Commissioner, Lt.-Gen. Elias Mawela, therefore, called on the people to respect the law, while warning them to stop spreading fake news in the social media.
“The general public is hereby advised to inform their relatives in South Africa to take advantage of this laudable gesture.”
Over the years, Nigerians had come under a series of attacks by South Africans with many killed. In the latest incident, which started on Sunday morning, no fewer than three persons had died and over 50 shops and businesses belonging to Nigerians and other nationals destroyed by South Africans.
The latest incident, coupled with the several others in the past, did not only lead to reprisals on South African businesses in Nigeria between Tuesday and Thursday, it had also triggered a major diplomatic row between Nigeria and South Africa.
This led to Nigeria pulling out of the World Economic Summit holding in Cape Town and plans to recall the High Commissioner, Kabiru Bala, while President Muhammadu Buhari had sent a special envoy to South Africa.
The special envoy, Ahmed Abubakar, who is the Director-General of the National Intelligence Agency, was said to have arrived in the OR Tambo Airport on Thursday evening and was scheduled to meet with President Cyril Ramophosa in Pretoria on Friday to express Nigeria’s displeasure at the treatment meted out to Nigerians to the host President during the meeting.
Meanwhile, in its bid to ensure the safety of Nigerians, the Foreign Affairs Ministry advised interested Nigerians to liaise with the High Commission of Nigeria in Pretoria and the Consulate-General of Nigeria in Johannesburg for further arrangements.
Nwonye stated, “They are collating the names and as at the last one hour (3.50pm), they have registered like 300 persons and the meeting of the special envoy is ongoing, the high commissioner is there with him.”
Ezeano said Nigerians wishing to return to Nigeria lamented that they felt unsafe and would rather leave the country, coupled with their accommodation challenges.
She said, “Some of them are already on their way to Johannesburg. People are disturbed and distressed. We have over 300 on the list but many others are still registering at the consulate.”
Ezeano said a lot of Nigerians living in Western Cape, East London, Kwazulu natal and Cape Town had been calling to register, noting that some planned to come to the consulate in Jo’burg on Monday.
She stated, “A lot of people are showing interest and I’m not sure one flight would be able to convey all the people. Right now, I am at the consulate and we are trying to collate the list. People really want to leave to secure their lives.
“The challenges they are facing include accommodation. There is a woman coming from Port Elizabeth; she has been crying over accommodation issues.”
Also, Igwe Obinna Nwanaji of Mpumalanga Province informed one of our correspondents on the telephone that a single flight might not be adequate to evacuate those willing to return, adding that about 30 persons registered with him for the free flight.
He stated, “Some people are actually saying they won’t leave until the government gives them something, but a lot of people are willing to come back, it’s just that some of them said they were coming from far locations and driving to Johannesburg may take like seven to eight hours.”
Some adamant Nigerians in South Africa have said they won’t take Federal Government’s offer to return home despite the threat to their lives and attacks on their businesses.
The Nigerians who are mostly traders said although they had suffered huge material losses due to the attacks, they would prefer to stay back in the country to rebuild their ruined businesses.
Some also said they might relocate their wives and children to Nigeria while they stay back to work in their host country.
However, Speaker of the House of Representatives, Rt. Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila has pointed out that the House would work with all the stakeholders within and outside government to evolve and implement a plan to evacuate Nigerians from where internal crises and conflicts have made the terrain unsafe for them.
He added, “We expect that the Government of South Africa will conduct a thorough investigation into these allegations and make public their findings, whatever they may be. Where any of these claims are determined to be true, we expect also that the individuals responsible will be held accountable to the highest degree allowed by law.”
Gbajabiamila announced the plan of the House to suspend its two-month annual recess to discuss the crisis, adding that the lower chamber would invite the Minister of Foreign Affairs (Geoffrey Onyeama); the Nigerian High Commissioner to South Africa (Kabiru Bala); the Chairman of the Nigerians in Diaspora Commission (Abike Dabiri-Erewa) and other stakeholders to review the issue.