By Fortune Abang, Joy Kaka
Abuja, Sept 16, 2019
Nigeria’s Consul-General in Johannesburg, Godwin Adama, says 320 Nigerians have been registered to be evacuated from South Africa on Tuesday Sept. 17.
Adama disclosed this in a telephone interview with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Abuja, while giving update on plans to evacuate the second batch of Nigerians.
The Consul-General, who said that the flight would be leaving South Africa around 6 p.m on Tuesday, added that the number of Nigerians willing to come back home following the attacks had increased to over 1000.
News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the first batch of 187 Nigerians willing to return were transported back home from South Africa on Wednesday Sept. 11.
The envoy said the evacuation process was difficult, adding that proper documentation was ongoing to transport those willing to return home as the number keeps increasing daily.
“More Nigerians are still coming to register; delay was due to compilation of names and in order to .tell the airline operators about our arrangement.
“We register over 100 intending returnees every day and as we talk now, they are over 1000; they are increasing every day.
“Already, we have 320 names so far registered in the manifest and the next evacuation will be tomorrow, Tuesday at 6p.m.,” he said.
The envoy also said that the flight had to be scheduled for Tuesday to ensure hitch-free flight.
“We also wanted to ensure that we have more than enough passengers; we do not want more seats to be empty as previous evacuation.
“We have liaised with the authorities now; we have held joint meeting with the host immigration service and other protocol. So, we are all on the same page,” he added.
The Chairman of Air Peace, Chief Allen Onyema, had volunteered to release aircraft, free of charge, for evacuation of Nigerians willing to return home following the xenophobic attacks.
“Air Peace is willing to support the Nigerian government’s efforts in this matter by deploying our aircraft to evacuate Nigerians back home,” Onyema said.
Meanwhile, Mrs Abike Dabiri-Erewa, the Executive Chairman/CEO, Nigerians in Diaspora Commission (NIDCOM), has urged state governments to ensure proper reintegration of returnees from South Africa into the society.
Dabiri-Erewa made the appeal at a World News Conference in Abuja on Monday.
She said that the second batch of 319 returnees would be leaving South Africa for Nigeria on Tuesday.
Dabiri-Erewa said that the number of returnees would depend on those who registered to return, adding that the process would be continuous.
The NIDCOM Chief said that the first batch, which included 30 children, who were profiled arrived in the country on Sept. 11 in a state-by-state basis.
“We expect the state governments to take responsibility for their citizens that have returned.
”We have the contacts of the returnees which would be communicated to their respective states.
“The returnees are not criminals but very hardworking Nigerians, who have lost everything they ever worked for in South Africa.
“Their only crime is being black and Nigerian,” she said.
The NIDCOM boss said that among the returnees were fathers separated from their children and a widow with four children, who had already been offered scholarship.
“Each returnee got a SIM card and airtime to last two months and some money for transportation.
“The Bank of Industry has the contacts of these returnees and would contact them for soft loans.
“As returnees settle in, we are going to profile them and do a need assessment for them,” she said.
She added that the bank would reach out to the returnees who had been documented.
According to her, a cell phone number has been given to the returnees by which to contact the bank for the assistance they were promised.
Speaking on compensation for Nigerians and policy decisions which had been demanded, she said it would be taken up at the ministerial level.
She recalled that the president had directed the Minister of Foreign Affairs to continue engagements with his counterparts and other agencies in South Africa.
She praised President Muhammadu Buhari for giving the directive for Nigerians to be evacuated from South Africa and the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Onyeama for showing leadership.
She also lauded the Chairman of Air Peace airline for volunteering to bring Nigerians home free of charge.
She commended the Nigerian Consul General in South Africa for opening his doors to the returnees and getting them accommodation in hotels.
Dabiri-Erewa, who thanked Nigerians for their support, said that the moment called for show of love and unity irrespective of what part of Nigeria they come from.
Abike-Dabiri did not leave out communication giants, Airtel and MTN in her exaltation, as she thanked them for providing the returnees with cellphones, airtime and data.
She appealed to other corporate bodies, in the country to help the returnees settle in.