It was tales of woes as a 187 Nigerians evacuated from South Africa returned to Nigeria Wednesday 11th September, 2019 due to the xenophobic attacks by South Africans.
After weeks of the attacks, the returnees say they were happy to be back home.
As they disembarked the Airpeace aircraft a Boeing 777-200 which landed at exactly 9.32 at the hajj and cargo section of the Murtala Mohammed International Airport, Lagos, the returnees were in high spirit, praising the airline, the Nigerian Government and the Nigerian consul General for the great efforts made to evacuate them from SA.
Some of them in an interview told journalists that the South Africans were fierce in their attacks against Nigerians, going from house to house, shops to shops, looting and burning whatever they saw as businesses belonging to Nigerians.
Julian Anthony from Edo state who said he was into media production and have been there for 7 years, in SA said, “it was terrible my brother, we barely escape with our lives, we were all scared, they go from home to homes looking for Nigerians. The apartheid in south Africa is still there”
Another returnees Onuoha Chizoba from Abia state who also had been there for 7 years for pastoral work, “the area where we live we felt uncomfortable that the best thing we had to do was to return home, some Nigerians are still there for reasons best known to them”.
“They are killing my people, yesterday another Nigeria die, they tell social media that Nigerian did not die, it is a lie, they are killing Nigerians, they keep them in the mortuary, some are died in the bush”
“Lock up shops they burn all the cars inside, wickedness. “they come together, they start breaking the shops, burning the shops, stealing things”
On getting to the venue for profiling by officials of the Nigerian Immigration Service and during an address by the representative of the FG, Mrs Abike Dabiri-Erewa, the returnees started singing the Nigeria National Anthem to express their gratitude for their safety.
The flight which was expected to arrive at 2pm was delayed in South Africa for over 12 hours as informed received from the Nigeria consulate in SA says the SA Immigration was insisting on another round of documentation.
Chairman, Nigerians in Diaspora Commission, Mrs. Abike Dabiri-Erewa corroborated the information saying that the SA Immigration for no reason was trying to stop Nigerians from leaving thereby frustrating the airlift.
“They were trying to stop the airlift from happening but it has happened and we are happy that Nigerians are back home and so out of 317, Airpeace was able to do 187 and we are glad they are back and President Buhari has ordered that any Nigerians that want to come back should do so voluntarily you could see the joy and beauty of coming home”.
She said the FG had made provision for the returnees to be reintegrated and that the Bank of Industry, BOI, were ready to assist them with skills acquisition and a businesses of their choice.
“We are giving them stipend to help them get back home, sim cards too to each of them”.
Chairman Airpeace, Allen Onyema who flew with the aircraft to and back from SA, said it was a tough journey that on arrival at the Olliver Thambo International Airport in South Africa, the aircraft was kept on ground for hours.
According to him, the consul general was always in touch with them and at a time, it was reported that Nigerians who came for the registration to leave were being arrested and requested to give evidence of their permission to enter the country.
He said he was happy to have assisted fellow Nigerians as seeing the gory pictures and videos of what Nigerians were going through in SA.
“I want to implore all Nigerians to be his/her brother’s keeper and am just thankful to God for giving me the heart for being able to take that decision, it was something I did happily for my nation and in support of the government”.
After profiling by the NIS at the venue of the address by government and the BOI officials, the returnees whose family members came around left.