More than 300 Nigerians on Wednesday returned home following xenophobic attacks on foreigners in South Africa.
The returning Nigerians arrived at the Murtala Mohammed International Airport in Lagos at about 7.20pm (Local time), after the first batch of nearly 200 arrived last week.
They arrived aboard an Air Peace flight from Johannesburg as part of President Muhammadu Buhari’s order to evacuate Nigerians willing to return home.
Chidiebere Amadi was one of the over 300 Nigerians who returned. He told Voice of Nigeria he decided to return because he no longer felt safe after businesses and properties belonging to foreigners were destroyed in the Xenophobia attacks.
“I have a little shop where I sell clothes. When the attackers started coming in group, I decided to run for my life. So they used that opportunity and took everything in the shop. So I felt frustrated and don’t know what to do. That’s why I decided to come back. I know in Nigeria I can find something else to do and will have peace and be happy,” Amadi said.
The head of Nigerians in Diaspora Commission, Mrs Abike Dabiri-Erewa, says everything is being put in place for Nigerians returning from South Africa to have a warm reception.
She told Voice of Nigeria that the returnees would get every support needed to be properly re-integrated.
“They are getting a warm reception, some cash to take them home, sim cards and phones. Lagos is also supporting them and Bank of Industry will be giving them soft loans. We will keep up with them. In about two weeks we are going to call them again to have a needs assessments meeting, ”Mrs Dabiri-Erewa stated.
Before the latest batch of Nigerians arrived, South Africa sent its special envoy, Jeff Radebe, to Nigeria and expressed regret over the Xenophobia attacks. He said South Africa remained committed to peace and integration of the continent.
“Without these non-violent action we took by evacuating Nigerians, nobody would have come here to apologise to Nigerians because evacuation is a bad signal for any country. That was why South Africa wanted to stop us from evacuating in the first place because flights are now going half empty into the country,” Chief Executive Officer of Air Peace, Mr. Allen Onyeama told newsmen in Lagos.
Nigerians fleeing the violence were airlifted in partnership with Nigerian privately owned airline Air Peace.
“A lot of gory things happened to these people. So this is a lifeline for them and they grabbed it with both arms. Most of them are very happy coming home,” Onyeama said.