Aidoghie Paulinus, Abuja
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has explained why 178 Nigerians were evacuated from South Africa on Wednesday instead of the 313 persons the Air Peace Airline was initially billed to convey to Lagos.
This comes as the Ministry dispelled reports that some of the returnees were arrested at the O R Tambo International Airport, Johannesburg, by the South African Immigration upon preparation to return to the country.
An official of the Ministry who spoke with Daily Sun on condition of anonymity said what happened was that some Nigerians only withdrew when the South African Immigration insisted on biometrics and consent letters from spouses for those traveling with children.
According to the official, “We were supposed to come with 313 Nigerians. But when we got to the airport, the South African Immigration insisted on biometrics. There were speculations that those leaving will not be allowed to enter South Africa again. Some people were discouraged and withdrew voluntarily not to continue with the journey.
“Secondly, the case of those that were supposed to travel with their families: The Immigration requested for letters of consent. Those without the letters of their spouses were not cleared,” the ministry official said.
Meanwhile, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Onyeama, has said that the second batch of the evacuation exercise will begin soon.
Kimiebi Imomotimi Ebienfa of the Crises Monitoring and Public Communications Division, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, in a statement made available to Daily Sun in Abuja, said Onyeama gave the assurance while receiving 178 Nigerians who voluntarily returned to the country on Wednesday evening.
Ebienfa said Onyeama commended the Chairman and Management of Air Peace Airlines for the successful evacuation of the first batch of Nigerians from Johannesburg.
Onyeama who was represented by the Acting Director, Southern African Affairs Division, Mr Chuks Chikezie Jonathan, hailed the laudable initiative by the Chairman of Air Peace Airlines, Chief Allen Onyema, assurimg that that the Federal Government will not relent in its efforts to support and protect lives and property of Nigerians in diaspora.
“The Minister of Foreign Affairs also promised that the second batch of the evacuation exercise will commence soonest after working out necessary modalities with the Nigerian Mission in South Africa,” Ebienfa said.
The Minister, however, appealled to Nigerians in South Africa to remain calm and patient, adding that the Federal Government is engaging all relevant stakeholders towards finding permanent measures to the unfortunate xenophobic attacks on Nigerians.