Chinelo Obogo and Lawrence Enyoghasu
The first batch of returnees from South Africa has arrived at the NAHCO cargo wing of the Murlata Mohammed International Airport, Lagos.
The Air Peace Boeing 777 conveying a total number of 187 Nigerians including two infants, arrived at exactly 21:34 after a 15 hours deliberate delay by the South African authorities
The returnees were elated as they broke into victory songs while raising their right hands in solidarity. As they sang they rushed to embrace the hands of Air Peace boss, Allen Onyeama, and the chairman of Nigerian Diaspora Commission, Abike Dabiri who also could not hide her joy at seeing the returnees
“It is an emotional one for me. I am happy they are back and they also are happy they are back. There is no place like home. You could see the love and solidarity of purpose. We Nigerians can’t be moved by South Africans. The 15-hour delay was to check Nigeria and see if they could deter us,” she stated.
She added that the second batch would also commence soon. “We are supposed to bring 317 but the South Africans allowed us to bring just 178. But Air Peace have assured us that they are going to come free of charge as soon as they are cleared,” she stated.
Meanwhile, one of the returnees, simply identified as Alima, confirmed that due to xenophobia, the air ticket to Nigeria had increased from N200,000 to N600,000 for a flat rate. The dreadlock-wearing man added that some South Africans were actually begging them not to go immediately they saw that they were offered free flight tickets to return home.
“They accused us of many things including drugs peddling. But the truth is that they are lazy and jealous. They used us to train their people and discard us when they are done. It was not an experience I pray to have. I saw a friend burnt to death while I hid inside. I could not help,” he stated.