Aidoghie Paulinus, Abuja
Nigerians affected by xenophobic attacks in South Africa, have started registering to leave the country for safety in Nigeria. Saturday Sun gathered that as at Friday morning, over 200 Nigerians have documented their details to join the free flight provided by Air Peace.
The plan by the airline to begin the evacuation of Nigerians in South Africa from yesterday, September 6 however suffered a setback as majority of those interested in the process have expired passports while several are still trooping in to register to flee the country.
Mr Allen Onyema, the Chairman of Air Peace, said in a statement in Lagos on Friday that most of the potential returnees were yet to renew their documents.
He said the airline had already placed its Boeing 777 aircraft on standby and was only awaiting the go-ahead from the government.
“The Air Peace flight to South Africa will take off from the Lagos Airport and also return to Lagos. As earlier stated, the take off could be Sept 9 or Sept 10. This is because the Nigerians in South Africa have to obtain travel certificates because many of them do not have travel documents and their passports have expired.
“Air Peace has placed its aircraft, Boeing 777 for the flight since Sept. 3, but the Nigerian High Commission needed time to register the Nigerians billed to travel.
And, they are already doing that in Johannesburg and Pretoria.”
Onyema described the attacks against Nigerians and other Africans in South Africa as unfortunate, especially with the alleged tacit support being given to the perpetrators by the authorities. He advised Nigerians without legal documents in South Africa to take advantage of the evacuation flight to return to the country.
Another twist to the entire scenario was accusation by some Nigerians registering to return home that officials of the Nigerian Consulate General in Johannesburg and the High Commission in Pretoria, were fleecing them of some of what was left on them to the tune of $300 per head. A top official of the High Commission however said he believed the allegation was made against members of the Nigerian community helping out with the registration of those willing to return home, rather than embassy officials.
The accusation followed Onyema’s warning to Nigerians in South Africa not to part with any money in their bid to get a seat on the flight out of the country. But reacting to the development, the Consul General of Nigeria in Johannesburg, Godwin Adama, said the accusation was totally false and a distraction to the officials.
Adama further said he received similar information regarding Nigerians in South Africa of plans to extort themselves, but the Mission had been up and doing to monitor such occurrence.
“This is not true and a complete fabrication. The letter informing Nigerians of the information clearly stated that it is free and no money is involved. The proprietor of Air Peace informed me that he got information that this was happening among Nigerians and that I should re-emphasize that it is free. We have done that and monitoring the process. But on our own, we have not seen anything in that light. It is just a distraction,” Adama said.
Further bemoaning the allegation, Adama said the missions were open and such information could be confirmed. “We have got serious issues at our hand to be distracted with such allegations at this moment. Let’s try to be sensitive and not allow distractions that are bent on destroying relations between the two countries.
“We know the challenges facing Nigerians, some of whom may not even have anything to travel with. We are clearly told by Chief Onyema that the flight is 100 percent free and communicated this in clear terms. Please, let’s avoid controversy at this stage. We have too much on our hands.”