Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye, Abuja
The Federal Government has called on the 16 state governors whose citizens were among the first batch of 187 Nigerians that were evacuated from South Africa as a result of xenophobic attacks.
Chairman/CEO of the Nigerian Diaspora Commission, Abike Dabiri-Erewa, while giving updates on the returnees at a press conference on Tuesday, stressed that they were not criminals as alleged by the South Africans but hardworking Nigerians who lost all they had including businesses just for being blacks and being Nigerians.
She said: “We have profiled them according to their states and we expect the governors to take responsibility for their citizens that have returned.
“I am going to stressed one thing, those who returned are not criminals, in fact they are very hardworking Nigerians and have lost everything they have ever worked for in South Africa.
“So their only crime is being black and being Nigerian. We had father’s separated from their children, we have a widow with four children who just had to come back home. They are already offers for scholarships for her children.”
The NIDCOM CEO said those that return already for SIM card and air time that will last about two months and some money for transportation.
Among the returnees are over 30 children and a widow who has four children with Ogun State having the highest number of 30, second largest is Imo with 28 while Kogi and Benue have the least number of one each.
The states of returnees are – Abia – 7, Anambra 13, Benue 1, Delta 15, Ebonyi 2, Edo 13, Ekiti 6 and Enugu 7.
Others are Imo 28, Kogi 1, Kwara 3, Lagos 7, Ogun 30, Osun 6, Ondo 6 and Oyo 23.
She said her commission is already communicating with every state listed and the information have been sent to them but they will take the final decision, adding that the widow with four children is from Ondo State and government of the state is already trying to ensure the children are back in school.
The NIDCOM chair said the states are expected to have their representatives on ground to receive their indigenes.
According to Dabiri-Erewa , the returnees are already being profiled to get soft loans from the Bank of Industry (BOI).
“As I speak with you now the bank of industry has their contacts and will be calling them to come for the soft loans. Those are the immediate plans for them. But as they settled in we are going to profile them and do a need assessment because somebody might want to trade and you are saying go and do hairdressing. There is also a number for just the returnees to reach the bank of industry.
Dabiri-Erewa added that a lot of people have also offered counseling, entrepreneurship training which the commission was compiling and the returnees will also be contacted and link up with these offers.
She commended President Muhammadu Buhari for giving the instructions that Nigerians should be evacuated from South Africa, the minister of foreign affairs, Geoffrey Onyeama for showing leadership and the chairman of Air Peace, Allen Onyema for immediately offering to evacuate the volunteer returnees, the Nigerian Consul General in South Africa who opened his doors for the returnees to sleep and later got them a hotel and treated them good, Airtel for the phones and airtime, MTN for supporting the returnees with airtime, data among others.
She called on other Nigerians and corporate bodies to follow suit.”
Dabiri-Erewa said another set of 319 are expected back Tuesday evening and will be warmly welcome as directed by President Buhari.
She said the list containing details of the returnees will be forwarded to the various states to ensure proper reintegration.
She added: “This is the time to show ourselves love and unity, it doesn’t matter what part of Nigeria you come from, we are one united Nigeria and the love and unity, the sense of togetherness was very prominent in this case, where we were being externally attacked.”
Dabiri-Erewa assured that any Nigerian anywhere in the world, the government under President Buhari is determined that you will be protected.
“Any Nigerian any where in the world be hardworking, be law abiding and whether you are abroad or home be rest assured that government protection and welfare is guaranteed anywhere in the world.”
On the issue of compensation, she said it was a policy issue that will be decided by the minister of foreign affairs.