After initial hiccups and 15 hours delay, the aircraft conveying the first batch of Nigerians totalling 189 from South Africa touched down at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Lagos last night.
Air Peace Boeing 777 aircraft which left Johannesburg Airport at 2pm as against the earlier scheduled 9am due to slow checking in and clearance procedures by immigration arrived at 9.35pm.
Early evacuation of Nigerians from South Africa due to the xenophobic attacks in that country was stalled by the South African Immigration services
Chairman of the Diaspora Commission, Abike Dabiri-Erewa, said the South African Immigration services had insisted on conducting another round of documentation on the returnees.
She said this situation caused the delay in the take off of the Air Peace flight which was originally scheduled for 9.30am today.
Air Peace flight, which left Nigeria 11:30 pm on September 10, arrived OR Tambo International Airport, Johannesburg by 4am and Nigerians turned up in their hundreds for the airlift. The Nigerian High Commission was reported to have prepared travel documents for the returnees but the South African Immigration stalled the process and wanted to know how the Nigerians came into the country and began to arrest them, an official of the commission disclosed.
The second batch would depart Johannesburg for Lagos tomorrow.
According to NIDCOM boss, the returnees were 231 males and 86 females.
She said they would be profiled upon arrival and given stipends to move to their respective states.
Dabiri-Erewa said the Federal Government would also support those willing to acquire skills in collaboration with the Bank of Industry.
President Muhammadu Buhari had on Monday ordered the immediate evacuation of Nigerians who had indicated interest to leave South Africa after receiving report from the Special Envoy deployed to the country.
The ministry had earlier stated that 640 Nigerians had registered and willing to return.
Following the xenophobic attack on Nigerians in South Africa, Mr. Allen Onyeama, the Proprietor of Air Peace, volunteered to send an aircraft to evacuate Nigerians willing to return free of charge.
The process which was earlier scheduled to commence on September 6 ran into a hitch when it was discovered that most Nigerians willing to return did not have valid passports or travel documents to complete immigration formalities.