Kenneth Udeh, Abuja
The Chairman/Chief Executive Officer of the Nigerian Diaspora Commission Abike Dabiri-Erewa has said that 640 Nigerians have voluntarily registered to return home following the current upsurge in xenophobic attacks in South Africa. She further stated that the commission expects that more Nigerians would register in the coming days.
Abike, who stated this on Monday when she appeared before the Senate Committee on Diaspora, said that two airplanes would convey the 640 Nigerians in a couple of days.
She revealed that eight South African policemen were currently facing court charges over their involvement in the killing of Nigerians in South Africa. She corroborated the statement of the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Onyeama, that no Nigerian life was lost in the current attack.
She noted that the special envoys despatched to Johannesburg by President Muhammadu Buhari had already returned to Nigeria and were currently briefing President Buhari.
She explained that the president would take a decisive decision based on the report of the special envoy.
Dabiri, who briefed journalists after a meeting with the Senate panel led by Senator Bashir Ajibola, said Nigeria would not relent in its demand for compensation from the South African authorities for the affected Nigerians.
She said: “As I speak with you now, we have 640 Nigerians voluntarily registered to come home and they will be home in a couple of days and we believe that more will still be coming to register. Two planes will convey them. The envoy will be briefing the president. When we receive the first two batches, we will know how many more will come.
“With the envoy’s briefing to the president, we will be having everything in place. In the meantime, we continue to demand compensation for Nigerians that have been attacked in South Africa. Also, we know that eight policemen have been charged to court for their involvement in killings of Nigerians in South Africa and four more have been recently arrested.
“We are demanding that these investigations must end so that we can know exactly what is happening. As it is now, the move made by the government, Nigerians in South Africa are very excited about it. We continue to reiterate Mr. President’s directive that no Nigerian should be treated anyhow anywhere in the world. We assure Nigerians wherever they are that this government will continue to come to their aid.
“As for Nigerians in South Africa, we advise them to remain calm. There are some shops in volatile areas which should not be opened while we continue to engage to get justice for all Nigerians affected. We continue to demand compensation from South Africa for what has happened to Nigerians.
“Also remember the Nigerian woman that was killed that went for a conference, Mrs. Elizabeth Chukwu; we are still waiting for the results of the compensation. They promised us to get the result. Also, there must be consequences for actions. If policemen or your people go out killing people ad nothing happens to them, it will continue to happen. So South Africa should tell their people to put a stop to it. We believe a lot of education and awareness need to go to the South Africans on the street who believe that the foreigners are their problem.”
On Nigerians with expired passports, the Diaspora chairman stated that the commission would facilitate the provision of emergency travel certificates for those with expired passports and that the Federal government had put in place empowerment programmes for the returnees.
She said: “They went on their own and have volunteered to come back. They belong to states as well but on the part of the Federal government, we have the GIP programme that we encourage them to enrol in, small scale entrepreneurial programme with the Bank of Industry, Special Intervention Programme that we encourage them to enrol with.
“The South African government has said that this will stop but their government needs to show the political will that it will stop and to do so, prosecute perpetrators of the crime. If you say cases are in court, let the cases end. Killing is a criminal offence and should be treated as such.
“Eight South African policemen are in court over previous killings in South Africa.
“Four policemen were arrested and charged to court over the killing of a Nigerian in his house a while ago and in the case of Mrs Chukwu, the case has been made a high- profile case and is being handled by a brigadier-general. We are saying let these cases end so we’ll know the result.
That’s the first time that South Africa is charging it’s policemen to court. For this particular issue, no life was lost but properties were damaged.
Senate Committee chairman on Diaspora Senator Ajibola while answering questions confirmed that there was contact between the legislature in Nigerian and South Africa.
He said: “There is the inter-parliamentary union and communication is being made to ensure the issue is being raised at parliamentary level. These matters are more of the executive level regarding the issue of rule of law and political will.
“In as much as we are relating with the parliament of South Africa, we must know clearly that this is a turf that executive action is much needed. What we do is get briefing from our executive arm and we give whatever legislative support that might be required in order to ensure that they carry out that mandate.”