Following strange moves by the South African government to frustrate the evacuation of Nigerians from that country after the xenophobic attacks, the number of Nigerians who made it back to Nigeria on Wednesday night drastically reduced.
Apparently to frustrate the airlift, South Africa introduced new immigration requirement which many of the Nigerians who wanted to leave could not fulfill. Some of the returnees have been forced by the new regulations to leave their families behind.
Only about 187 adults and children successfully returned aboard an Air Peace flight which touched down at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Lagos at 9.43 pm as against the 320 Nigerians who were expected back home in the first batch of the airlift.
One of the returnees, who identified himself as Uche Victor told journalists at the airport that he left his Cameroonian wife and a young daughter behind.
“I’m bleeding because I left my wife and baby but I have to come back because my mother cries for me to return. If something happens to me, she will suffer.
“I left my business. I came back with nothing. South Africans believe all Nigerians are drug pushers, but I don’t know the colour of any drug,” Victor said.
Victor, who said he left Nigeria for South Africa in 2007 explained that the attacks were in anger against the government and that the attackers would soon direct their anger on whites in the country.
According to him, the flight would have returned earlier but the South African government made it difficult.
Another returnee who gave his name as Onuoha said a lot of Nigerians were still stranded as they could not return with their properties while Aliu Saheed, a returnee from Osun State said he returned to Nigeria with nothing after his shop was burgled.
The Chairman, Nigerian Diaspora Commission, Mrs. Abike Dabiri-Erewa said there was 15 hours delay before the flight left South Africa as authorities in the country brought new immigration rules before the affected Nigerians could be allowed to board the aircraft.
Dabiri-Erewa said the Federal Government is giving N40,000 worth of airtime to last the returnees for two months as well as a stipend of N10,000 each for transportation to their various destinations.
She disclosed further that there were plans for the Bank of Industry to provide some money for the returnees to start small businesses.