More than 300 Nigerians have registered for evacuation from South Africa following the approval given by the Federal Government that those interested in leaving the former apartheid country should indicate interest and be airlifted home free.
The offer followed the xenophobic attacks on Nigerians living in the country.
Spokesperson for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ferdinand Nwonye, said on Friday that over 300 Nigerians had registered for the exercise, adding that the time and date of departure would be disclosed later.
The Chairman of Air Peace, Chief Allen Onyema, on Wednesday provided aircraft to evacuate Nigerians wishing to return home on account of the xenophobic attacks.
Nwonye had said in a statement, “The ministry wishes to inform the general public that following the recent unfortunate xenophobic attacks on foreign nationals, including Nigerians in South Africa, the proprietor of Air Peace Airlines, Chief Allen Onyema, has volunteered to send a plane from September 6 to evacuate Nigerians who wish to return to Nigeria free of charge.
“The general public is hereby advised to inform their relatives in South Africa to take advantage of this laudable gesture.”
Over the years, Nigerians had come under a series of attacks by South Africans with many killed. In the latest incident, which started on Sunday morning, no fewer than three persons had died and over 50 shops and businesses belonging to Nigerians and other nationals destroyed by South Africans.
The latest incident, coupled with the several others in the past, did not only lead to reprisals on South African businesses in Nigeria between Tuesday and Thursday, it had also triggered a major diplomatic row between Nigeria and South Africa.
This led to Nigeria pulling out of the World Economic Summit holding in Cape Town and plans to recall the High Commissioner, Kabiru Bala, while President Muhammadu Buhari had sent a special envoy to South Africa.
The special envoy, Ahmed Abubakar, who is the Director-General of the National Intelligence Agency, was said to have arrived in the OR Tambo Airport on Thursday evening and was scheduled to meet with President Cyril Ramophosa in Pretoria on Friday to express Nigeria’s displeasure at the treatment meted out to Nigerians to the host President during the meeting.
Meanwhile, in its bid to ensure the safety of Nigerians, the Foreign Affairs Ministry advised interested Nigerians to liaise with the High Commission of Nigeria in Pretoria and the Consulate-General of Nigeria in Johannesburg for further arrangements.
Nwonye stated, “They are collating the names and as at the last one hour (3.50pm), they have registered like 300 persons and the meeting of the special envoy is ongoing, the high commissioner is there with him.”