Xenophobia: 640 Nigerians has indicated interest to return from South Africa

Approximately 640 Nigerians had indicated interest to return home in South Africa.

The Nigeria in Diaspora Commission Chairman, Abike Dabiri-Erewa, announced this to reporters on Monday following a closed-door session in Abuja with Senate Committee on Diaspora.

The announcement came days after a related meeting with the commission was held by Foreign Affairs Minister, Geoffrey Onyeama.

The series of meetings come after the South Africa’s xenophobic assaults that destroyed foreigners ‘ properties, including Nigerians.

President Muhammadu Buhari had sent a special envoy, Ahmed Abubakar, to South Africa to meet with President Cyril Ramophosa on the issue. Mr Abubakar has since returned to the country and has briefed the president on the outcome of the meeting.

The president had also ordered the evacuation of willing Nigerians from South Africa.

A private airline from Nigeria, Air Peace, volunteered to evacuate Nigerians ready to return from South Africa.

While the process was stopped owing to some of the returnees ‘ expired travel passports, Ms. Dabiri-Erewa said the returnees would soon be back.

“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.

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“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,” she said.

The South African Nigerian High Commission had said previously that more than 500 Nigerians would begin coming back from Wednesday.

Ms Dabiri-Erewa clarified that for returners with expired passports, emergency travel documents will be provided. As Nigeria will continue to demand compensation from the South African government, she also said returners will be encouraged to enroll in entrepreneurial programs.

“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 GEEP programme that we encourage them to enrol in, small scale entrepreneurial programme with the Bank of Industry, Special Intervention Programme also.

“In the meantime, we continue to demand compensation for Nigerians that have been attacked in South Africa.”

Ms Dabiri-Erewa further revealed that eight police officers have been charged to court for their participation in killing Nigerians in South Africa and four more have been detained lately.

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In South Africa, she also encouraged Nigerians to stay calm and avoid volatile regions.

She said the government was still waiting for the compensation outcomes for the Nigerian, Elizabeth Chukwu, who was murdered while attending a meeting in South Africa.

“They promised us to get the result. Also, there must be consequences for actions. If policemen or your people go out killing people and 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.

“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 its policemen to court. For this particular issue, no life was lost but properties were damaged.

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“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.”

The Committee Chairman, Ajibola Bashiru, for his part, said that parliamentary communications were being made through the Interparliamentary Union to guarantee that the problem was raised at parliamentary level.

“These matters are more of the executive level regarding the issues of rule of law and political will. In as much as we are relating to 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 a briefing from our executive arm and we give whatever legislative support that may be required in order to ensure that they carry out that mandate,” he said.

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