Official: 640 Nigerians set to return from South Africa

Abike Dabiri-Erewa

About 640 Nigerians in South Africa have been registered to return home.

The Chairman of Nigerians in Diaspora Commission, Abike Dabiri-Erewa, disclosed this to journalists on Monday after a closed-door meeting with the Senate Committee on Diaspora in Abuja.

The announcement came days after the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Onyeama, had a similar meeting with the committee.

The series of meetings comes on the hills of xenophobic attacks in South Africa which left properties of foreigners, including Nigerians, destroyed.

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 Nigerian private airline, Air Peace, has volunteered to evacuate Nigerians willing to return from South Africa.

Although the process was suspended due to expired travel passports of some of the returnees, Ms Dabiri-Erewa said the returnees will be home soon.

“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,” she said.

The Nigerian High Commission in South Africa had earlier said over 500 Nigerians would start returning from Wednesday.

Ms Dabiri-Erewa explained that emergency travel documents will be made for returnees with expired passports. She also said returnees will be encouraged to enrol in entrepreneurial programmes as Nigeria will continue to demand compensation from the South African government.

“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 disclosed that eight police officers had been charged to court for their involvement in killings of Nigerians in South Africa and four more were recently arrested.

She also urged Nigerians in South Africa to remain calm and avoid volatile areas.

For the Nigerian, Elizabeth Chukwu, who was killed while attending a conference in South Africa, she said the government was 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 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.

“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.”

On his part, the Chairman of the Committee, Ajibola Bashiru, said parliamentary communications were being made through the Interparliamentary Union to ensure the issue is 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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