No fewer than 319 Nigerians will be evacuated from South Africa on Tuesday.
The PUNCH learnt on Sunday that arrangements for the evacuation would be tidier than the previous one, which was done on Wednesday.
The Federal Government had on Wednesday evacuated 187 Nigerians from South Africa following xenophobic attacks by its citizens on Africans.
The Wednesday flight was delayed by hitches introduced by South African officials, who insisted that some of the evacuated Nigerians did not have travel documents.
The 187 returnees were the first batch of the 640 Nigerians, who registered for evacuation following the xenophobic attacks. They arrived at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Lagos at 9:34pm on Wednesday.
In an interview with The PUNCH on the telephone on Sunday, the Chairman, Nigerians in the Diaspora Commission, Abike Dabiri-Erewa, explained that the list of passengers was being updated.
She said that the necessary travel documents would be given to the intending returnees and other immigration issues addressed to ensure a smooth evacuation process.
She noted, “We are still looking at 319. We have 319 registered for the next flight, but the list is still being updated. For the flight, we are looking at Tuesday or Wednesday so that proper documentation would be done. We don’t want a situation where the plane will return half-empty with few passengers.”
When contacted, the Consul-General, Nigerian High Commission in South Africa, Godwin Adama, explained that he was still compiling the list, noting that he could not speak immediately.
The President of South Africa, Cyril Ramaphosa, on Sunday sent three officials to President Muhammadu Buhari and heads of six other African countries to deliver messages of solidarity to them over the xenophobic attacks in his country.
A statement on the verified twitter page of the Presidency of South Africa, @PresidencyZA, on Sunday said the team, comprising Mr Jeff Radebe, Ambassador Kingsley Mmabolo and Dr Khulu Mbatha, would also visit Niger Republic, Ghana, Senegal, Tanzania, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Zambia.
The statement noted that the envoys had begun their assignment on Saturday and had departed South Africa to deliver the messages.
Many Africans, including Nigerians living in South Africa, had come under xenophobic attacks. In the latest attack, about 12 persons were reportedly killed, while businesses belonging to foreigners were destroyed in and around Johannesburg, the country’s largest city.
Ramaphosa’s spokesperson, Khusela Diko, in a statement on Sunday, stated, “A team of special envoys appointed by President Cyril Ramaphosa began their assignment yesterday, September 14, 2019, and departed South Africa to deliver messages of solidarity to several heads of state and government across Africa.
“The special envoys will deliver a message from President Ramaphosa regarding the incidents of violence that recently erupted in some parts South Africa, which have manifested in attacks on foreign nationals and destruction of property.
“The special envoys are tasked with reassuring fellow African countries that South Africa is committed to the ideals of pan-African unity and solidarity. The special envoys will also reaffirm South Africa’s commitment to the rule of law.”
The latest step by the South African President on the xenophobic attacks in his country came barely one day after he was booed in Harare, the capital city of Zimbabwe, when he was giving a speech at the funeral of the former President of Zimbabwe, Robert Mugabe.
At the funeral, which was held on Saturday, Ramaphosa, whose condolence speech was interrupted by jeers from the crowd, apologised for the attacks in his country.
“I stand before you as a fellow African to express my regret and apologise for what has happened in our country,” he said after one of the organisers tried to calm the crowd.
He, however, insisted that South Africans were not xenophobic and that the country was making efforts to deal with the causes of the violence.
A former Minister of Foreign Affairs, Prof Bolaji Akinyemi, called on the Federal Government to drag its South African counterpart before the International Court of Justice for its failure to cater for Nigerian citizens resident in South Africa.
In a statement on Sunday, Akinyemi said the xenophobic attacks on Nigerians and other immigrants were acts sponsored by the South African state in violation of Article 2, paragraph 2 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.
He cited a statement credited to the South African Minister of International Relations, Dr Grace Pandor, that Nigerians were drug dealers and also the one by the Deputy Police Minister, Bongani Mkongi, that they (South Africans) fought for their land and that the land would not be surrendered to immigrants.
Akinyemi recalled the South African immigration service officials held Nigerian immigrants hostage by refusing to allow them to be evacuated.
He stated, “I have come to the conclusion that the xenophobic attacks on Nigerians and other immigrants are acts sponsored or condoned by the South African state in violation of Article 2, paragraph 2 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.”
He added that South Africa violated Article 2, paragraph 1 of “the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights; United Nations Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Racial Discrimination and the International Convention on the Protection of Migrant Workers.
“I, therefore, call on Nigeria to sue South Africa before the International Court of Justice for failure in its duty of care and protection of Nigerian citizens resident there. I furthermore call on Nigeria to file complaints against specific South African officials at the International Criminal Court for aiding and abetting the xenophobic attacks.”
The Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Air Peace, Mr Allen Onyema, on Sunday said the airline was ready to evacuate more Nigerians as long as they were willing to return from South Africa.
Onyema said the exercise would continue as soon as the airline received signal from the Nigerian High Commission.
According to him, the report that the airline has suspended the evacuation of Nigerians from South Africa is not true.
Onyema said, “Air Peace will bring back to our country all those Nigerians who are willing to return and we will continue to bring them back until the last evacuee is taken out of South Africa.
“I learnt from the Nigerian High Commission in South Africa that about 1,000 Nigerians are willing to return home. So what Air Peace has agreed with the commission is that when it finishes with the documentation, settled with immigration, then it will notify Air Peace, which will deploy aircraft to bring them back.”
The Chairman, Senate Committee on Cooperation and Integration in Africa/NEPAD, Chimaroke Nnamani, on his part, urged the Federal Government to “create a comprehensive programme of rehabilitation for the victims of the xenophobic attacks in South Africa.”
Nnamani, a former governor of Enugu State, who made the call in a statement in Abuja on Sunday, said such an arrangement would enable the returnees to be fully reintegrated into society.
He said the private sector should collaborate with the government for the purpose of rehabilitating the returnees.
The senator also urged government at all levels to improve the economy to address migration issues and halt the penchant of youths to seek greener pastures in other countries.
A provincial pastor of The Redeemed Christian Church of God, Gabriel Adarabioyo, blamed the high rate of migration of Nigerians on the failure of successive governments to make the country a place for a meaningful life.
Adarabioyo, who is the pastor-in-charge of RCCG Ekiti Province Seven, Ado Ekiti, urged the country’s leaders to deliberately formulate and execute policies that would cater for the country’s large population so that Nigerians could live, work and be contented in the country.
The cleric, who spoke with journalists in Ado Ekiti as part of the activities that marked the first anniversary of the province, on Sunday, advised the government on the need to do the needful to make Nigerians stay back and make the country attractive to foreigners.
Adarabioyo, who condemned the xenophobic attacks on Nigerians in South Africa, sought plans for the returnees, adding, “Reprisals in Nigeira would not be the best option”.
He said, “Nigeria is a complicated nation. The church has been trying its best, but the population of the country is overwhelming. There is little the church can do if the leaders fail to act rightly.
“This makes it imperative for Nigerians to pray and seek divine intervention over the challenges facing the country. It is only God that can save the country.”
Meanwhile, the House of Representatives has summoned the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Onyeama; the Nigerian Ambassador to South Africa, Kabiru Bala and Dabiri-Erewa.
The House had suspended the plan to reconvene over the xenophobic attacks on Nigerians and other nationals in South Africa.
Instead, the lawmakers had summoned the officials to brief the parliament on the measures being taken by the Nigerian government on the matter.
Speaking with one of our correspondents on the telephone on Sunday, the Vice-Chairman, House Committee on Foreign Affairs, Obinna Onwubuariri, said the minister failed to show up at the meeting scheduled for Wednesday last week.
Onwubuariri said, “We were supposed to meet with the minister of foreign affairs. Unfortunately that day we waited, but the minister did not come. The Speaker tried to put a call to the minister, the call was not connecting. Later in the evening or the next day, he eventually got the minister on the line and said the appointment would be rescheduled.”