The planned evacuation of stranded Nigerians from South Africa offered by Nigeria’s indigenous airline, Air Peace, which was slated for yesterday, is being delayed because most of the voluntary returnees do not have valid travel documents, Daily Trust gathered yesterday. The chairman of the airline, Allen Onyema, had offered free flights to the Nigerians in support of the federal government’s effort to enable Nigerians in South Africa return home following the resurgence of xenophobic attacks there.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs had confirmed that the airline would evacuate the stranded Nigerians yesterday.
However, it was learnt that those who indicated interest in returning home lacked the requisite valid travel documents and their passports have since expired.
Following the development, it was learnt that the aircraft may take-off on Monday or Tuesday to enable the Nigerian High Commission in South Africa get travel certificates for them. The aircraft is expected to take-off from the Murtala Muhammed International Airport (MMIA), Lagos and return there. “This process may take one or two days as we envisage many people to take advantage of the flight offer to return home”, one of the sources who pleaded anonymity told Daily Trust. It was further gathered that Air Peace had positioned a Boeing 777 aircraft for the flight since Tuesday but the Nigerian High Commission needed time to register the Nigerians billed to travel. “They are already doing that in Johannesburg and Pretoria. As the xenophobic attacks on Nigerians and other Africans worsen, those Nigerians that don’t have legal documents to continue to stay in South Africa are willing to return to their motherland”, the source added. The Consulate General of Nigeria in Johannesburg issued a letter on Thursday directing both legal and illegal Nigerians residing in South Africa to register with the missions in the country to be airlifted today. Yesterday, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Geoffrey Onyeama, disclosed that about 800,000 Nigerians live in South Africa legally. According to an official of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, due to the fact that the registration exercise of those who want to return home is still ongoing, capturing the number of those due to take flights back is still also in the process of being compiled.