Update on repatriated Nigerians from South Africa
Following the recent attacks on Nigerian nationals in South Africa, the government on September 9th began plans to evacuate citizens who were willing to return. Prior to this, the President had on Thursday, September 5th, sent Ahmed Rufai Abubakar, Director-General, National Intelligence Agency (DGNIA) as his Special Envoy to South Africa, to convey the country’s displeasure at the killings.
Whereas the government of South Africa had two days ago, tendered a formal apology to Nigerians, via its special envoy - Mr Jeff Radebe who had come to see President Buhari in company of the South African High Commissioner to Nigeria, Mr Bobby Moroe, and two other officials.
According to the Chairman of the Nigerians in Diaspora Commission, Abike Dabiri, 640 Nigerians were registered to return, with 320 persons making up the first batch scheduled to return on Wednesday 11th September (last week). Meanwhile, only 187 returnees were spotted at the airport on the night of their return.
Recall that news reports last week had revealed that logistics for the evacuation process would be provided by Fly Air Peace, which has been responsible for the evacuation process so far. A total of 319 returnees were expected yesterday. Processes to rehabilitate these returnees and reintegrate them into the Nigerian system are still ongoing. Well-meaning Nigerians have also come out to offer their support.
Speaking about the return of Nigerians from South Africa, Joy Kalio says it was a joyous moment for them. “They were very happy and they were like ‘we can’t die in South Africa. It’s better we get back home’. They also appreciate federal government’s effort and the airline that brought them back without asking for money from them. From what they said, Nigerians were killed, cars were burnt, properties were destroyed, and this was a first-hand experience for many of them and they got tired of the situation since they felt they couldn’t cope with the problem.”
Also in the studio are two returnees. One of them, called Tuss (not his real name) recounts his experience in South Africa.
“I was in South Africa since 2015. I went there to study and after that I decided to stay there. I opened a game house where people come to play snookers. I wanted to do business so that afterwards I could engage in Masters programme. They were receptive and I thought it was much love. But some people in government are getting it wrong. People would just come burn shops that sell stuffs cheaper than other stores. But after the looting life becomes harder and they would lie that it is because of Nigerians that sell drugs. They will claim that there’s no job because Nigerians have taken over their jobs.”
Tuss’ shop was looted as well but he escaped because a native taxi driver had warned him in advance not to open shop because crisis was looming. With nothing to hold on to, Tuss came back to Nigeria. He claims that the burning and looting of shops were usually done at night.
Dotun says he left Nigeria in 2009. He also compliments Tuss statement that Nigerians were well received in South Africa. “As a graduate who was doing nothing here in Nigeria, I decided to move over to South Africa. getting there, I couldn’t secure a job, so I had to start working as a security officer. I saved some money and later brought my wife with me to South Africa. when she got there, we started business of bring clothes, phones, laptops, and selling these to make ends meet. We had two children there and they are South African citizens. The last problem in that country was in 2017 and I had to bring my family back to Nigeria.
What can State Governments do to support the Federal Government in rehabilitating and reintegrating returnees?
To get more on the lives of Tuss and Dotun, watch the video below and don’t forget to leave your comments
Nigeria Info FM Guests:
- Mr Dotun & Mr Tuss (anonymous) - Nigerian Returnees from South Africa
- Joy Kalio - Our Reporter/Aviation Correspondent
- Adetola Olubajo - President, Nigerian Union South Africa (NUSA)
By Jude Chukwuemeka