The first batch of 187 Nigerians in South Africa returned to Nigeria on Wednesday night after the renewed xenophobic attacks in the former apartheid country.
The returnees – comprising adults, children and infants – joyfully sang the Nigerian National Anthem on arrival.
Concise News understands that the Nigerian government, with the support of Air Peace, aided the return of the Nigerians.
President Muhammadu Buhari, had on September 8, ordered the immediate evacuation of Nigerians who had indicated interest to leave South Africa after receiving report from the Special Envoy deployed to the country.
It was learned that the B777 aircraft, with registration number 5N-BWI, landed at the Cargo Wing of the Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Lagos, at 9.37 p.m. after departing Thambo International Airport, Johannesburg.
They were received by the Chairman of Nigeria Diaspora Commission, Abike Dabiri-Erewa, Air Peace Chairman, Allen Onyema, and representatives from the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), Nigeria Immigration Service and the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria.
Dabiri-Erewa told journalists that more than 600 Nigerians had indicated interest to return from South Africa.
She also said that the government was ready to assist them to settle back in the country through its various social intervention programmes.
According to her, the Bank of Industry had also been mobilised to assist those willing to acquire vocational skills.
Stipends, Dabiri-Erewa said, would be given to these Nigerians to enable them get back to their respective states, while telecommunication company, MTN, will also give them pre-loaded Sim cards of N6,000 to assist them.
Also speaking, the Air Peace boss, Onyema, told newsmen that the airline spent over N300 million to airlift the affected Nigerians.
“We want to send a signal to the world that Nigerians are their brothers’ keepers,” he said.
“I support the Federal Government and President Muhammadu Buhari and this gesture is an assistance to the government to bring our brothers back home.
“We are offering free trip to Nigerians in South Africa to return home after going through the traumatic experience of the attacks.
“Air Peace has said this is free and we are doing it in solidarity with the Federal Government.”
Two of the returnees, Mr John Onuoha from Abia and Jude Anthony from Edo, told newsmen that they were unjustly attacked by South Africans, who destroyed their businesses and property.