Xenophobia: Nigeria encourages citizens in South Africa to return on free travel

Air Peace Aircraft
Air Peace Aircraft

The Nigerian government has advised its citizens to “inform their relatives in South Africa to take advantage” of a free return trip to Nigeria.

This is because Air Peace, a Nigerian airline, volunteered to send an aircraft to South Africa to bring back Nigerians willing to return.

This was announced by Ferdinand Nwonye, the spokesperson of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, in a statement on Thursday.

Many Nigerians in South Africa have suffered from the latest xenophobic attacks with many businesses destroyed and looted.

Although at least five people have been killed in the attacks targeting foreigners of African descent, the Nigerian government has said no Nigerians were killed.

The minister of foreign affairs, Geoffery Onyeama, said on Wednesday that Nigeria would not ‘cave in’ on its two demands from South Africa, which are compensation for Nigerians whose properties were destroyed and provision of adequate security for Nigerians in South Africa.

The foreign affairs ministry’s statement on Wednesday suggested the government was encouraging Nigerians in South Africa to return.

“The Ministry of Foreign Affairs wishes to inform the general public that following the recent unfortunate xenophobic attacks on foreign nationals, including Nigerians in South Africa, the Proprietor of Air Peace Airlines Chief Allen Onyema, has volunteered to send an aircraft from Friday 6th September 2019 to evacuate Nigerians who wish to return to Nigeria free of charge.

“The general public is hereby advised to inform their relatives in South Africa to take advantage of this laudable gesture. Interested Nigerians are therefore advised to liaise with the High Commission of Nigeria in Pretoria and the Consulate General of Nigeria in Johannesburg for further necessary arrangement,” Mr Nwonye wrote.

The Attacks

Recent xenophobic attacks targeting Nigerians and other nationals in Johannesburg, Pretoria and other cities have left at least five people dead and businesses and private properties burnt.

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South African authorities say they are responding promptly to curb the violence. More than 70 persons have been reportedly taken into custody since Monday.

Nigerians have expressed outrage about the attacks, urging President Muhammadu Buhari to take decisive measures against South Africa.

The president announced on Tuesday that he was sending a special envoy for an on-the-ground assessment of the situation.

On Wednesday, Nigeria said it would recall its Ambassador to South Africa, Kabiru Bala.

Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, who was also scheduled to attend the World Economic Summit in Cape Town, has now boycotted the event.

Some Nigerians have been attacking South African businesses in Lagos and other Nigerian cities in retaliation to the xenophobic attacks.

The Nigerian government has, however, cautioned its citizens to stop such attacks.

The police in Lagos on Wednesday announced the arrest of over 100 suspects who allegedly took part in an attack on Shoprite, a South African retail store, in Lagos.

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