The Nigerian Union South Africa on Tuesday said though some calm had been restored following a series of xenophobic attacks against foreign nationals in South Africa, including Nigerians, there was still tension in the air.
The President of NUSA, Adetola Olubajo, who spoke to one of our correspondents in a telephone interview, said several foreign-owned businesses had remained closed for fear of resurgent attacks by South Africans.
Olubajo said, “The environment is calm but the atmosphere is still tense because the people that are fighting and looting always go on sporadic attacks; so people are very careful.
“South African businesses have opened but not all of the foreign-owned businesses have opened because there are some foreign nationals that are displaced and are in the city center in Johannesburg.
“Most of their businesses have been looted and burnt so they need to start rebuilding.”
On the evacuation of Nigerians, he noted that the High Commission and consulate had given a figure of about 640 people who were scheduled to return, adding that the first batch of about 320 people would leave on Wednesday (today) around 9 am.
Olubajo said, “We believe that more people will still show interest. We want the kind of gesture that has been shown by Air Peace to be extended by other well-meaning Nigerians or aviation operators because those that are willing to leave should be given the opportunity.”
Asked if other Nigerians who had opted to remain in South Africa were scared of more attacks, he said, “Yes, but we are getting assurances of safety from the South African authorities. Pretoria was handled very well. A visible police presence was in Pretoria; so it curbed attacks.
“But in Johannesburg, they have not been able to solve that. We hope that they will do what they have promised; to protect the lives and property of foreign nationals.”
We’re ready, says Air Peace
The domestic airline, Air Peace, says it is ready for the evacuation.
An official of the airline told The PUNCH on Tuesday that there had been no challenge with the planned evacuation.
“We do not have any challenge; we have no issues for now. Our mission is to get the passengers out for free,” the official who spoke on condition of anonymity said.
He explained that the flight from Nigeria departed Lagos on Tuesday and would return on Wednesday (today) from 2 pm, adding that the entire process would end by Thursday.
The Chairman of Air Peace, Allen Onyema, warned Nigerians scheduled for repatriation from South Africa to refrain from paying $1,000 or any amount of money for their flight.
In an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria, Onyema said the arrangement for Nigerians willing to return had not changed, adding that it remained free.
He said, “We have not designated or recruited any agent in South Africa to collect money on behalf of Air Peace. So, nobody should pay money to anyone.
“Any Nigerian who has paid money for repatriation to Nigeria with Air Peace should request for a refund and report to appropriate authorities.”
The airline had last week volunteered to send an aircraft to evacuate Nigerians, free of charge, from South Africa.
Onyema said the evacuation, which would be done with the airline’s Boeing 777, was a support for the Federal Government’s efforts.
Xenophobia attacks increasing widows – Group
A group, under the aegis of Virtuous Widows International Association, on Tuesday said the xenophobic attacks in South Africa had increased the number of widows in Nigeria.
Addressing journalists in Awka, the Anambra State capital, the founder and National President of the group, Ifeyinwa Egbosiuba, described the act as barbaric.
She said, “For every one man killed in the attack, a husband, father and ultimately the breadwinner is lost to a family, invariably leaving the woman a widow with attendant repercussions on the society.
“We’re aware that our government has taken actions through constructive engagements with the South African government as well as other African countries.
“But we appeal to the conscience of our brothers and sisters in South Africa to remember the history of racism and apartheid and that xenophobic attacks on fellow Africans who have helped them during those days are worse actions.”