As the diplomatic spar between Nigeria and South Africa is worsening, President Muhammadu Buhari, Monday, directed the immediate evacuation of Nigerians willing to return home.
Buhari gave the order as he received report from Ambassador Ahmed Rufai Abubakar, the Special Envoy he sent to South Africa to meet with President Cyril Ramaphosa over the xenophobic attacks on Nigerians.
This is as Air Peace has announced plans to evacuate free of charge more than 400 Nigerians willing to return home on Wednesday.
The President further directed the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Geoffrey Onyeama to continue to engage with appropriate authorities on the concrete measure the South African Government is expected to take.
This was contained in a statement signed by Mr. Femi Adesina, his Special Adviser on Media and Publicity.
The statement reads “In the wake of the xenophobic attacks by South Africans against other Africans including Nigerians, President Muhammadu Buhari sent Amb. Ahmed Rufai Abubakar, Director-General, National Intelligence Agency (DGNIA) as his Special Envoy to South Africa, to convey a Special Message to his counterpart, President Cyril Ramaphosa.
“The Special Envoy, who was in Pretoria from Thursday, 5th to Saturday, 7th September 2019 conveyed: The deep concern of President Buhari and Nigerians about intermittent violence against Nigerians and their property/business interests in South Africa.
“President Buhari stressed the need for South African Government to take visible measures to stop violence against citizens of brotherly African nations.
“President Buhari is worried that the recurring issue of xenophobia could negatively affect the image and standing of South Africa as one of the leading countries on the continent, if nothing is done to stop it.
“The Special Envoy conveyed the assurance of President Buhari that the Nigerian Government is ready and willing to collaborate with the South African Government to find a lasting solution to the involvement of few Nigerians in criminal activities, and to protect the lives and property of the larger groups of other law abiding Nigerians and indeed Africans in general, against all forms of attacks including xenophobia.
“President Buhari further assured that the Nigerian Government will guarantee the safety of lives, property and business interests of South Africans in Nigeria. “On his part, President Ramaphosa agreed that the violence was most disconcerting and embarrassing, adding that his government completely rejects such acts, which undermine not only the country’s image but also its relations with brotherly African countries.
“President Ramaphosa reaffirmed his stand against criminality and committed to do everything possible to protect the rights of every Nigerian and other foreign nationals in the country. “The Special Envoy also interfaced with his South African counterpart, where they reviewed the situation of foreign emigrants in general and Nigerians in particular. They agreed to work together to find a permanent solution to the root causes of the recurring attacks on Nigerians and their property.
“President Buhari has taken note of the report and instructed the Honourable Minister of Foreign Affairs to continue to engage with appropriate Authorities on the concrete measure the South African Government is expected to take. “President Buhari has also given instruction for the immediate voluntary evacuation of all Nigerians who are willing to return home.”
Meanwhile, the Nigerian Mission in South Africa says no fewer than 400 Nigerians have indicated interest and registered to be evacuated from South Africa following the recent xenophobic attacks.
Nigeria’s Consul-General in Johannesburg, Godwin Adama, said this in a telephone interview with News Agency of Nigeria on Sunday in Abuja.
Adama said that Air Peace had offered to airlift those willing to return home following attacks on Nigerians and their businesses by South Africans.
According to him, the first batch of Nigerians who are willing to return home will be repatriated on Wednesday.
“We have more than enough for that aircraft. More than 400 Nigerians have already registered; more are still coming,’’ he said.
The Nigerian High Commissioner to South Africa, Kabiru Bala, also said that Nigerians had responded positively in good numbers.
Bala said, “We are documenting them. Those without travel documents, we shall provide them with emergency travel certificates.
“There are other governmental procedures that we must observe. Relevant agencies of government in Nigeria must be informed and must be ready to receive the returnees.
“Hard work is now going on at the High Commission and Consulate in this regard. As soon as all procedures and relevant protocols are observed, the return is assured and guaranteed.
“A little more patience will be helpful. The response of Nigerians is just amazing.’’
Also, the President, Nigeria Citizens Association, South Africa, Ben Okoli, said all efforts were geared towards evacuation of those who were ready to come back home.
Okoli said, “The consulate is sorting out the issue of documents. Nigerians are being registered and issued with the necessary travel documents to enable them to make the trip to Lagos.
“Some lost their passports in their homes and businesses from the fire that gutted them, while others had their documents and property stolen.”