No fewer than 100 Nigerians, who registered for evacuation from South Africa, have changed their minds.
The PUNCH gathered on Sunday that the 100 Nigerians preferred to stay back in South Africa.
Also on Sunday, a 17-year-old South African returnee, Ijeoma Maduagwu, described the possibility of returning to South Africa as a death wish.
Maduagwu said her parents put her younger siblings and her on the Air Peace flight that brought 315 Nigerians to Lagos on Wednesday.
According to her, her parents are looking for buyers for their properties before coming back to Nigeria.
It was learnt that as of Sunday, no fewer than 700 Nigerians were waiting for evacuation from South Africa.
A source, who confided in The PUNCH, said, “We cannot rule out the possibility that out of the 700, more will back out and prefer to stay back in South Africa.”
One of our correspondents learnt that many Nigerians chose to stay back following the reduction in attacks on foreigners by South African youths.
The PUNCH had last week reported that 817 Nigerians were awaiting evacuation out of the 1,004 that were registered.
The Air Peace Airline had brought back 315 persons out of the 1,004 Nigerians who registered for evacuation last Wednesday, while the first flight returned to the Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Lagos, with 187 individuals out of the 317 scheduled for the first evacuation flight on September 11.
The shortfall was blamed on the documentation challenges faced by many of the returnees who did not possess valid Nigerian passports.
But speaking with one of our correspondents on the phone on Sunday, the Consul-General, Nigerian High Commission in South Africa, Mr Godwin Adama, said many people were still registering to leave South Africa. He, however, noted that the number was reducing.
Fear of arrest at airport forcing some to stay back – Consular general
He said, “The people are still registering, although the number is going down. About 501 persons have gone and based on our list, we have over 700. At a stage, some people changed their minds. When you call them, they say they have changed their minds. Last week, I think we had over 100 who said they had changed their minds.”
The diplomat explained that some Nigerians also stayed back because they were misinformed that they could be arrested at the airport for not having genuine travel documents.
He explained that the mission officials had to replace those who did not show up for evacuation with the individuals, who were on the ground and were ready to leave for Nigeria.
Adama noted, “The people who really wanted to go, who were ready, were the ones that had left. We had to fill the slots with over 100 people who were ready.
“You know they circulate fake news. Some told me that they learnt that if they went there (airport), they would be arrested. That is not true. We helped anyone with problems with the process.”
Asked about the next evacuation flight, the consular general disclosed that no date had been fixed, adding that this would be decided during the week.
“We have not agreed on the next flight because we are quite busy, the President (Muhammadu Buhari) is coming here. We may decide during the week,” he said.
My parents waiting to sell S’African properties –17-year-old returnee
Meanwhile, a 17-year-old South African returnee, Ijeoma Maduagwu, has described the possibility of returning to South Africa as a death wish.
The teenager and her two younger siblings were among Nigerians evacuated from South Africa over xenophobic attacks.
In a video clip tagged, ‘Xenophobia: Behind the scenes of Air Peace Rescue Mission,’ Maduagwu said her parents put her and her younger siblings on the plane to join their relatives in Lagos.
The teenager, who described life in South Africa as dangerous, said her parents were afraid for the safety of her and her siblings, hence the decision to send them back to Lagos.
Asked why the parents were not on the flight, Maduagwu said they were looking for buyers for their properties.
She said, “I don’t wish going back there because if I wish going back, I wish myself death.
“Girls and women are being raped. Children are being kidnapped. Foreigners are being killed. People are dying every day. Shops are being burnt and this is a disappointment not only to Africa, but other parts of the world. Xenophobia is a really bad action against foreigners. These are my siblings, Uzorka, five years old; and Ngozi.
“My parents are in South Africa but they will come with the next flight. My parents asked me to go ahead with my siblings because they don’t feel safe. They said ‘let us just send you to a family in Nigeria and we’ll see what will happen’. They still have to sell their properties before coming to Nigeria.”
The returnees, while expressing their gratitude to the Chairman of Air Peace, Mr Allen Onyema, said but for the free flight offered by the airline, returning to Nigeria would have been very difficult.
Responding, Onyema said, “What this means to me; I cannot go to my grave with my bank account, I cannot go to my grave with my wallet but I can go to my grave with the legacy that I leave behind and I will call on everybody to be their brothers’ keeper.”