Airline, not Nigerian govt, offered to fly home Nigerians from SA - Dlodlo

2019-09-10 18:55
Anti-riot policemen try to calm down protesters during a demonstration and attacks against South African owned shops in Abuja, on September 4, 2019.

Anti-riot policemen try to calm down protesters during a demonstration and attacks against South African owned shops in Abuja, on September 4, 2019. (Kola Sulaimon, AFP)

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There is no call by the Nigerian government to repatriate its citizens from South Africa, State Security Minister Ayanda Dlodlo has said.

Rather, a private individual, who owns an airline, has offered to repatriate approximately 600 Nigerians amid a wave of attacks aimed at foreign nationals.

Dlodlo was speaking at a joint media briefing in Parliament on Tuesday that was held by the Justice, Crime Prevention and Security (JCPS) cluster.

South Africa was rocked this past week by violent flare-ups and looting, much of it in Gauteng, while fake news and misinformation has also been peddled on social media.

News reports on Monday suggested Nigeria would repatriate 600 of its citizens.

Clarifying the matter on Tuesday, Dlodlo said "there is no government call by the Government of Nigeria to evacuate its citizens".

"What has happened here, and this is through the discussions that we have had ... at high commission level and also on a consular level is that a private citizen - who owns an airline - has offered to evacuate Nigerians from South Africa who want to leave.

"And obviously there are immigration rules that go with that, so it's a process that will have to go through the normal channels of getting one out of the country. But there is no order by the Nigerian government to evacuate its citizens."    

Dlodlo said this hours after a thread of tweets were sent out by Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari in which, among others, he said: "We have made arrangements for the immediate voluntary evacuation of all Nigerians in South Africa who are willing to return home."

The violence has left many shops in Johannesburg plundered. South African businesses operating in other countries on the continent, notably Nigeria, have reported a backlash in the past week.

Some South African businesses operating in Nigeria, including MTN, have reportedly closed until further notice after being attacked.

The owner of Nigeria's Air Peace, meanwhile, is the one who made the offer, Nigeria's foreign ministry announced on its website.

"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, September 6, 2019, to evacuate Nigerians who wish to return to Nigeria free of charge," the ministry announced.

"The general public is hereby advised to inform their relatives in South Africa, who might be interested, to take advantage of this laudable gesture.

"Interested Nigerians are therefore advised to contact the High Commission of Nigeria in Pretoria or the Consulate General of Nigeria in Johannesburg."

Telephones were not answered for further details on how this operation would be carried out, and comment was not immediately available from Air Peace.

The Department of International Relations and Cooperation (Dirco) said it only knew what it had read in the media regarding this offer.

"Dirco has noted the reports of about 600 Nigerians being flown back to Nigeria in the media," said the ministry's spokesperson, Lunga Ngqengelele.

Read more on:    nigeria  |  johannesburg  |  xenophobia

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