President Muhammadu Buhari has approved the immediate evacuation of all Nigerians who are willing to leave South Africa for a return home.
At least 11 people were killed, two of whom were unidentified foreigners in the recent xenophobic attacks in South Africa.
Although no Nigerian life was lost, the conflict has created diplomatic tensions between Nigeria and South Africa, especially since Nigerians have been killed in previous xenophobic attacks, and were particularly targeted in the recent wave of violence.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced on Wednesday, September 4 that it would commence the evacuation of Nigerians who are willing to leave South Africa on Friday, September 6, completely free of charge.
In a statement by President Buhari’s media aide, Femi Adesina, on Monday, September 9, he said the president has given instruction for the immediate evacuation of Nigerians willing to return.
He said this will happen while the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Onyeama, continues to engage with appropriate authorities on the concrete measures the South African government is expected to take regarding the conflict.
Nigeria’s Consul General in Johannesburg, Godwin Adamu, told AFP on Monday that about 600 Nigerians are ready for repatriation.
“Air Peace is beginning the airlift by Wednesday, the first flight with 320 Nigerians. We will have another one immediately after that,” he said.
Buhari had, last week, sent the Director General of the National Intelligence Agency (NIA), Ahmed Abubakar, as a special envoy to South Africa’s President Cyril Ramaphosa to register his concerns over the attacks.
In Monday’s statement , Adesina said Abubakar stressed the need for the South African government to take visible measures to stop violence against Nigerians and other Africans.
“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,” he said.
He also assured that the Nigerian government will guarantee the safety of lives, property and business interests of South Africans in Nigeria.