The scheduled evacuation of the next batch of Nigerians willing to return to the country may have been postponed till Sunday by the Federal Government to enable the Nigerian High Commission in South Africa to resolve some immigration issues with South African authorities.
One of our correspondent learnt that the remaining 453 Nigerians waiting for repatriation in Johannesburg would have to wait until the bottlenecks were over.
The South Africa immigration authorities had on Wednesday delayed the flight of the Air Peace aircraft conveying the first batch of 187 returning Nigerians for over seven hours.
Chairman, Nigerians in the Diaspora Commission, Abike Dabiri-Erewa, confirmed to The PUNCH in Abuja on Thursday, that the government was working to address the issues.
Asked when the next evacuation would hold, she said, “We will wait for further advice from the CG (Consul-General) of our mission in Johannesburg on the next steps. We are looking at Saturday or Sunday, but I can’t confirm the day as documentation is ongoing.”
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman, Ferdinand Nwonye, could not be reached for clarification as calls to his phone indicated that he was out of network coverage.
Giving an update on the operation, Dabiri- Erewa said, “About 640 registered to come home. Out of 317 billed to return by Air Peace in the first batch, 187 returned due to some bottlenecks put in place at the last minute by the South African authorities.
“Because of the serious hurdles put in place by the authorities, we will have to wait for an update from the consulate as they resolve some issues with the SA authorities.
“However, the Chairman Air Peace, Allen Onyema, said the airline was on standby and ready for more evacuations anytime.”
The NIDCOM boss disclosed that the 187 Nigerians who returned to the country on Wednesday had dispersed to their various states to reunite with their families.
She explained that they were given new SIM cards with N40,000 airtime and 9GB of data to enable the government to contact them for registration for re-integration programmes.
She noted, “We got their contacts through the SIM cards given to them and we will be contacting them soon on various re-integration programmes. Lagos State, for instance, will be providing a package for those from the state. Other states will be encouraged to do same.”
It was learnt that the returnees would also get a soft loan from the Bank of Industry as support to those interested in trade.