Chief Allen Onyema, chairman Air Peace Airline who, donated his aircraft to fetch home Nigerians being hounded by xenophobic South Africans says the gesture is costing his company N280million.
“I put together over N280million in order to bring these people back. Air Peace decided to bring them free of charge. Nobody paid us a dime, we decided to do it free of charge for our country and for our people”, he was reported as saying.
The young business executive said he was moved to tears by the solidarity and unity he witnessed from the returnees as he stepped into the aircraft.
“When I stepped inside the aircraft to welcome them, they mobbed me and started singing the Nigerian National Anthem. There was nobody there singing about separation; they felt proud to be Nigerians. They rose in unison; that drew tears from my eyes.”
Meanwhile, chairman of the Nigerians in Diaspora Commission, Abike Dabiri-Erewa, has assured that the federal government would support Nigerians who are being evacuated back to the country from South Africa in the wake of xenophobic attacks.
A first batch of returnees numbering about 188 departed South Africa on Wednesday, via the Air Peace Airline after an eight-hour delay.
According to Channels TV’s correspondent in South Africa, some persons had been turned back over inadequate documentation for travelling with children, while about seven others were detained for allegedly entering the country illegally.
Mrs Dabiri-Erewa confirmed the delay was as a result of immigration issues, but however, noted that the situation had been resolved with the first batch on their way.
She said once they arrive, each would be given SIM cards and airtime that would last almost two months to help them stay in touch with their families while arrangements have been made for their economic future.
“The Bank of Industry will also be here to offer some entrepreneurship programmes and some support to start a small business and, there would be some stipends for transportation to take you home. We will profile them and for those who want to get any training, they will decide what kind of training they want to do and the Bank of Industry will be there to provide it,” Hon. Dabiri-Erewa said.
“More names remain on the voluntary evacuation list and hopefully, a second flight will be arriving in Johannesburg to fetch them”, Dabiri told Channels TV.