The federal government on Monday revealed that Ogun and Imo States had the highest number of returnees who were evacuated from South Africa last week. It added that of the 187 already in the country according to States, Ogun had the highest number with 30 followed by Imo with 28. The Chairman/CEO, Nigerians in Diaspora Commission, Hon. Abike Dabiri-Erewa, disclosed this at a press conference while giving an update on the evacuation of Nigerians from South Africa.
Air Peace had last week facilitated the evacuation of 187 Nigerians living in South Africa for free in response to renewed wave of xenophobic attacks in parts of Johannesburg. Giving a breakdown of the first batch of Nigerians that were evacuated from South Africa, Dabiri-Erewa said Abia had 7, Anambra -13, Edo -13, Ekiti – 6, Enugu 7, Imo 28, Lagos 7, Ogun 30, Kogi 1, Benue – 1, Osun – 6, Oyo -23, Delta – 15, Anambra -13 and Ebonnyi- 2.
She explained that it was the responsibility of State governors to integrate and empower Nigerians who are being evacuated from South Africa. Dabiri-Erewa revealed that apart from the 187 already evacuated, a second batch of Nigerians who volunteered to return home would arrive the country Tuesday. She said the list containing details of the second batch of returnees would be forwarded to the various states to ensure proper reintegration.
The Commission disclosed that it had since opened communication with the affected states, stressing that the commission is expecting representatives of states to be on ground to receive the returnees. Dabiri-Erewa stated: “We have profiled them according to their states and we expect the governors to take responsibility for their citizens that have returned. I am going to stress one thing; those who returned are not criminals, in fact they are very hardworking Nigerians and have lost everything they have ever worked for in South Africa.
“So, their only crime is being black and being Nigerian. We had fathers separated from their children, we have a widow with four children who just had to come back home.” Dabiri-Erewa further explained that the widow with four children was from Ondo state, while expressing satisfaction that the State government was trying to ensure that those kids were enrolled in school. Dabiri-Erewa restated the immediate offers of SIM card and air time that would last the returnees for about two months and some money for transportation, stressing that the first batch of 187, are already being profiled to get soft loans from the Bank of Industry (BOI).
She said, “As I speak with you now the bank of industry has their contacts and will be calling them to come for the soft loans. Those are the immediate plans for them. But as they settled in we are going to profile them and do a need assessment because somebody might want to trade and you are saying go and do hairdressing. There is also a number for just the returnees to reach the bank of industry.”
The NIDCOM chairman said that a lot of people have also offered counseling and entrepreneurship training which the commission was compiling and the returnees will also be contacted and link up with these offers. She commended corporate giants like Airtel and MTN for the phones and airtime, for the returnees, while urging other Nigerians and corporate bodies to follow suit. On the issue of compensation, she said it was a policy issue that would be decided by the Minister of Foreign Affairs.
She also commended President Buhari for giving the instructions that Nigerians should be evacuated from South Africa, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Onyeama , or showing leadership and the chairman of Air Peace, Allen Onyema, for immediately offering to evacuate the volunteer returnees.