The plan to evacuate 320 Nigerians fleeing from xenophobic attacks has been halted by South Africa authorities.
The Nigerian returnees were supposed to have been evacuated by Air Peace, which experienced delay in getting landing permit in Johannesburg on Tuesday, 17 September 2019.
On Wednesday, 11 September 2019, the airline, in collaboration with the Federal Government, had evacuated 187 Nigerians from South Africa.
There was a plan to evacuate another 320 more Nigerians who had indicated interest to return home with the flight expected to arrive in Lagos by 19:00 on Tuesday.
Speaking in Lagos, Allen Onyema, Chairman of Air Peace, said that the airline’s B777 aircraft deployed for the operation was still on standby at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Lagos.
According to him, the aircraft was supposed to have departed from Lagos at 01:00 but was denied landing permit by the South African authorities.
“We did not take off by 01:00 as scheduled because South African authorities are yet to give us landing permit.
“We are hopeful that they will give us the permit. Our crew waited till 03:00, but when the permit did not come, they went back to the hotel.
“Once we get the permit, we will set off to South Africa. We don’t want to speculate but we are hopeful they will give the permit,” Onyema said.
South African authorities had on 11 September 2019 also prevented some Nigerians from leaving the country by insisting on a fresh profiling exercise, despite the one earlier conducted by the Nigerian High Commission.
The special envoy sent by the South African President, Cyril Ramaphosa, had a meeting with President Muhammadu Buhari on Monday, 16 September 2019, where he apologised for the attacks on Nigerians by South Africans.
Jeff Radebe, Special Envoy, apologized to Nigeria for “acts of criminality and violence” in his country.
He said that the xenophobic attacks on Nigerians does not represent “our value system, nor those of the larger number of South Africans”.
He said South Africa was an integral part of Africa and was fully committed to peace and integration of the continent.
The special envoy disclosed that 12 people died during the attacks – two Zimbabweans and ten South Africans – and that no Nigerian was a casualty.
He added that South Africa remains eternally grateful for the role Nigeria played in ending apartheid and hoped that the coming visit of the Nigerian President would solidify the relationship between the two countries once again.