THEfirst batch of 187 Nigerians out of about the 600 volunteered to return to Nigeria after the xenophobic attacks in South Africa have returned.
The returnees were aided by the Federal Government with the assistance of a Nigerian airline, Air Peace.
According News Agency of Nigeria (NAN), the B777 aircraft, with registration 5N-BWI, bearing the returnees departed Thambo International Airport, Johannesburg, and landed at the Cargo Wing of the Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Lagos, at 9.37 p.m. Wednesday.
The returnees, which included adults, children and infants, showed extreme joy on returning home safely had burst into songs, and gave a rendition of the National Anthem.
The Chairman of Nigeria Diaspora Commission (NIDCOM), Mrs Abike Dabiri-Erewa, Air Peace Chairman, Mr Allen Onyema, and the representatives of government which included the National Emergency Management Agency. (NEMA), Nigeria Immigration Service and the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria, received the returnees at the airport.
Dabiri-Erewa told newsmen that over 600 Nigerians had indicated interest to return from South Africa, adding that the government was ready to assist them to settle back in the country through its various social intervention programmes.
She said the Bank of Industry had also been mobilised to assist those willing to acquire vocational skills.
According to her, stipends will be given to these Nigerians to enable them get back to their respective states, while the telecommunication company, MTN, will also give them pre-loaded sim cards of N6, 000 to assist them.
Onyema told journalists that the airline spent over N300 million to airlift the affected Nigerians in its bid to support the Federal Government.
He said: “We want to send a signal to the world that Nigerians are their brother’s keepers.
“I support the Federal Government and President Muhammadu Buhari and this gesture is an assistance to the government to bring our brothers back home.
“We are offering free trip to Nigerians in South Africa to return home after going through the traumatic experience of the attacks.
“Air Peace has said this is free and we are doing it in solidarity with the Federal Government.”
Two of the returnees, Mr John Onuoha from Abia State and Jude Anthony from Edo State told newsmen that they were unjustly attacked by South Africans, who destroyed their businesses and properties in fresh xenophobic attacks which began on Aug. 29.
They praised Air Peace for the kind gesture, stressing that there was no place like home.
President Buhari, had on September 8, ordered the immediate evacuation of Nigerians who had indicated interest to leave South Africa after receiving report from a Special Envoy he sent to South Africa.
The government has also issued travel advice to Nigerians intending to visit South Africa due to the xenophobic attacks.