The planned evacuation of Nigerians in South Africa faced a setback on Friday as majority of Nigerians interested in coming back home were said to have expired passports.
Chairman of Air Peace, Mr Allen Onyema, said in a statement in Lagos that the airline had already placed its Boeing 777 aircraft on standby and was only awaiting the go-ahead from the government but that most of the potential returnees had yet to renew their documents.
He said, “Air Peace flight to South Africa will take off from the Lagos Airport and also return to Lagos. As earlier stated, the take-off could be September 9 or 10.
“This is because the Nigerians in South Africa have to obtain travel certificates because many of them do not have travel documents and their passports have expired.”
But speaking on the provision of travel documents for those who did not have, Nwonye explained that the Nigerian High Commission would see to it.
Earlier, a member of the flight coordinating committee, comprising Nigerians living in South Africa, Mrs Ify Ezeano, said many of the intending returnees were on their way to Johannesburg from different parts of the country for the evacuation.
Ezeano said Nigerians wishing to return to Nigeria lamented that they felt unsafe and would rather leave the country, coupled with their accommodation challenges.
She said, “Some of them are already on their way to Johannesburg. People are disturbed and distressed. We have over 300 on the list but many others are still registering at the consulate.”
Ezeano said a lot of Nigerians living in Western Cape, East London, Kwazulu natal and Cape Town had been calling to register, noting that some planned to come to the consulate in Jo’burg on Monday.
‘We’re not sure one flight would be enough’
She stated, “A lot of people are showing interest and I’m not sure one flight would be able to convey all the people. Right now, I am at the consulate and we are trying to collate the list. People really want to leave to secure their lives.
“The challenges they are facing include accommodation. There is a woman coming from Port Elizabeth; she has been crying over accommodation issues.”
Also, Obinna Nwanaji of Mpumalanga Province informed one of our correspondents on the telephone that a single flight might not be adequate to evacuate those willing to return, adding that about 30 persons registered with him for the free flight.
He stated, “Some people are actually saying they won’t leave until the government gives them something, but a lot of people are willing to come back, it’s just that some of them said they were coming from far locations and driving to Johannesburg may take like seven to eight hours.”