It was harrowing experience for some Nigerians who were airlifted from the OR Tambo Airport, Johannesburg.
Their flight, which was scheduled to take off at 9:10 am, was delayed for about seven hours. Chairman of the Nigerians in Diaspora Commission, Mrs. Abike Dabiri-Erewa, confirmed that immigration issues triggered the delay.
But the many hours of waiting and anxiety ended as the Boeing 777 aircraft belonging to Air Peace landed last night at the Lagos Airport.
The aircraft touched down at 9.37pm and taxied to the premises of the Nigerian Aviation Handling Company (NAHCO) via the Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Ikeja, Lagos, with returnees recounting tales of regrets.
Relying on the flight manifest, Mrs. Dabiri-Erewa said 231 males and 86 females were preparing to return home yesterday.
As they alighted from the aircraft they expressed bitter experiences in the hands of their South African hosts.
They were received at a temporary camp opened for their profiling by Mrs Dabiri-Erewa, who said the government has available to each of them N40, 000.00 recharge card to enable them communicate with their family members.
In appreciation of the gestures, the returnees rose in euphoria to sing the national anthem.
An Osun State indigene who identified himself as Saheed, lamented how he was sacked from work for being a Nigerian.
He narrated how he was subjected to discrimination despite working in Pretoria for more than five years.
Another returnee from Edo State, who identified himself as Anthony Joshua, described his trauma as unfortunate.
He called on the government to cut ties with South Africa because of the maltreatment of Nigerians.
Chairman of Air Peace, Allen Onyema, said the offer to air lift the trapped Nigerians was the least he could do to assist .
He lamented how South African authorities delayed the flight for over 12 hours just to punish Nigerians.
In her remark, Mrs. Dabiri Erewa praised the airline for its patriotic act.
As at 10.45 pm, the profiling of the returnees was ongoing by officials of the Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS).
Mrs. Dabiri-Erewa spoke of an arrangement with the Bank of Industry (BoI) to offer entrepreneurship programmes to those willing to learn.
She said: “The BoI 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 and 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.”
It was learnt that a second plane would arrive in South Africa tomorrow to bring the second batch of 320.
Six hundred and forty Nigerians signed to be evacuated back home following unending attacks targeted at foreigners in South Africa.
Heidi Giokos, a reporter with eNCA who has been monitoring events at the airport in South Africa, also tweeted that the plane took off at 3:30pm, South African time.
She wrote: “188 Nigerians have boarded the @flyairpeace plane. The plane was brought in for Nigerians who wanted the evacuation plan offered by @flyairpeace. The board is now ready to take off. It was scheduled to leave at 9:10 am. Over 7 hour delay.”
According to her, the delay was caused by cases of expired documents from some Nigerians going through the South African immigration.
She also reported earlier that some Nigerians were not allowed to board as they couldn’t provide travel documents for their children.