The first batch of 187 Nigerians in South Africa have returned to Nigeria after cases of xenophobic attacks.
The returnees were aided by the Federal Government with the assistance of a Nigerian carrier, Air Peace.
The B777 aircraft, with registration number 5N-BWI, which departed Thambo International Airport, Johannesburg, landed at the Cargo Wing of the Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Lagos, at 9.37 p.m.
The first batch returnees included adults, children and infants, who expressed joy on returning home safely and sang the Nigerian National Anthem.
They were received by the Chairman of Nigeria Diaspora Commission, 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.
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 would be given to them to enable them get back to their respective states, while telecommunication company, MTN, will also give them pre-loaded Sim cards of N6, 000 to assist them.
Onyema told newsmen that the airline spent over N300 million to airlift the affected Nigerians in the bid to support the Federal Government.
“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,” Onyema said.
Two of the returnees in the first batch, Mr John Onuoha from Abia and Jude Anthony from Edo, told newsmen that they were unjustly attacked by South Africans, who destroyed their businesses and properties in fresh xenophobic attacks which began on August 29.
They praised Air Peace for the kind gesture, stressing that there was no place like home.
President Muhammadu Buhari, had on September 8, ordered the immediate evacuation of Nigerians who had indicated interest to leave South Africa after receiving report from the Special Envoy deployed to the country.
The government has also issued travel advice to Nigerians intending to visit South Africa due to the xenophobic attacks.