A Nigerian airline has offered to evacuate Nigerians wishing to leave South Africa as the country’s diplomatic missions shut down in Nigeria. Raphael Adenaike reports.
Air Peace, Nigeria’s biggest airline by fleet size, has offered to bring Nigerians living in South Africa back home. The airline announced the offer on Wednesday as a fallout of xenophobic attacks on foreign nationals living in South Africa, which have been attracting angry reactions in Nigeria and other African countries.
In a letter to Nigeria’s federal government, Air Peace described the attacks on Nigerians in South Africa as an unfortunate event.
“We cannot fold our hands and watch our fellow Nigerians being killed by South Africans.
“To this end, Air Peace is willing to support the Nigerian government’s effort in this matter by deploying our B777 aircraft immediately to South Africa to evacuate Nigerians back home.”
The airline urged the federal government to ask the Nigerian Embassy and the South African government to rescue stranded Nigerians by transporting them to the airport to enable the airline evacuate them back to Nigeria.
Meanwhile, the South Africa High Commission has shut down its Embassy in Abuja, Nigeria’s capital, and Consulate in Lagos, the nation’s biggest city and economic nerve centre, following reprisal attacks by youths on businesses owned by South African companies in several cities.
“I directed that the Mission should be closed until the situation improves. We heard that South Africans were being pulled out of vehicles and attacked. We feel unsafe and that is why I directed that the mission should close down until further notice,” said Ambassador Bobby Moroe, acting High Commissioner, said on Thursday.
The soured relations between both countries have affected South African companies in Nigeria as some angry youths attacked and looted MTN offices and Shoprite malls in some parts of the country in the past two days.
Reacting to the situation, the federal government has warned against attacks on foreigners, malls and business concerns over the xenophobic attacks in South Africa. It said reprisals were hurting Nigerian investors, who own the subsidiaries of the companies in the country, than any other group.
Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, made the government’s position known at a briefing in Abuja on Thursday.
The government also alerted Nigerians to fake videos in circulation to inflame passion.
“Nigerians should be wary of the purveyors of these wrong videos. We strongly warn hoodlums who may wish to hide under the peaceful protests by Nigerians to loot, maim and kill that the security agencies will apprehend and bring them to justice. And to opinion leaders, we ask that they be guarded in their comments,” he said.
News reports of xenophobic attacks of foreign nationals in South Africa have been drawing angry reactions from other countries in the continent. Between Sunday and Wednesday, mobs looted and destroyed shops, many of them foreign-owned, in South Africa’s commercial hub, Johannesburg.
At least 10 people have been killed in the trouble in South Africa, including two foreign nationals, the South African government says, but none of the victims have been identified as Nigerian.
Nigeria has recalled its ambassador to the country, while it has also sent a special envoy to Pretoria to deliver a message to the South African government over the issue.
South Africa’s Foreign Minister, Naledi Pandor, called the violence an embarrassment for her country.
“Our government regrets all violence against foreign-owned stores or Africans from other countries who are resident in South Africa,” she was quoted as saying by national broadcaster SABC.