The Nigerian government has commenced the evacuation of Nigerians willing to leave South Africa after the recent wave of violence in the country that targeted African foreigners.
Local South African mobs, mostly in Johannesburg, had commenced a vandalisation and looting spree for much of last week, targeting foreign-owned businesses in attacks that were tinged with xenophobic sentiments.
At least 12 people were killed, two of whom were unidentified foreigners.
Although no Nigerian life was lost, the conflict has created diplomatic tensions between Nigeria and South Africa, especially since Nigerians have been killed in previous xenophobic attacks, and were particularly targeted in the recent wave of violence.
When the Nigerian government offered to evacuate its citizens from South Africa last week, over 600 expressed interest to return.
The evacuation exercise commenced on Wednesday, September 11, 2019 as busloads of Nigerians were conveyed to the O.R. Tambo International Airport near Johannesburg.
While speaking to eNCA, a South African television news network, at the airport, a Nigerian man said he was leaving because the country is hostile to foreigners.
“I decided to leave because I value my life more than anything else because here is very hostile at the moment. It’s not safe for me.
“I lost a lot of things. I don’t want to lose my life,” he said.
He also said he wouldn’t consider returning to South Africa ever again because the attacks might continue.
Another Nigerian at the airport said he can’t continue to stay in a country where his life and property is not safe.
“To me, the way they treat other African people is unjustified. When your life is not safe in a country, the best thing you can do is to go back to your own country. No place like home,” he said.
At least 320 Nigerians are expected to leave South Africa on Wednesday for a Lagos-bound flight on an aircraft provided by Air Peace Airlines free of charge.