The chairman of a major Nigerian airline announced on Friday that plans to evacuate some Nigerians from South Africa following xenophobic attacks there have been stalled because majority of Nigerians wanting to return home have expired passports and are in the country illegally.
Last Wednesday, Ferdinand Nwonye, spokesman of the Nigerian ministry of foreign affairs announced Air Peace had volunteered to evacuate Nigerians who wish to return to Nigeria “free of charge.”
Addressing journalists on Friday, Allen Onyema, chairman of Air Peace, said the evacuation, scheduled for Friday, has been postponed.
He said a Boeing 777 aircraft had been on standby since September 3 and was only awaiting directive from the federal government to take off.
However, this could not be done as many Nigerians willing to return home did not have valid passports to leave the country and fly.
Onyema said the new date for evacuation would now be September 9 or September 10, adding that the process of passport renewal for affected persons have commenced.
“The 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 Sept 9 or Sept 10,” he said.
“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.
“Air Peace has placed its aircraft, Boeing 777 for the flight since Sept. 3, but the Nigerian High Commission needed time to register the Nigerians billed to travel.
“And, they are already doing that in Johannesburg and Pretoria.”