Updated: March 7, 2021
A flight carrying almost 200 Nigerians landed in the commercial capital Lagos late Wednesday as Nigeria began repatriating more than 600 of its citizens from South Africa following a wave of deadly xenophobic attacks there.
Repatriated Nigerians sang the national anthem while waving pictures of burnt shops, according to local media.
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Private airline Air Peace volunteered to fly Nigerians who were willing to return home for free.
“I ran for my life, they would have killed me,” Samson Aliyu, a clothes seller who lived in South Africa for two years, told AFP news agency.
“They burnt my shop, everything,” he added.
A second flight would depart on Thursday or Friday with 640 Nigerians in total fleeing the country.
The repatriation came after riots in Pretoria and Johannesburg killed at least 12 people as 1,000 foreign-owned businesses were targeted.
The nationalities of those killed have not been announced but Nigerians, Ethiopians, Congolese, and Zimbabweans were attacked, according to local media.
The violence sparked an international outcry and calls for a boycott of South Africa.
According to online aviation news site,, the returnees were in high spirits.
The news site wrote: “As they disembarked the Airpeace aircraft a Boeing 777-200 which landed at exactly 9.32 at the hajj and cargo section of the Murtala Mohammed International Airport, Lagos, the returnees were in high spirit, praising the airline, the Nigerian Government and the Nigerian consul General for the great efforts made to evacuate them from SA.
“Some of them in an interview told journalists that the South Africans were fierce in their attacks against Nigerians, going from house to house, shops to shops, looting and burning whatever they saw as businesses belonging to Nigerians.
“Julian Anthony from Edo state who said he was into media production and have been there for 7 years, in SA said, “it was terrible my brother, we barely escape with our lives, we were all scared, they go from home to homes looking for Nigerians. The apartheid in south Africa is still there”