Nigerians fleeing xenophobic violence in South Africa returned home via the commercial city of Lagos.
About 200 people, the first batch, were on board privately-owned Nigerian airline Air Peace. Reports have said around 600 Nigerians in total were scheduled to be voluntarily returned home.
A number of the returnees expressed joy at being home whiles condemning the violence by South African thugs which forced their decision.
Some of them displayed “No to xenophobia” placards as they descended from the flight. Amongst them were adults, teenagers and children.
Emmanuel Iyoha, a returnee told the press: “I went there to South Africa when I was just 6 years old, I spent about 10 years there so coming back, it’s a new experience so I am happy because I feel safe.
“… normally even to go to school I’m scared to go to school and all that like sometimes I can’t even think when my sister is at work, so she is the one I have been thinking of since but I’m happy that I am here.”
“With the whole situation, killing and looting shops and everything. I just decided no, it’s time to come back home,” Temilade Tosunde also said.
The violence has led to a heightened diplomatic tension between Africa’s two big powerhouses. South Africa closed its embassies in Nigeria as a security measure whiles Nigeria recalled its ambassador.
Head of Nigeria’s Diaspora Commission, Abike Dabiri reiterated condemnation for the violence: “I think it’s a shame that in the African continent we still have a situation of blacks killing blacks it’s not something that any African should be proud of.
“I think it should be embarrassing to us all as Africans. As our president has said and he has been showing, we would continue to preach love, brotherliness and unity.
“So we just appeal to the South African government to show the political will to stop these killings and one of the ways to do this is to ensure that there are consequences for actions.”
In the latest outbreak of xenophobic violence in South Africa, deadly riots over the last two weeks in Pretoria and Johannesburg killed at least 12 people and targeted foreign-owned businesses.