A delay in securing landing permit from South African aviation authorities for Air Peace has led to rescheduling the evacuation of the second batch of Nigerians from South Africa.
This is coming on the heels of xenophobic attacks on Nigerians and other Africans in South Africa.
In the second batch, 320 Nigerians were billed to arrive the country yesterday through the Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Lagos.
But the delay made the management of Air Peace to reschedule it till today.
Air Peace Chairman Allen Onyema stated this in a telephone interview with The Nation.
Onyema said following the late approval for landing rights, the Boeing 777-300 departed Lagos for Johannesburg last night to arrive with the 320 Nigerians by noon today.
The businessman said the airline was committed to the project by following due process and laid down procedures set by South African authorities.
He said: “Air Peace, less than an hour ago, just secured landing rights permit from South African aviation authorities. Our aircraft will now depart by midnight (last night) to evacuate Nigerians already cleared to return.
The whole idea is to ensure the returnees arrive here during the day for enhanced logistics. Bringing them home in the middle of the night may not be very convenient. That is why we moved it to Wednesday (today).”
Scores of journalists, security agencies and others waiting at the airport had mobilised for the operations.
Also, Southsouth National Leader and Convener of the Pan-Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF), Chief Edwin Clark, has advised the Federal Government to handle the relationship with the South African government with mature diplomacy.
The Ijaw leader was responding to the visit of the South African Special Envoy sent by President Cyril Ramaphosa to convey his country’s apologies to the Nigerian government and people over the recent xenophobic attacks.
Many Nigerian in South Africa were said to have died while others lost property estimated at millions of dollars.
Clark noted that the South African government had taken the first right step by sending its representatives with an apology message.
The elder statesman said to ask for further show of commitment from South Africa in the form of compensation for losses incurred during the attacks would not be wrong but it should not be done alone by Nigeria.
According to him, the relationship with South Africa and the response to the harsh treatments meted out to Nigerians in the country should be treated with guided diplomacy.
Clark said there are still many Nigerian citizens still resident in South Africa, adding that Nigeria should rather make the South African government show faith to its promise to eradicate xenophobia and discrimination in the country.
“The South African government did the right thing by sending the special envoy. It is the right step to take. But more than that, other issues of further steps should be discussed when President Muhammadu Buhari goes to have a meeting with President Cyril Ramaphosa of South Africa in October.
“About the issue of compensation, I think Nigeria should not make such demand alone since we are not the only affected country. Besides that, the South African government has said it was compulsory for all companies registered in the country to get insured. I think this a caveat to take seriously.
“However, since this xenophobia attacks affected many African countries, I think Nigeria should provide the leadership for other African countries whose citizens suffered losses to these attacks, approach the African Union (AU), the United Nations (UN) and even the International Court at The Hague to seek redress and table the matter of compensation.
“All these said, I believe we as a nation need to handle this matter diplomatically, considering how many of our people are not willing to return home yet. I think just about 500 out of thousands have returned. So, there’s need for caution.
“I think we should make the South African government do much more to prevent these attacks from happening again. I remember that in 2011, the South African government gave a commitment to ensure that xenophobic attacks, discrimination and racism would be made to end. I think this is a more diplomatic and mature way of dealing with this issue for now.”