One week after Nigerians willing to leave South Africa were subjected to rigorous immigration procedures, thereby preventing over 100 people from making the return trip, the evacuation of yet another batch of Nigerians is being frustrated.
Speaking with reporters on Tuesday, Allen Onyeama, chairman of Air Peace, the airline conveying stranded Nigerians in South Africa back home, said the authorities of South Africa have denied an aircraft meant to bring more Nigerians back home, from landing right at the Oliver Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg.
Onyeama said the refusal to grant the airline landing permit affected the plan to set out by 1am.
“We did not take off by 1 am as scheduled because South African authorities are yet to give us landing permit. We are hopeful that they will give us the permit,” he said.
”Our crew waited till 3:00 am but when the permit did not come, they went back to the hotel. Once we get the permit we will set off to South Africa. We don’t want to speculate but we are hopeful they will give the permit.”
Onyeama said the airline’s B777 aircraft deployed for the operation was still on standby at the Murtala Mohammed International Airport, Lagos.
There was a plan for the airline to evacuate a batch of 320 Nigerians who had indicated interest to return home, with the flight expected to arrive in Lagos at 7pm on Tuesday.
The airline has volunteered to evacuate Nigerians willing to return to the country free of charge. Some Nigerians opted to leave the country following the recent violence against foreigners in south Africa.
President Cyril Ramaphosa had sent a delegation to apologise to Nigeria over the attacks.