Xenophobia: Air Peace Plane set to depart for South Africa midnight – Air Peace boss
The Air Peace Flight B777 will depart Nigeria at midnight of Wednesday to evacuate about 319 Nigerians from South Africa following the xenophobic attacks on foreigners in that country.
The Chief Executive Officer of Air Peace Airline, Mr Allen Onyema, confirmed the time to Channels Television on Tuesday during an interview on Politics Today.
“The pilots are there at the airport waiting for midnight to come. We pray that this time around, there won’t be any hitch”.
“We have a list of about 319 Nigerians to be on that flight,” Onyema said hours after the airline secured a permit to land in Johannesburg.
Since the outrage over the xenophobia in South Africa, the Nigerian government has made efforts to assist citizens willing to return home.
On Wednesday last week, over 185 Nigerians returned to the country aboard Air Peace flight MEN2759, after the airline offered to evacuate them free of charge.
Barely one week later, an attempt by the airline to repatriate another set of Nigerians suffered a setback over landing permit.
‘Don’t come in now’
Mr Onyeama noted that the issue had been resolved while they have gotten the permit to land in the South African city of Johannesburg.
He disclosed that they were ready to embark on the evacuation mission but the South African authorities gave them an arrival time.
The Air Peace boss said, “Since Monday were ready to go and get out compatriots out of Johannesburg. The first hitch we encountered was the issue of landing permit into Johannesburg.
“We endured; the pilots remained at the airport waiting for the permit. When at about 4am (on Tuesday) they couldn’t get it, they went back to the hotel. We got a flight services company in the United Arab Emirates to interface with the South Africans to do it for us.”
“At about 3:00pm Tuesday, they were able to get the landing permit for us then, of course, I directed that they should leave for South Africa immediately but the South Africans got back to us and said, don’t come in now”.
“The initial plan was for us to get to South Africa some few hours after midnight or even now and come back to Nigeria in the early hours of the morning, but they said no that they would want us to come at about 8am their own time and that we should depart Johannesburg at 12noon their own time. So, that is why we are waiting,” he added.
Onyema spoke a day after South Africa’s special envoy, Mr Jeff Radebe, visited President Muhammadu Buhari at the State House in Abuja.
Radebe conveyed the message of his president, Cyril Ramaphosa, to the Nigerian leader, as well as an apology to Nigeria over the attacks in his country.
In his response, President Buhari described the attacks as unfortunate and pledged that relationship between Nigeria and South Africa “will be solidified”.