Adedayo Ebenezer, Nwachukwu Princely and Nina Loveth
The evacuation of Nigerians from South Africa has been suspended due to the scheduled visit of President Muhammadu Buhari to Pretoria today (Wednesday).
But the Ministry of Foreign Affairs told TOTAL POLITICS MAGAZINE News on Tuesday that the outcome of the talks between Buhari and his host, President, Cyril Ramaphosa, would determine if there would be further evacuation of Nigerians from South Africa
The Federal Government had last month started the evacuation of Nigerians from South Africa, following xenophobic attacks on them and other Africans.
On 11th of September,187 Nigerians came from South Africa an aboard Air Peace aircraft. The carrier airlifted 315 Nigerians from South Africa on September 18.
One of our correspondents gathered that Nigeria and South Africa would on Thursday hold their Bi-National Commission summit, which would be presided over by Buhari and Ramaphosa.
TOTAL POLITICS MAGAZINE News gathered that the meeting would also develop strategies and finalise agreements on an advance warning system on xenophobic attacks.
The Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, said in a statement that Buhari would today (Wednesday) embark on a three-day state visit to South Africa on the invitation of Ramaphosa.
The visit, which is coming on the heels of the xenophobic attacks, the evacuation of over 500 Nigerians and the exchange of visits by special envoys of Presidents Buhari and Ramaphosa, was expected to finalise all relevant draft agreements and memoranda of understanding on defence and security, energy and socio-economic matters, trade and politics.
While in South Africa, the Nigerian leader would also discuss the welfare of Nigerians, and find common grounds for building harmonious relations with their hosts.
The statement said, “President Buhari and his host will preside over the South Africa/Nigeria Bi-National Commission, during which a progress report will be presented. At the end of the meeting, both leaders will sign a joint communiqué.
“The visit comes against the backdrop of recent xenophobic attacks, the evacuation of hundreds of Nigerians and the exchange of visits by special envoys of Presidents Buhari and Ramaphosa.
“While in South Africa, the Nigerian leader will hold a town hall meeting with Nigerians living in the country with a view to sharing in their experiences and reassuring them of the Nigerian government’s commitment to working for the protection of their lives and property and promoting peaceful co-existence.
The President and his delegation, including Nigerian business representatives, will also participate in the South Africa-Nigeria Business Forum with their host counterparts.
The spokesman, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ferdinand Nwonye, informed one of our correspondents that discussions at the BNC would revolve around trade, investment, security and the xenophobic attacks in parts of South Africa.
He said, “The bi-national commission is an annual summit between Nigeria and South Africa. They discuss various issues that border on trade, investment and other things that may arise.
“If there are new issues around the xenophobic attacks, they may be discussed extensively and I think the outcome of the meeting will determine if there will be another batch of evacuees that will return to Nigeria. If at the end of the day, everybody agrees with the discussions, there may not be any need returning anybody.”
Asked about the reported increase in the number of those awaiting evacuation, Nwonye said he did not have the current figure, but noted that the evacuation was not meant for every Nigerian resident in South Africa.
Buhari will be accompanied on the tip by governors Abdullahi Ganduje of Kano State, Simon Lalong of Plateau and David Umahi of Ebonyi states, as well as some of his ministers and special advisers.
Over 700 remaining for evacuation – NUSA
Meanwhile, over 700 Nigerians, who indicated interest to be evacuated from South Africa, are still waiting to be airlifted, TOTAL POLITICS MAGAZINE News has learnt.
The President of the Nigerian Union South Africa, Adetola Olubajo, in an interview with one of our correspondents on Monday, said, “It is the consulate that can give you accurate figures of people (remaining for evacuation) because what we have heard is that there are over 700 remaining.“
The NUSA president stated that there were no more attacks and that protests had not been violent.
He said, “For instance, today (Tuesday), there was a protest march in Durban, but there is nothing besides government and civil organisations trying to mend fences and build bridges so that there will be proper social integration of people who are displaced.
“There is a case of a man, his wife and two kids, who dropped their names for evacuation, but they were not called for the first and second evacuation. We don’t know the reason.
“Then, there is another guy, who is mentally ill. He wants to go home. But we are going to offer help to those ones.”
According to Olutola, NUSA is looking at how it can rally round and offer help because “the evacuation process has been suspended for now.”
A source at Air Peace said on Tuesday that the airline was still waiting for signals from the Federal Government to resume evacuation of Nigerians from South Africa.
The Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Air Peace, Mr Allen Onyema, had stated that the airline was ready to evacuate more Nigerians as long as they were willing to return from South Africa.