The first aircraft lifting Nigerians out of South Africa has taken off from the OR Tambo airport, Johannesburg.
The flight, which was scheduled to leave at 9:10 am, was delayed for about seven hours.
Abike Dabiri-Erewa, chairman of the Nigerians in Diaspora Commission, confirmed that immigration issues caused the delay.
She said immediately those on board arrive, they would be given sim cards and airtime that would last almost two months to help them stay in touch with their families.
Dabiri-Erewa added that the Bank of Industry would also offer entrepreneurship programme to those willing to learn.
“The Bank of Industry will also be here to offer some entrepreneurship programme and some support to start a small business and there would be some stipends for transportation to take you home and we will profile them and for those who want to get any training, they will decide what kind of training they want to do and the Bank of industry will be there to provide it,” she said.
Heidi Giokos, a reporter with eNCA who has been monitoring events at the airport in South Africa, also tweeted that the plane took off at 3:30pm, South African time.
“188 Nigerians have boarded the @flyairpeace plane. The plane was brought in for Nigerians who wanted the evacuation plan offered by @flyairpeace. The board is now ready to take off. It was scheduled to leave at 9:10 am. Over 7 hour delay,” she wrote.
UPDATE: 188 Nigerias have boarded the @flyairpeace plane. The plane was brought in for Nigerians who wanted the evacuation plan offered by @flyairpeace
The board is now ready to take off.
It was scheduled to leave at 9:10 am
Over 7 hour delay. #XenophobicAttacks #Nigeria
— Heidi Giokos (@HeidiGiokos) September 11, 2019
According to her, the delay seemed to be as a result of expired documents from some Nigerian nationals going through the South African immigration.
She also reported earlier that some Nigerians were not allowed to board as they couldn’t provide travel documents for their children.
Hundreds of Nigerians had on Wednesday morning gathered at the Nigeria consulate in South Africa where buses moved them in batches to the OR Tambo airport.
This development follows a directive from President Muhammadu Buhari to evacuate Nigerians in South Africa.
The president gave this order after receiving the report of the special envoy evaluating xenophobic attacks on Nigerians in South Africa.
The returnees are to be welcomed at the premises of the Nigerian Aviation Handling Company (NAHCO) immediately they arrive via the Murtala Muhammed International Airport in Lagos.
An official of NAHCO told TheCable estimated time of arrival would be around 7pm.
It was also gathered that a second plane will arrive in South Africa on Friday to take more Nigerians willing to return.