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Nigerian returnees from South Africa narrate ordeal

  • My quest for greener pastures almost cost me my life–single parent

  • I regret stepping my foot in South Africa -50-year-old man says

  • Shame prevented me from returning home

  • South Africans are rapists- LASU graduate

By Lolo Ayaba

Most Nigerians who left the shores of the country for South Africa, went solely for a common purpose- to search for better living condition. While some died without seeing their dreams come through, others who managed to return home voluntarily, owing to series of xenophobic attacks, are full of regrets.
Nigerian returnees from South Africa narrate ordeal

The expressions on the faces of most Nigerian returnees who were flown in the Air Peace aircraft , Wednesday night , said it all. Some were lost in thought, apparently wondering where they would pick up the pieces of their lives from, having lost time and all they laboured for in the attacks.

Others looked worried and twice their age, having worked harder than they should , over there, all in a bid to make money.

Among the 188 Nigerian returnees was 50-year-old Lateef Babatunde. He kept shaking his head in regret and at the same time full of appreciation to God for sparing his life to tell the story of his South African sojourn.

According to the Oyo State indigene, “my travail began when my children started gaining admission into tertiary institutions. I decided to travel to South Africa to work to raise more money. Prior to my traveling, I was a motorcycle dealer and business was moving well. I travelled to South Africa in February 2019 to work and make more money for my family, especially for my children’s education.

“Unfortunately, what I witnessed was far from what I expected. First, youths over there lack formal educational and vocational training or skills. They engaged in drinking and stealing, so it is a dangerous country for a Nigerian to be.

“Sincerely I regret travelling to South Africa. From the first day I stepped my foot on that soil I realised I made a mistake. There was no work as i was made to believe before i left Nigeria. Little wonder some Nigerians indulge in drug trafficking and robbery to survive.

Nigerian returnees from South Africa narrate ordeal
Nigerian returnees from South Africa narrate ordeal

“ But I prefer to come back home than risk being sentenced to jail. Everyone I ran to for financial assistance were unable to help not because they didn’t want to help but because they didn’t have to help.

“For eight months I roamed the street of South Africa aimlessly and frustrated. I wanted to come back but there was no means to come back. I am so grateful to Air Peace for giving me this opportunity because i really did not know how I would have come back home.

“Unfortunately for me I sold my properties while leaving for South Africa. Now, I don’t know how to start all over again”.

Shame of returning home kept us back-father of five

For another returnee who spoke on the condition of anonymity , he described his 19 years of being in South Africa as waste.

The native of Anambra state said, “ I am married to a South African woman. We have five children but two came back with me while my wife and the others will be coming to join us in December.

Shame of returning home empty handed kept many of us in South Africa. A lot of us are not doing anything there, which is why when the opportunity came on a platter of gold, I did not only make up my mind to come back but also convinced a lot of other Nigerians to come back to their country.

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“Many of us have been facing hell in that country. You will see Nigerians there for over 19 years on the streets begging and a lot of them are there because they feel ashamed to come back home empty. How can somebody leave his country for 19years and come back empty-handed?

Nigerian returnees from South Africa narrate ordeal
Nigerian returnees from South Africa narrate ordeal

Now that South Africa said we should leave their country, it was an opportunity for me to say bye-bye South Africa because people won’t expect much from me now because this is a serious situation where people lost lot of things and eventually, my people will think I was one of those people who lost their properties to secure their lives. Anyone that reasons well will take this as an opportunity to come back home but some still stayed back.

Besides, I decided to leave the country because there’s no job opportunity for their people let alone foreigners. That is why they are angry whenever they saw foreigners with their own ideas progressing more than them. Imagine if it was you that people came from another country and after one or two years they begin to drive expensive cars, won’t you be angry? This is actually the situation right there. They feel that foreigners came to take over their businesses. If Nigerians are 100,000 there in South Africa for example I want to tell you that 99,900 are jobless.
I discovered that I had a calling in South Africa , so I went into ministry. Even in South Africa, it’s very difficult for a minister to make it because they(south Africans ) are jealous and lazy to work”.

Cases of rape everywhere—- Single mother

On her part, Temi Laide a single parent of two girls, who has been in South Africa for six years said she lost her car in the last attack.

Nigerian returnees from South Africa narrate ordeal
Temi Laide (Nigerian returnees from South Africa narrate ordeal)

She said, “ As a matter of fact, one of my cars was burnt down, it was burnt because I parked it in an Asian shop and with this singular act I knew that I have had enough. Because if they are burning properties and killing people, nobody knows what action they will take next. I owned a beauty company back in South Africa, where I sold skin beauty products. My company is registered and I pay tax. I stay in a quiet peaceful place but those who live in town are the ones that suffer more of the attacks.

When I went to town two weeks ago, I witnessed how foreigners, including Nigerians were killed . They want Nigerians especially out of their country because they believe Nigerians deal in drugs, prostitution and all other vices.

On the other hand, cases of rape are rampant there . It is so bad that they can rape a pregnant woman even a year old baby.

“ I am a graduate Lagos State University,where I studied Industrial Relations.If I had a job, I wouldn’t leave Nigeria in the first place. Nigerian government should try and create more jobs within the country because what we are looking for in South Africa, we have more of that here in Nigeria but it just that we don’t have access to it. They claim our men have taken their women but our men don’t take their woman, they (Nigerian men )are just more responsible than they are. Nigerians are hard working and when they want to make a living, they put in all their efforts to make a living for themselves.

What I will miss the most in South Africa is the stable electricity. I feel bad losing everything I have worked for these past years. It has never been my wish to come back to Nigeria this way. Everyone that went to hustle outside the country plans to make it unfortunately, we ended up this way. We give God glory because he has another plan for us”.

Starling revelations

For another returnee, 37-year-old Nkem, she said she went there to join her husband but expressed shock at what she discovered there.

According to her, “ I travelled there to meet my husband. But when I got there, I discovered there was something called ‘sharing spouse’. They don’t see it as a taboo sharing spouses. South African women kept accusing me of being greedy and refusing to share my spouse. It is their women that chase our men, their women like Nigerian men.

“When I was coming back people advised me to be very careful with what I say to the press. That is why I want to talk to you anonymously. The problem in South Africa is that they are fighting for their business because they believe we have taken over their businesses. The crisis started on September 1, 2019 and it affected a lot of Nigerians living here.”

“My business was doing very well before now. I recently went to the market to stock my shop before this attack. My shop was looted during the onslaught on foreigners especially Nigerians. Because of the attack we were locking our shops almost every day and running for our dear lives. It is not easy for Nigeria women whose husbands reside in South Africa.”

“My advise to Nigerians at home is to manage whatever they are doing because it is not easy out there. The discrimination in South Africa is on another level. Even in some flat where you live you suffer discrimination.


Nigerian returnees from South Africa narrate ordeal
Nigerian returnees from South Africa narrate ordeal

Another returnee, Lawal Bolatito, said “South Africans usually give foreigners temporary permit which is asylum. Unfortunately you can’t do anything with asylum permit except for police not to arrest you. Still they arrest people even when they have valid asylum. The major problem is that they feel that we are talking their jobs, their business, and their wives. Ironically they don’t have jobs most of us do menial jobs which they usually refuse to do. Any country that doesn’t accommodate foreigners can’t develop as foreigners can’t establish themselves.

Although few Nigerians are into crime, doing illegal business and tarnishing the image of the country, that does not rule out the fact that there are a good number of Nigerians who earn a living legitimately. Sending every foreigner out of the country because of a few criminally minded individuals will cause innocent people to suffer”.

My certificate was irrelevant

For another man , a teacher who refused to mention his name, said he left Nigeria since 2004 with his Nigeria Certificate in Education, NCE . He revealed that he ended up as a telephone repairer.
He said, “ I went to South Africa in search of greener pastures but I was disappointed. Attempt to use my teaching certificate to teach, met a brick wall. I had to learn how to repair phones and laptops. I had five people working for me: three from Malawi, one from South Africa and the third from Nigerian.

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“ Two days ago, a Nigerian was stabbed to death. The hostility is a proof that they no longer want Nigerians in their country. I was also attacked. I still have the scars on my hand. When this opportunity came, I needed nobody to tell me I had over stayed my welcome in a foreign land”.


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