By David Olalekan.
Following the repatriation of 188 Nigerians from South Africa on Wednesday, with the second batch of returnees due for evacuation next week, some Nigerians in South Africa have opted to stay put in the country despite recurring onslaught on foreign nationals.
The Nigerian population in the Southern African country is pegged at about 30,000 but according to the Ministry of of Foreign Affairs, only 640 Nigerians had so far registered interest to return home.
The Vanguard reports that the number of voluntary returnees are low because most Nigerians are still weighing their options, citing economic hardship in Nigeria as reason for their continued stay in South Africa.
Ferdnard Ikechukwu, a Nigerian residing in South Africa was quoted as saying, “Come to Nigeria to do what? Is the situation there better than what we have here? Are Boko Haram not killing people at will? Are there no militia groups who take laws into their hands and waste innocent lives in Nigeria? What about all the killings back home by bandits, herdsmen kidnappers? What has the government done to address them?
“Besides, will government give me job? Will I return and fold my hands watching my aged parents feed me, my wife and children? I will rather remain here and pray for God’s protection.”
Another South African resident, Edome Asemota said, “I can’t leave because there is no hope for me back home. I came into South Africa, three years ago, having spent five years in Nigeria without a job. I did all kinds of menial jobs to earn a living, while in Nigeria, I could not rent one-room apartment.
“My course mate back in the university invited me to South Africa three years ago. I started as a sales boy in a car mart in Malvern , a suburb of Johannesburg. I also help people wash cars. At least I could save reasonable amount. The only problem here is the xenophobic attacks. My prayer is that God will spare my life”.
A business man, Uche Ozioma disclosed that he had already established himself in South Africa, hence could not return to Nigeria to begin from the scratch.
“It is not as if I do not want to return home. But I have already established a business here. I have been here for 20 years and I have branches in seven provinces. I have four children, all graduates. Two of them are married to South Africans. I go home (Nigeria ) every December to spend Christmas with my parents and relatives. Tell me, if I leave here, where would I start from?” he queried.