Oluseye Ojo, Ibadan

Oyo State government on Wednesday officially received 32 natives of the state, who were forced to return to Nigeria as a result of xenophobic attacks in South Africa.

The deputy governor, Alhaji Rauf Olaniyan, who received the returnees, comprising 30 adults and two minors, on behalf of the state governor, Seyi Makinde, promised that the state would assist each of the returnees with N30,000 as transport allowance for them to return to their communities and villages.

The 32 returnees were led to the Governor’s Office in Ibadan by the Director of Media, Nigerians in Diaspora Commission (NIDCOM), Mr. Abdulrahman Balogun.

Olaniyan, in his address, said the state was ready to assist the returnees, saying the assistance would not be monetary ”but do proper profiling of the returnees to know specific areas where to help them, thereafter they would make their proposals.”

He stated that funding opportunities abound in the Bank of Industry (BOI), urging them to come up with business proposals to further their areas of specialisation.

He added that the state government would consider those that qualify for government jobs when the state is ready to recruit workers. He also advised them to abstain from any criminal activities, saying the present administration in the state had been working hard to provide favourable atmosphere for everyone to prosper.

The Director of Media of NIDCOM, Balogun, said during the reception that as at Tuesday night, over 400 Nigerians have indicated interest to return home, saying President Muhammadu Buhari takes the xenophobic attacks on Nigerians in South Africa seriously and that was why he would lead delegation with seven governors, five ministers, and special advisers to meet with his South Africa counterpart, Cyril Ramaphosa.

His words: “We hope things will be normal with the meeting. If after the discussion, South Africa is ready to make some concessions, those Nigerians may decide to stay back.

“The commission usually tells those who travel out to be good representatives of the country. As we are having this batch, we have similar issues in Asia, Saudi Arabia in which we have a sizeable number of people from this state.

“I am currently working on calling for our attention. We usually counsel our young people that there is nothing green in those places people are going to. You are better off here. With little assistance, you can do well rather than go somewhere and be killed, attacked and cannot move or do business freely. The younger ones should come together for us to nurture the nation. We have better opportunities here in Nigeria.

“We have partnered some other agencies to assist them, re-orientate, re-integrate, and do some forms of empowerment to

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fully integrate them into the system. And we have profiled them according to their states and have been reaching out to the states.

“Among the 17 states whose indigenes were brought back home, Oyo State is first to do formal re-integration for its citizens.”

One of the returnees, Olakojo Sotunde, said: “I would like the government to assist us in any way they can. We need jobs. I am a graduate of History and

International Relations from LASU. Back in South Africa, I had a registered business and was doing well; then all of a sudden

xenophobia started.

“I had two cars that I wanted to sell because I had the intention to come back home no matter what. I came home two times last year but when I came, there was really nothing, so I had to go back.

“I was contemplating on either staying back in South Africa or coming back to Nigeria. Then xenophobia started last month and the whole story changed. I will like the government to assist us in any way they can. There are some of us that need jobs. Some other people are business owners. If you can get us jobs or set us up in businesses, we will be glad.”

Another returnee, Okeleye Oluwaseun, also said: “It was ups and downs for me in South Africa. I studied Agriculture and sought a country practicing mechanised farming, hence the reason I went to South Africa.

“We need help. I now have to start all over again from scratch. The Federal

government should interview us per person and know what we want. In South Africa, I saw people attacked. Most of their drivers have guns. They saw Nigerians as intelligent, smart and envied us; they felt

we bullied them. Nigerians are everywhere in South Africa, especially in the medical sector. They (South Africans) suffer inferiority complex.”