Many Nigerians have been shunning trips to South Africa in the last two weeks.
It was gathered on Thursday that since the latest xenophobic attacks on Nigerians by South Africans, many travelers had been boycotting trips to the former apartheid enclave.
Also on Thursday, the House of Representatives described the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr Geoffrey Onyeama’s denial of its invitation as an insult.
The House stated this just as the Federal Government disclosed that Nigeria and South Africa would set up a bilateral-commission aimed at ending xenophobia.
In spite of the peace initiative, a number of travel agents told one of our correspondents that Nigerians were not buying tickets to South Africa, except for special reasons.
I haven’t sold tickets to Johannesburg for two weeks – Agent
“I have not booked a single ticket to Johannesburg in the last two weeks,” a travel agent, who did not want to be named revealed.
“Nobody is going there at the moment. It is as if there is a total boycott except it is extremely important. Since the problem between Nigeria and South Africa began, the only people travelling are those that had booked their flights long before now and students that need to return to school and have no choice but to resume,” the agent said.
Another Lagos-based agent said the situation had degenerated to the point that special travel packages that were put together for tourists to the country had either been cancelled or diverted to some other destinations as people were no longer interested.
Nigerian tourists changing destinations from SA to Dubai
According to the agent, Nigerian tourists are changing their vacation destinations to Dubai, Mauritius and other places.
“There are people with pending tickets that have requested change of airline or destination. Even people scheduled to travel; some have said they no longer want to travel to South Africa,” he said.
Findings show that South African Airways, which operates daily flights between Lagos and Johannesburg, has been affected.
South African Airways enjoys a near monopoly on the route being the only airline that offers direct flights from Lagos to Johannesburg; other airlines on that route such as Kenyan Airway and Rwandair have to get to Nairobi and Kigali respectively, before taking off to Johannesburg. The airline, when contacted, declined to comment on the issue.
I left SA when attacks became frequent – Mother of two
Meanwhile, a woman who was among those evacuated on Wednesday shared her experience, saying that she decided to leave South Africa when the attacks became frequent.
The single mother of two, Ololade Atere, from Oyo State, said her nail studio was destroyed in the recent xenophobic attacks.
Atere said, “My experience was bad. I was into fixing of nails and one day I got a call that my shop had been destroyed. I decided to come home because the violence became too much and I couldn’t keep running with my two kids.
“I lived in South Africa for five years, but I have no plans of going back. I am tired of the violence. I have to be safe. I am home now. I have to find a job or business.
“I left Nigeria when I was pregnant. The intention was to have my baby, have some travel experience and return. I wanted to come back after I had my first baby but people convinced me to stay. But now, I have had enough.”
S’Africa said my children were its citizens – Mother
Atere said she was supposed to be among the first batch of Nigerians to return, but was stopped at the airport.
“They said I couldn’t travel with my kids because I gave birth to them in South Africa and they are citizens,” she said.
She added that she was made to swear an affidavit before she was allowed to bring the children with her to Nigeria.
‘I left my child in S’Africa’
Another returnee, who identified himself as Uchenbi, told the News Agency of Nigeria that South Africans harboured hostility towards Nigerians.
He stated, “South Africans are angry at Nigerians for no reason and would blame them for whatever reason they deem fit.”
Uchenbi, who was in South Africa for 12 years before he returned to Nigeria on Wednesday, said he left his child in South Africa, while she was sleeping.
The man, who is married to a South African, said his wife would have suffered, if he had been killed in South Africa.
S’African police didn’t probe my husband killing – Woman
Another returnee, Blessing Chioma, accused the South African police of inaction when her husband was killed in 2012.
Chioma said, ”I’m coming from South Africa, Johannesburg; I was married to a Nigerian, but South Africans killed him during the xenophobic attacks. I reported the case to the police, they know about it; they look for the guys, but you won’t know them because they come in groups, so nothing was done; the case is closed,” she said.
”Since then I’ve been coping with the children, but I returned them to Nigeria because I was no more meeting up in training them. So they’re here now in Nigeria; I came back to take care of them, but we came with nothing because they burnt our shops.”