By Dayo Johnson, Victoria Ojeme, Demola Akinyemi, Chinonso Alozie& Ugochukwu Alaribe
One month after victims of xenophobic attacks returned to Nigeria, findings by Sunday Vanguard revealed that 9 out of 16 states whose indigenes were affected have literally done nothing to support the victims.
Apart from those who hail from Oyo, Lagos, Delta, Imo, Abia, Ogun, and Ondo, others have been left to their fate after the initial attention they received after they arrived the country.
Chairman of Nigerian Diaspora Commission, NIDCOM, Mrs. Abike Dabiri-Erewa, had profiled the returnees, saying they hail from 16 states.
She listed the affected states to include Ogun, Imo,Oyo, Abia, Anambra, Delta, Ebonyi, Edo, Ekiti, Enugu, Kwara, Lagos, Ondo, Kogi, Benue and Akwa Ibom.
To support their reintegration into the society, Dabiri-Erewa said an appeal for support was made to the concerned states.
Sunday Vanguard could not confirm if all the states received the letters but seven have reached out to the returnees.
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The states include Oyo, Lagos, Delta, Imo, Abia, Ogun, and Ondo. Others were found to have done nothing.
Officials of these states told Sunday Vanguard that they are not aware that some of their indigenes were affected by xenophobic attacks.
While stating that they have not been contacted by anyone, the functionaries added that they would assist if such persons identify themselves.
Some returnees are already experiencing difficult times.
Those who spoke to Sunday Vanguard pleaded for assistance, adding that the economic situation of Nigeria does not give them any hope. Majority pleaded anonymity fearing stigmatisation. They however added that they could be contacted through NIDCOM.
Meanwhile, a returnee, Adedotun Adegbenro, who resides in Akure, is critically ill following the injuries he sustained in a road traffic accident.
When Sunday Vanguard called him on phone, his wife, Oluwatoyin Adegbenro, said he was admitted to the Trauma Centre in Ondo.
She said: “He had an accident in Akure. He is currently unconscious. We are footing the bill and we have spent more than N400, 000 on him. He was among those, who were given N400, 000 each by the Ondo State government. The government has done well. We would appreciate any form of help.”
Another returnee, Kingsley Okonkwo, was arrested by operatives of the Rapid Response Squad, RRS, for allegedly dispossessing a laptop dealer of three Apple laptops valued at N1.5million at gunpoint. The suspect hails from Agbogugu, Awgu Local Government Area of Enugu State.
On the sideline of an event in Abuja last Thursday, Dabiri-Erewa told Sunday Vanguard that states were being encouraged by NIDCOM to assist the returnees, adding that they were being monitored in that regard.
She said: “We have 16 states and almost half of them have reached out to them. They include Abia, Ondo, Imo, Ogun, Delta, Oyo, and Lagos.
“They have received them and done needs assessment in addition to the support they provided for them.
“We got support from Mtn, Airtel, Bank of Industry, Multichoice, National Emergency Agency, NEMA, and one hospital offered free medical treatment. “We would later reach out to them to know how they are doing. We have their contacts and we are monitoring them. One of them called to say that he wants to travel again but we told him that if he does that, he would be doing so at his own risk. Going back is voluntary.”
Sunday Vanguard recalls that no fewer than 500 Nigerian victims of xenophobic attacks were evacuated from South Africa in two batches last month.
The state-by-state finding of how the states are assisting them revealed these:
Oyo: Returnees’ areas of need to be identified
Oyo State government received 32 returnees, who they gave N30,000 each.
The returnees who were led by the Director of Media, NIDCOM, Mr. Abdulrahman Balogun were received by the Deputy Governor, Mr. Rauf Olaniyan in Ibadan.
While receiving them, Olaniyan reiterated the state’s commitment to ensuring that the returnees find their footings on time by carrying out proper and comprehensive profiling to confirm their particular areas of needs and ensure how to attend to them.
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The Imo State government said that it would capture 85 percent of the skilled South African returnees in its ongoing empowerment programmes.
The Senior Special Assistant to the governor on Information and Advocacy, Adaora Onyechere, who disclosed this to Sunday Vanguard in Owerri, added that the reintegration programmes would start from the local government level.
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Onyechere said women and minors would be given adequate attention.
She said: “Our governor has reached out to the Nigeria Diaspora Commission on what should be done for Imo-born returnees. We are even the first state to receive our contact list.
“On October 2, our governor held a reception for the returnees. At the event were able to have an interaction with them. We discovered that 85 percent of them are skilled workers. They had their businesses. 45 of them are minors.
“Knowing that these children were in school before they left there, we decided to reintegrate them into the education system.
“That was why he adopted the recommendation by the steering committee. The committee will see to the day to day engagements of these persons.”
Sunday Vanguard also learned that the Catholic Archdiocese of Owerri assisted the victims.
ABIA: Gov hosts returnees
Abia State government said it is committed to ensuring better lives for its indigenes.
The governor, who stated this while receiving them at the Government House, Umuahia, urged them not to allow their past experiences to weigh them down.
He assured them of his administration’s support towards assisting them to find their feet again. The governor enjoined the returnees to leverage on the numerous empowerment programmes his administration had put in place to improve their lives.
He said:” We are happy that you came back alive. We prefer to spend money to help you find your feet again to spending such funds on your funerals. Abia has multi-skill acquisition centres in the three senatorial districts where you could be trained. There are agricultural value chain programmes you could engage yourselves in to make a living.”
He also lauded the quick steps taken by the Abia State Diaspora Office in reaching out to the victims.
The returnees were also given smartphones and other items by a businessman, Chief Raymond Aliga.
Special Adviser to the Governor on Diaspora Matters, Dr. Ngozi Ogbonna-Erondu, who had presented the returnees to the governor, said they were profiled, adding that some were found skillful in various areas, while others are traders.
A cross-section of the returnees who spoke to Sunday Vanguard said they preferred starting life afresh to going back to South Africa where they lost all they had toiled for in life.
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ONDO: Empowerment programmes
In Ondo, the state governor, Rotimi Akeredolu while receiving them, gave a cash gift of N100, 000 to each of the returnees and promised to provide the necessary support for them to start a new life.
He particularly charged the returnees not to be discouraged by what had happened to them.
The governor assured them of his administration’s readiness to assist in settling down in their various communities.
Akeredolu, who informed them that his administration has provided various windows of opportunities including youth and women empowerment, agricultural programmes, and entrepreneurship programmes among others, advised them to embrace any of the opportunities.
Lagos State, who had seven indigenes on the list of returnees gave the sum of N20, 000 to each of the people evacuated from South Africa.
In Osun State, the Supervisor in charge of Ministry of Home Affairs, Dr. Adebisi Obawale said the state has not received any information indicating that it has anyone among the returnees.
“For now I cannot comment on issues of provision because we do not have any, however, if there is anyone who can substantially prove he is from the state, we can talk about it, ‘’ he added.
Similarly, the Chief Press Secretary to Kwara State governor, Mr. Rafiu Ajakeye said indigenes of the state were not affected.
He said: “We are not aware that any of the returnees is from Kwara State. We don’t have that information and nobody has contacted us to that effect.’’