Some Nigerians, who were evacuated from South Africa on Wednesday, have said they decided to return for fear of being killed in the waves of xenophobic attacks in the country.
Samson Aliyu, a clothes seller who lived in South Africa for two years, was one of the 187 Nigerians who arrived on Wednesday night in Lagos aboard an aircraft operated by Air Peace.
“I ran for my life, they would have killed me,” Aliyu, told AFP news agency.
“They burnt my shop, everything,” he added.
Pastor Ugo Ofoegbu, who has lived in South Africa for close to two decades, sent his wife and three children back to Nigeria.
“My family is not safe here,” Ofoegbu told Al Jazeera.
Reports say that South African authorities frustrated the repatriation of the Nigerians, cutting the number of the returnees to 187 from over 300 which were initially expected.
Altogether 640 Nigerians registered intentions with the Nigerian consulate in South Africa to return to Nigeria.
A second flight is expected on Thursday or Friday.
Precious Mbabie, 35, who works as a fashion designer and seamstress in a Johannesburg suburb, was on the flight with her three children, leaving her husband behind.
“We agreed that it is better I go back home with the children.
She and her family live in Rosettenville, one of the first areas to be affected by the violence.
“Where we are staying is very dangerous because of xenophobia. They say they don’t want any foreigners there,” she said.
Diplomatic relations between the two countries have soured since the resurgence of the xenophobic attacks.
Riots in Pretoria and Johannesburg saw at least 12 people killed as 1,000 foreign-owned businesses were targeted. The nationalities of those killed have not been announced but Nigerians, Ethiopians, Congolese, and Zimbabweans were attacked.
President Muhammadu Buhari is expected to visit South Africa soon to hold talks with President Cyril Ramaphosa on finding a lasting solution to the crisis.