Port-Harcourt - The NEMA South-south zonal coordinator, Mr Umesi Emenike, on Monday received 242 Nigerian returnees from the Republic of Gabon.
Speaking while receiving the returnees, Emenike said the returnees voluntarily decided to return home after years of sojourn in that country.
He noted that it was the constitutional mandate of NEMA to ``facilitate such nostalgic operation’’ which, according to him, is a demonstration of patriotism.
Emenike explained that the returnees were not repatriated as could be misconceived, but decided to come home after discovering that Gabon was no longer conducive for their businesses.
``Let no one misinterpret this return as repatriation; they were not repatriated but they felt things were not working well there.
``They decided to return home where they would be proud to thrive under any condition because it is their own country.’’
Emenike confirmed that some of the returnees had been confronted with harsh economic situations and poverty in Gabon, hence they boldly agreed to come home as an escape from hardship.
The zonal coordinator, who disclosed that many of the returnees were from Bayelsa, assured them of adequate care, adding that they comprised of 80 per cent children and an octogenarian.
One of the returnees, Mr Layefa Torubeli, who went to Gabon in 1964, said the returnees were subjected to harsh economic situations that compelled them to reason that coming home was the best option.
He recalled how many Nigerians, especially fishermen and women were frustrated by Gabonese citizens, adding: ‘’they will not allow us to fish again; they will seize our boats and even take our catch’’.
``In fact, they did everything to set our business aback.’’
Another returnee, Mrs Gloria Theophilus, thanked NEMA and the Federal Government for facilitating their return, and promised to be law abiding.
She recalled the harsh economic experience they faced in Gabon which was ``terrible and highly exploitative''.
The highlight of the reception was the donation of some relief materials, including food items, water, mats and other items.