The ministry told newsmen in Abuja on Wednesday that the returnees were on board Air Peace Airline expected to touch down at the Murtala International Airport, Lagos, at 11. 15p.m.
The Ministry officials on the evacuation mission who updated journalists on the development said that the plane earlier scheduled for take-off at 9a.m. was delayed
due to slow checking in and clearance procedures by immigration.
The ministry had earlier stated that 640 Nigerians had registered and willing to return to Nigeria but the first batch would depart Johannesburg on Wednesday while the second batch would depart on Friday.
It said that out of the 313 persons confirmed for the first batch for evacuation, only 84 persons were cleared to embark on the flight.
However, as at the time of this report, it confirmed that 178 Nigerians were on board.
Following the xenophobic attack on Nigerians in South Africa, Mr Allen Onyeama, the Proprietor of Air Peace, volunteered to send an aircraft to evacuate Nigerians willing to return free of charge.
The process which was earlier scheduled to commence on Sept. 6 ran into a hitch when it was discovered that most Nigerians willing to return did not have valid passports or travel documents to complete immigration formalities.