Nigeria: Xenophobic Attacks - Outrage Among Nigerians As PMB Sends Special Envoy to South Africa

Demonstrators protesting violence against women and demanding to see President Cyril Ramaphosa clash with police outside the Cape Town Convention Centre where the World Economic Forum on Africa summit is being held.
4 September 2019

Abuja — Angry Nigerians yesterday trooped to the streets to protest the orgy of xenophobic attacks on Nigerians and other Africans in South Africa.

In Lagos and other parts of the country where the peaceful demonstrations were held, the protesters mounted sentry at the premises of some South African businesses.

A sad incident was however recorded in Lagos where a policeman allegedly killed one of the protesters at a Shoprite complex.

Following the massive protests, the minister of Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Onyeama, urged the South African authorities to do more to safeguard the life and property of Nigerians in that country.

He said that the federal government plans to deploy Nigeria Police in South Africa to stop the arson and killing of Nigerians.

Onyeama who made the disclosure in Abuja when the federal government summoned the Acting South African High Commissioner to Nigeria, Bobby Moroe, lamented that there had been continuous looting and burning of property belonging to Nigerians in South Africa.

Onyeama said that as a result of some of the incidents in the past, he undertook a diplomatic mission to South Africa, alongside the then minister of Interior, where the federal government proposed an "Early Warning Mechanism" system to check the ugly situation.

The minister regretted that the memorandum of understanding which captured the proposal had not been signed, saying that the disadvantage was that there was no framework for the relevant parties such as high level officials of the South African government, the Nigerian High Commission in South Africa, the Consulate General of Nigeria in South Africa and the Nigeria Union in South Africa to meet regularly, informing each other of developments, anticipating events and prepare to pre-empt such attacks as being witnessed today, including taking other measures such as compensation, amongst others."

Asked on what proactive measures the government would take if the attacks continued, Onyeama said: "What we are concerned about, the immediate concern, is to have in place, a robust mechanism that will pre-empt these attacks and if they break out, that will react very quickly to put them down and that will also be providing adequate oversight over the security of vulnerable groups such as Nigerians in South Africa.

"So, this is why we feel that as a first step, we send, if the South African government agrees with us, some Nigeria Police, embedded, attached to the Nigerian High Commission in Pretoria and if again the South African government agrees, that we might even have some Nigeria Police embedded within the South African Police Force to deal with matters concerning Nigerians in South Africa.

"So, Nigerian criminality as well as South African criminality targeting Nigerians; we believe that the advantage of this will be that the law enforcement, the police itself, will have the benefit of Nigeria's input in their engagement with Nigeria community and with threats against Nigerian community. And we believe that this will be a game-changer and it will give confidence to the Nigerian community in South and it will also give an added input really to the South African Police because Nigeria Police will understand Nigerians better and will probably be in a position to provide certain intelligence that might not be available to the South African Police.

So, we believe that it will be a very important synergy in achieving the aims that we want to achieve. We believe that if the two sides are really working together, really want to address this issue and take those particular steps; that it will be very much difficult to have the scale of damage that we have witnessed in the past. And if after that there are still attacks, of course, we have to reassess the measures that we have taken and see where they need to be improved upon," Onyeama said.

Earlier, the minister said that the federal government felt that definitive measures had to be taken to stop once and for all, the acts of aggression and criminality against Nigerians in South Africa.

He said that he invited Moroe and both of them had lengthy discussions and acknowledged the statement issued by the South African government to condemn the situation.

Onyeama, however, said that the Nigerian government was determined that going forward, it should not have any recurrence of such situations.

"So, we have to put in place, we must put in place and we will put in place, mechanisms to ensure that this do not recur.

"We have made very concrete proposals to the South African government today and we believe that if those measures are implemented, we have a very good chance of ensuring that this does not occur again," Onyeama stated.

The minster further said that going forward both countries have to address the issue of compensation, saying that there had to be accountability and responsibility for compensating all Nigerians who had suffered losses in South Africa.

"We are going to absolutely push for that and second, we believe that, but I will not go into much details on that, but that the two security forces, South Africa and Nigeria, we can arrange, have an arrangement where there will be cooperation on the ground in South Africa to arrest such events and occurrences.

"And this is obviously something that we will have to work out details with the South African government and hopefully, see us addressing at the field level, if I can call it that, the challenges posed by these incessant attacks.

"So, we have put that forward through the South African government, clear proposals and we will be discussing them and hopefully, the South African government will support us in that initiative as we believe that it will make all the difference," Onyeama added.

On his part, Moroe said that it was in order to express appreciation to the federal government for the opportunity to meet with the minister of Foreign Affairs.

He said that for the South African government, the move was a reflection of the cordial relations that both countries enjoyed, including the peoples.

Moroe added that it was only through such gestures that both countries would be in a position to unlock the bottlenecks that exist between them.

He also said that foreign nationals had always been integrated in the South African society, even as he said that there were a lot of foreigners who have chosen South Africa as their home and a place where they conduct businesses.

"It is therefore quite unfortunate that we found ourselves in a situation that we are now. The government issued a statement yesterday, condemning the acts of violence and acts of criminality.

"For us, these are acts that continue to demonstrate that there are criminals within the society that seeks to destabilise the country, there are criminals who seek to create an impression that South Africans do not subscribe to the principle of Ubuntu," Moroe said.

President Muhammadu Buhari had in a statement through his special adviser on Media and Publicity, Femi Adesina, on Monday, instructed Onyeama to summon the South African High Commissioner to Nigeria and get a brief on the situation; express Nigeria's displeasure over the treatment of her citizens; and assurance of their safety.

Buhari has also dispatched a special envoy to convey to President Cyril Ramaphosa his concerns and to also interact with his South African counterpart on the situation.

The special envoy is expected to arrive in Pretoria tomorrow.

In another development, the High Commission and the Consulate in Pretoria and Johannesburg have said that they were compiling the list of all the Nigerian victims of the current anarchy for engagement with the South African government and other stakeholders for succour.

In this regard, all Nigerians who are victims of the current attacks are requested to come forward to report their situation to the High Commission.

Attacks On Nigerians Reckless, Condemnable - Osinbajo

Also yesterday, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo (SAN) described the attacks on Nigerians in South Africa as reckless and condemnable.

In a statement issued by his spokesman, Laolu Akande, said that the vice president who spoke with reporters in Kano, described the development unfortunate because Nigeria and Nigerians invested a great deal in pulling down apartheid.

He said: "Let me say first that these recent attacks are condemnable. It is very sad and very unfortunate that the lives and livelihoods of Nigerians living in South Africa are once again being destroyed with such wantonness and with such carelessness and recklessness.

"It is unfortunate because Nigeria and Nigerians invested a great deal in the pulling down of apartheid. Besides, these acts of bigotry are entirely contrary to the very ideals that all the great South African leaders, including the present president fought for, and for which many gave their lives," he said.

Enough Is Enough - Senate President

Meanwhile, the Senate President, Senator Ahmad Lawan has called on the South African government to halt the worsening xenophobic attacks on Nigerians and other foreign nationals.

In a statement that he signed yesterday, Lawan noted that Nigeria has had enough of its citizens being targets of these attacks and would no longer tolerate hate crimes in any form against its citizens who are doing legitimate businesses in that country.

"It would be recalled that I had on July 15 this year, met with the South African High Commissioner, Bobby Moroe, in Abuja over the same issue.

"At the meeting, I had said 'the South African government must as a matter of urgency do whatever it takes to protect the lives and property of Nigerians living there, just as the Nigerian government remains committed to the safety of South Africans residing here and their investments'.

"I believe we have faced enough, we will no longer take it anymore. The South African parliament must act fast to put a stop to this menace," Lawan said.

FG Cautions Against Attack On South African Businesses

In an apparent response to protests at the premises of South African business in Nigeria, the federal government has appealed to Nigerians not to attack the country's companies operating in Nigeria in retaliation for the ongoing xenophobic attacks against Nigerians in South Africa.

In a statement issued in Abuja yesterday, the minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, described as deeply disturbing the reports that some Nigerians, angered by the xenophobic attacks in South Africa, had started attacking South African companies in Nigeria.

He said that targeting the country's firms in Nigeria for attack is a "classic case of cutting off your nose to spite your face, because the investors in such companies, especially MTN and Shoprite, are Nigerians."

Mohammed said that the majority of the workers in the companies are also Nigerians, meaning that its Nigerian workers who would be hardest hit if they were forced to shut down for fear of attacks.

He assured Nigerians that the federal government was taking decisive measures to end the persistent xenophobic attacks against Nigerians in South Africa.

APC Flays Attacks, Says Nigeria Deserves Better

In its reaction, the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) condemned the xenophobic attacks on foreign nationals, particularly on Nigerians, their property and businesses, and charged the government to address the situation.

While expressing dissatisfaction with South African leaders over its silence on the matter, the APC said that it was unfortunate to see younger generations of that country running riot while their elders who witnessed Nigeria's efforts at stamping out apartheid in their country would keep mum.

APC, in a statement signed by its national publicity secretary, Mallam Lanre Issa-Onilu, asked the ruling African National Congress (ANC) to intervene before the crisis gets out of hands.

Issa-Onilu said: "As a party, we are deeply saddened by these unwarranted attacks. Nigeria deserves better from South Africa. It is too early for South Africans to forget their country's history. Many of the key players in the struggle against apartheid are still alive and active in the country's national affairs. We therefore cannot understand why there seems to be a conspiracy of silence on their part."

PDP Condemns Killings in South Africa

Similarly, the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has condemned the killing of innocent Nigerians and other nationals in the mindless violent xenophobic attacks in South Africa.

The PDP said that it was particularly heartbroken by what it called the insensitivity of the Muhammadu Buhari Presidency in failing to protect Nigerians in the face of unwarranted violent attacks by xenophobic South Africans.

The PDP national publicity secretary, Kola Ologbondiyan, said that "our party is extremely shocked by allegations that officials of the APC-led administration at the Nigerian Embassy in South Africa, locked the gates against our compatriots in the face of bloody attacks, leaving them to the cruelty of their assailants.

"The PDP holds such scenario as condemnable, inexcusable, completely unpardonable," he said, adding that it can only come from a government that does not derive from the people and as such cannot protect their interests.

"Such insensitivity by the Buhari Presidency to issues of safety, welfare and rights of Nigerians living abroad has continued to embolden acts of violence, violations and killing of our citizens in foreign lands.

"Nigerians are utterly appalled by the disparagement and abandonment of our citizens by the Buhari administration," he said.

Abaribe, Shehu Sani Seek Action Against Attacks

Prominent Nigerians and civil society organisations have also condemned the ongoing attacks in South Africa and admonished the federal government to act fast.

From the Senate minority leader, Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe, the federal government should go beyond diplomatic rhetoric and compel the government of South Africa to immediately stop the attack and killing of Nigerians living in that country.

In a statement he released in Abuja, Abaribe described as barbaric the unwarranted attack and killing of innocent Nigerians and declared that the seeming cold approach of the South African government to the vexed issue, cast it as being complicit.

"That being the case, our government must go beyond diplomatic niceties and ensure the protection of our people living in that country henceforth. The presidency, must stamp its feet on the ground and call that South African government to order," he said. Also, executive director of African Centre for Peace and Development, Senator Shehu Sani, said that the continuous attacks on Nigerians in South Africa stands unreservedly condemned.

He said that the government of South African must protect Nigerian nationals and frontally combat xenophobia.

"The historic relationship between Nigeria and South Africa must not be allowed to be destroyed by the unwholesome activities of criminal elements in South Africa."

"While we condemned the attacks on Nigerian businesses in South Africa, I call on our fellow citizens not to attack South African businesses in Nigeria.

"Nigeria and South Africa should set up 'South Africa-Nigeria Joint Cultural Exchange Council' to promote people-to-people contact and neutralise the monster of xenophobia," Sani said.

He asked the South African government to compensate Nigerians who suffered losses from the attacks.

Adebiyi Adedapo, Ahuraka Isah, Andrew Essien, Ghibuzo Ukaibe, Jonathan NDA-Isaiah, Omonu Nelson, Sunnday Isuwa

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