Africa: Xenophobia - We'll Not Cave in to South Africa, Nigerian Govt Vows

4 September 2019

The Nigerian government said on Wednesday that it had drawn 'a red line' with South Africa over the xenophobic attacks on Nigerians in the country.

The Minister of Foreign Affairs, Geoffery Onyeama, who spoke to journalists after meeting with President Muhammadu Buhari in Abuja, also said Nigeria would not 'cave in' on the matter.

"We want to assure all Nigerians that this government is determined, that red line has been drawn and that we will not cave in on this occasion," Mr Onyeama said.

"The South African government has to assume its responsibilities and protect Nigerians in South Africa and we have to hold them to account and they have to do that as well as pay full compensation," he added.

Mr Onyeama also confirmed that Nigeria would recall her ambassador to South Africa over the matter for a briefing.

"Enough is enough - we are going to address it once and for all this time. This is the position of government," he said.

The official said no Nigerian has been killed in the latest round of xenophobic attacks on foreign nationals in South Africa.

He, however, said many businesses owned by Nigerians had been destroyed.

"Of course a lot of things have been circulating in social media which have not helped matters. Some of them have really distorted the situation and because of that have impacted our response. "So, number one is that the information we have from the High Commission, from the Consul General in South Africa is that no Nigerian life has been lost during this crisis.

"And I think that is very important because, on social media, there is a lot of stories going around of Nigerians being killed, jumping off buildings and being burnt. This is not the case.

"What we know is that premises, shops of Nigerians have been looted and property destroyed," he said.

Since news of the latest rounds of xenophobic attacks started spreading in Nigeria last weekend, many Nigerians have expressed their reservations about it.

Things got worse on Tuesday when Nigerians started attacking South African-linked businesses in various cities.

Some of the businesses targetted include those of telecoms giant, MTN; retail store, Shoprite; and clothing store, PEP.

MTN on Wednesday said it was shutting down its service centres across Nigeria due to the attacks.

The reprisals have been condemned by the Nigerian government and various state governments including those of Lagos and Delta.

On Wednesday, the Nigerian Labour Congress also condemned the reprisals as well as the xenophobic attacks.

The NLC urged the federal government to adopt urgent measures to end xenophobic attacks on Nigerians in South Africa.

The NLC, in a statement signed by its President, Ayuba Wabba, also suggested some form of compensation to families of Nigerians that had may have lost their lives in the attacks.

Mr Wabba regretted that the attacks had become too frequent, urging the federal government to take decisive action to end the indiscriminate assault on Nigerians in South Africa and every other nation in the world.

"The frequency and escalation of these attacks are not only reprehensible but capable of undermining the illustrious bilateral relations between both countries.

"However, as despicable as these attacks are, we will advise against crude retaliatory measures such as the burning down of perceived South African businesses in Nigeria because, in reality, some of those businesses are owned by Nigerians.

"We appeal to Nigerians to leave this matter to the Nigerian government which has acted properly by sending an envoy to South Africa to express its displeasure as well as table its demands."

Mr Wabba said that the South African government should be held responsible for failing in its duty to protect or safeguard the lives and properties of foreign nationals, especially Nigerians, who have been subject of attacks over time.

He demanded an immediate end to the killings and destruction of property and an assurance that such would not happen again, not only to Nigerians but all foreign nationals in South Africa.

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