The Federal Government yesterday demanded compensation and accountability from South Africa over attacks on Nigerians. But it appealed to Nigerians not to retaliate by attacking South African companies operating in Nigeria. It described the attacks on Nigerians and other foreigners in South Africa as condemnable.
Vice President Yemi Osinbajo said: “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.”
Osinbajo, who was in Kano State for the commissioning of a solar hybrid power plant at Bayero University, noted: “It is unfortunate because Nigeria and Nigerians invested a great deal in the destruction and 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 President Muhammadu Buhari has “already spoken about” the development, adding: “We are very concerned and certainly intend to take this up with the authorities in South Africa, to ensure that this sort of thing does not repeat itself. This is absolutely unacceptable and unconscionable.”
But Minister of Information and Culture Lai Mohammed warned that targeting South African companies in Nigeria is, for Nigerians, a classic case of cutting off your nose to spite your face, because the investors in such companies, especially MTN and Shoprite, are Nigerians.He noted also that the majority of workers in South African companies operating in Nigeria are Nigerians, meaning Nigerian workers will be hit the hardest if such companies are forced to shut down for fear of reprisals.
Heavily armed policemen took positions around the Shoprite mall in Lagos to prevent a total breakdown of order. In a confrontation however, a police van was burnt while a protester was shot dead.Shoprite outlets in Ikeja and Surulere were hurriedly shut down after some protesters were seen gathering around the malls. As at the time of filing this story, security operatives were keeping watch at the malls, several MTN outlets, and at Stanbic IBTC banks in the Lagos metropolis.
MTN’s offices in Apapa and in Uyo, Akwa Ibom State were reportedly attacked.A businessman and MTN subscriber, Kehinde Omololu, told The Guardian he would port to another network provider tomorrow (today). He said: “If not that I finished late today, I would have ported. The South African people are just insensitive to Nigerians over there. How long are we going to do this as a continent?”
One respondent, Chinedu Okpala, said: “A full-blown war is imminent! We cannot sit and watch these people kill our brothers, just because they are in South Africa to make ends meet. Moreover, I don’t know what the governments of the two countries are doing to resolve this issue. It is disheartening.”
On her part, Bright Amuka said: “We cannot take this any more, we must rise against these attacks.” The Nigerian government yesterday demanded accountability and compensation for all its citizens affected by the attacks in South Africa.Minister of Foreign Affairs Geoffrey Onyeama, speaking at the meeting with the South African Head of Mission to Nigeria, Bobby Moroe, said Nigeria had made concrete proposals to the South African government for immediate implementation, to serve as deterrent.
This was as Nigerian High Commissioner to South Africa, Ambassador Kabiru Bala, said the consulate in Pretoria and Johannesburg are compiling a list of all Nigerian victims for engagement with the South African authority and other stakeholders. Onyeama said Nigeria has also urged its South African counterpart to implement the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) agreed upon by both countries last year. According to him, the MOU contained frameworks and mechanisms for containing the problem.
“The MoU highlighted the need for early warning system mechanisms, regular meetings between high level members of the South African government and the Nigerian High Commission.“It also seeks regular meetings with the Consular General and the Nigerian Union in South Africa, informing each other of developments, anticipating events and essentially, being prepared to preempt attacks.”
“The Nigerian government feels that very definitive measures have to be taken to stop once and for all, these acts of aggression and criminality against Nigerians in South Africa.“I invited the South African Head of Mission and we had very lengthy discussions, and the South African government has issued a statement confirming that arrests have been made.”
In his response, Moroe stated: “Our government condemns by all means any act of violence against any individual. The constitution of South Africa says that South Africa belongs to all residents regardless of race, creed or gender. “This new phenomenon suggests that there are criminal elements within society that seek to create retrogression in the advancement that we have made between South Africa and Nigeria
“The South African police authorities have already arrested 70 individuals in Johannesburg and Pretoria districts who have been found to be looting and destroying property.”The envoy urged Nigerians, particularly the media, to be cautious and disregard viral videos and voice clips on social media showing Nigerians being brutalised and killed, noting that most of the incidents happened long ago.
Reps foreign affairs committee calls for calm, speaker mulls reconvening
The chairman, House of Representatives Committee on Foreign Affairs, Yusuf Buba (APC, Adamawa), said the attacks on Nigerians in South Africa would soon be brought under control.
“We use this opportunity to also appeal for calm among our people who understandably may be highly agitated by the reality of the attacks. We urge patience and pray that in the coming hours, things will come under total control,” he said in a statement yesterday in Abuja.He noted: “As a committee of the House of Representatives, we are already monitoring closely the situation in the Republic of South Africa beyond what is being put out in the social media. We are also reaching out to the Nigerian authorities and our leaders across the globe to see what can be done to effectively manage the ongoing carnage against our people.”
This was as Speaker Femi Gbajabiamila hinted on his Twitter handle that the chamber might reconvene, although he did not say when. He also disclosed that he would cut short his trip to Tanzania for the 50th Commonwealth Parliamentary Conference.
Senate watching situation closely, says Lawan
In a statement he issued yesterday, Senate President Ahmad Lawan said: “The Senate is closely observing the situation and urges the Federal Government to accept nothing but the immediate cessation of hostility on Nigerians living in South Africa.”“Xenophobic violence is most condemnable anywhere, more so in South Africa, a country whose citizens benefitted from the unwavering support and solidarity of Africans and freedom lovers across the world in their historic struggle against apartheid,” Lawan said.
According to him, the attacks “indicate the neglect of educating the younger generations on the sacrifices Africans proudly made towards expunging the scourges of colonialism and apartheid from their continent.”He further recalled a recent meeting with the South African High Commissioner, Bobby Moroe, in Abuja where he had insisted the authorities in Pretoria “must as a matter of urgency do whatever it takes to protect the life and property of Nigerians living there. We have faced enough. We will no longer take it anymore.”
Also, the Deputy President of the Senate, Ovie Omo-Agege , described the latest attacks on Nigerians living in South Africa by its citizens as callous, cowardly and inhuman .Omo-Agege, who said he was personally appalled by the glaring debasement of humanity with the gross bestiality displayed in some video clips of the attacks being circulated on the social media, said he was pleased that the Federal Government was taking a tougher stance on what seemed to have become a routine by some elements in South Africa who randomly inflict pain, anguish and death on foreigners, especially Nigerians.
He noted that the “Senate is without question in support of necessary steps by President Muhammadu Buhari to save Nigerians in South Africa and resolve the totally unacceptable pattern of extrajudicial killings of our innocent citizens.”Senate Minority Leader Enyinnaya Abaribe charged Buhari to go beyond diplomatic courtesies in tackling the problem.
In a statement by his special adviser on media, Uchenna Awom, he said: “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 government to order.
“We have an emergency. This is not the time to play ‘good guy’ international diplomacy. The gory picture of our people being slaughtered on the streets of South Africa in recent times lowers our collective spirit, even as it tends to diminish Nigeria’s prestige in the committee of nations.”
Lagos condemns attacks
The Lagos State government condemned attacks on Shoprite Complexes at Jakande and Sangotedo Area of Ajah by some unidentified people claiming to be acting in retaliation against the attacks on Nigerians in South Africa. A statement by the Commissioner for Information, Gbenga Omotoso, said: “These attacks are condemned as they are against the Nigerian spirit of accommodation and benevolence that the country in general and Lagos State in particular is noted for.
The Federal Government is in dialogue with South African Authorities to stop this obnoxious act. We appeal to our compatriots to eschew violence and any unlawful acts.“The Lagos State government wishes to reiterate its commitment to providing a conducive atmosphere where businesses are conducted without hindrances.The security agencies have been directed to ensure that law and order prevail in all parts of the state, even as Lagosians are advised to go about their activities without any fear.”
APC flays ANC, demands urgent intervention
The ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) condemned the attacks in a statement by National Publicity Secretary Lanre Issa-Onilu, charging its South African counterpart, the African National Congress (ANC), to wade in.“The barbaric attack on citizens of other countries points to a failure of leadership. This is completely at variance with what the ANC stood for. The ANC government can no longer pretend about this obvious contradiction. The violence being meted out to Nigerians under the ANC calls to question the very essence of the struggle against apartheid in which Nigeria was a frontline ally of South Africa. How can those who supported you and made huge sacrifices for your freedom become fair games to be murdered in cold blood?”
South African firms condemn violence
South African firms operating in Nigeria condemned the xenophobic attacks.MTN Nigeria Chief Executive Officer, Ferdi Moolman, said: “We seek to connect people, bring people together and provide a platform for everyone’s voice to be heard. We are against all forms of bigotry and discrimination; they should have no place in society.“Everyone has the right to a world where their rights and freedoms are respected – the right to live and earn a living, freely, safely and protected by the law.”
His counterpart at Multichoice Nigeria, John Ugbe, said: “MultiChoice is committed to uniting Africans through our programming and cultural initiatives. We advocate equality and condemn all forms of discrimination. The ongoing violence in South Africa against foreign nationals is against the spirit of Africa, and counter-productive to the decades of work done by African leaders and well-meaning organisations to unite the continent.”
Assaults in South Africa premeditated, says monarch
Oba Hammeed Adekunle, the Olowu of Kuta in Osun, said the attacks against Nigerians in South Africa were premeditated going by past comments credited to some South African leaders.The monarch in a statement in Osogbo urged the Federal Government to step up efforts to stop the trend. He said this is necessary before Nigerians become agitated and resort to self-help, which might, in turn, lead to a diplomatic spat.
He said: “It is becoming crystal clear everyday that these premeditated attacks and killings of our brothers and sisters in South Africa won’t stop unless we tell them in clear terms that we can defend ourselves. It is unbelievable that a country we stood behind like the Rock of Gibraltar and donated $3 million of our hard-earned resources in the fight against apartheid could turn around and treat us with disdain and unwarranted attacks and killings like we are witnessing now.
“A situation where a country that enjoys tremendous support and multi-billion investment such as DSTV and MTN, just to mention a few in Nigeria, could be killing our people leaves much to be desired.” Orji Kalu seeks retaliation, says arrest of culprits not enough
The Chief Whip in the Ninth Senate, Dr Orji Uzor Kalu, urged Nigerians to retaliate rather than wait for South African to fish out the perpetrators.
In a statement issued by his media team, he said: “The gruesome killings, looting, arson of property belonging to Nigerians and attack on the Nigerian Embassy in South Africa are ill-conceived, disheartening and wicked.
“How can any sensible person attack and burn a fellow human being just because he or she has a feeling to do so? Those mindless criminals who attacked and prevented law-abiding Nigerians from freely conducting their businesses must be made to pay for their crimes. Arresting them is not enough.
“If the South African government does not do more to protect the lives of Nigerians, there should be no reason to allow them to operate freely in Nigeria. All their enterprises deserve to be closed down including MTN, DSTV, and Shoprite, among others. In the spirit of brotherhood, we have supported them. Our doors have always been opened but it’s time we retaliate by shutting our doors.”He commended Buhari for dispatching an envoy to the South African government, urging the Federal Government to hasten its intervention and institute stiffer measures against South Africa.
Why incidents persist, by Nigerian envoy in S’Africa
The Nigeria Mission in South Africa attributed the renewed attacks to the weak judicial system and lack of stringent measures against crimes in South Africa.Mr. Godwin Adama, the Consul General in Johannesburg, made this known in a telephone interview with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN).He therefore called for a review of the South African judicial system. “The judicial system is very lenient with those types of crimes. If somebody commits a crime now, the system will grant him bail immediately.
“Criminals seize the opportunity of such a lenient system to commit crimes. If the government can review its judicial system, it will boost the fight against crime. This will help in the future because as it is today, the whole law is lenient and it leads to impunity.“This is why the crime rate is difficult to control. Even when you kill somebody now, they will grant you bail almost immediately. This is what leads to impunity. If the judicial system is actually reviewed, it will help to reduce crimes and xenophobic attacks and arrest the ongoing situation.”
Adama extolled the agreement between Buhari and South African President, Cyril Ramaphosa, to meet and discuss issues affecting both countries. “Through such discussions, we can achieve a lot in a short time and an early warning system will be something we really look forward to achieving when the meeting holds in October.” he said.
Opposition coalition asks Buhari to resign, wants diplomatic ties severed with South Africa
The Coalition of United Political Parties (CUPP) called on Buhari to resign for allegedly failing to take decisive measures to protect Nigerians.
In a statement by its spokesman, Ikenga Ugochiyere, the coalition lamented that the “Buhari administration has yet again woefully failed in protecting the lives of Nigerian citizens living abroad particularly in South Africa where xenophobic killings and looting of their businesses have gone without any reciprocal diplomatic actions from the government.
“President Buhari on the sidelines of TICAD 2019 in Yokohama Japan met with President Cyril Ramaphosa of South Africa purportedly on the issue of the killings but refused to address the media on the outcome of the meeting. “He thereby failed to reassure Nigerians on the actions his government was taking or will take and also failed to use that opportunity to send to South Africans directly a stern message on the dire consequences of their wanton killing of hard working Nigerians.
“Nigerians have with these latest happenings come to the conclusion that President Buhari’s government has outlived its essence which is the protection of life and property of citizens both at home and abroad.”
The Lagos Times (Nigeria)