October 13, 2014

Synagogue: Obasanjo, Mbeki worry over Nigeria/S’Africa’s strained relationship

Synagogue: Obasanjo, Mbeki worry over Nigeria/S’Africa’s strained relationship

Jonathan and Zuma

By Ikenna Asomba

As the the relationship between two of Africa’s largest economies, Nigeria and South Africa continues to be flexed over what observers described as Nigerian government’s alleged poor handling of the September 12 collapse of a six-storey guest house attached to the Synagogue Church of All Nations, SCOAN, Ikotun-Egbe, Lagos, where 84 South Africans lost their lives, former Nigerian and South African Presidents, Olusegun Obasanjo and Thabo Mbeki have swiftly expressed concern over tension in the relationship between both countries.

Jonathan and Zuma

Jonathan and Zuma

South-African Sunday Independent reports that during a panel discussion, Thursday night, at the Old Mutual Wisdom Forum gala dinner in Rosebank, Johannesburg, South Africa, both former presidents made a passionate appeal that President Jacob Zuma and his Nigerian counterpart Goodluck Jonathan need to work harder to resolve heightened tensions between South Africa and Nigeria.

But four weeks after the tragic collapse, it was said that the delay in repatriating the bodies even after the post-mortems, have frustrated the South African authorities, who had berated the Nigerian officials for insisting on doing DNA testing themselves, even though the technology is unavailable.

With reports claiming that the Nigerian authorities had threatened retaliation against major South African companies operating in Nigeria, including MTN, after South Africa allegedly blocked Nigeria’s arms purchase worth over $15 million twice in three weeks, Obasanjo and Mbeki appealed for more decisive action between both leaders to stop the relations from further deteriorating.

Mbeki said: “I know President Jacob Zuma does care about this matter and is keen to have it resolved. We should not have an air of animosity. Our current leadership in both countries need to work hard to ensure that this relationship is sustained. I know many Nigerians would like to normalise the relations and many South Africans share that view.”

On his part, Obasanjo, who pointed at the long-standing partnership between Nigeria and South Africa, which dates back to his days and Mbeki’s as presidents yielded many positive results for the two countries and the continent at large, however said: “Of course, I am concerned because relations between South Africa and Nigeria should be (good). I remember, Thabo Mbeki and I used to look at it melancholically.

There is no reason why relations between Nigeria and South Africa should not be the best. We were hoping that when South Africa was free, we would have two strong countries and that together we would carry the African basket high. All I am saying is that successors need to try harder.”

Meanwhile, the founder of SCOAN, Prophet TB Joshua is expected to appear today, at the Ikeja High Court, as the coroner’s inquest presided over by Magistrate Oyetade Komolafe to establish the cause and manner of the collapse would commence sitting.

In a statement by the spokesperson of the Lagos State Ministry of Justice, Mrs. Bola Akingbade, other persons expected at the inquest instituted under the Lagos State Coroner’s System Law No. 7 of 2007, include the contractors handling the church building, members of the families of the victims of the incident, some media houses including News Agency of Nigeria, NAN, Channels TV, Television Continental, Vanguard, Daily Independent, The Nation and Punch newspapers.

Some ministries, departments and parastatal agencies (MDAs) of Lagos State, the state police command, security agencies and the Nigerian Red Cross, an eye witness, Lindiw Ndwande and Mr Rebone Tau, Chairman of the Youth League’s International Relations Committee of South Africa, would also testify.