By Ben Agande & Emman Ovuakporie
ABUJA—The House of Representatives yesterday asked President Goodluck Jonathan to recall Nigeria’s envoy to South Africa over xenophobic attacks on foreigners.
The lawmakers also vowed to invoke relevant business laws to frustrate South African concerns in Nigeria.
However, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ambassador Aminu Wali, said yesterday that Nigeria was closely monitoring the attacks on foreigners in South Africa and would take appropriate measures if the lives of Nigerians were at risk.
The Reps’ move was sequel to a motion promoted by Abike Dabiri-Erewa, APC, Lagos, entitled: ‘Xenophobic Attacks on Africans in South Africa’.
In her submission, the Lagos lawmaker argued that the House was disturbed at the constant, unwarranted Zenophobic attacks against African migrants in South Africa, where Africans in South Africa were being slaughtered like animals.
She said: “The recent attacks which have left many dead, businesses and shops vandalised, many beaten up mercilessly, was incited by a statement allegedly made by South African Zulu King, Goodwill. Zwelithini, who told African migrants to go home as they were no longer welcome in South Africa.
“Son of President Zuma, Edward, allegedly echoed the same statement which ignited a long debate and worse still immediate backlash of violent reactions among the Zulus in Kwazulu, who unleashed terror on foreigners including Nigerians in J’bourg, Durban and Pretoria.
“They steal, break into their homes, businesses, take their properties, killing them, 5 have been killed with hundreds stranded and unable to return.
“Recall that a similar incident happened in January this year in which 4 people died during the looting of shops owned by foreigners and also a similar incident occurred in 2002 with about 60 African migrants killed including Zimbabweans , Mozambiqueans, Congolese and Malawians.’’
At this point, Friday Itulah, PDP, Edo, sought for an amendment to reflect that”the Nigerian ambassador to South Africa should be recalled immediately for further consultations and we should sever all diplomatic ties with the troubled country.”
Leo Ogor, PDP Isoko federal constituency also spoke in the same vein, commending the “efforts of the sponsor of the motion which to me is timely and needed to be treated with urgency.”
In his contribution, Ahmed Datti, APC, Kaduna, said: “I was surprised that one of their major companies here has increased tariff yet they are killing people in their country.
“We should invoke all our relevant laws to ensure that it is no longer business as usual for their business concerns in Nigeria.”
When the presiding officer, Aminu Tambuwal put the proposed amendment to vote, referring to the first leg as the recall of the envoy, the ays had it.
The second amendment seeking an outright severing diplomatic ties with SA was killed by the lawmakers.
Rounding off, Dabiri-Erewa said Nigeria frowned on the attacks and would no longer tolerate the killing of its nationals in South Africa.
She asked President Goodluck Jonathan to immediately convey this to President Zuma as a matter of urgency.
The lawmakers also appealed to the federal government to apply the diplomatic principle of reciprocity in dealing with South Africa, adding that if South Africa continued to frustrate Nigeria businesses, Nigeria must also do the same to South Africa businesses in the country.
When the speaker finally put the debate to a voice, the ays carried the day.
Meanwhile, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ambassador Aminu Wali, has said Nigeria was closely monitoring the attacks on foreigners in South Africa and would take appropriate measures if the lives of Nigerians were at risk.
Addressing State House correspondents after meeting with President Goodluck Jonathan, Ambassador Wali said the attacks were not targeted at Nigerians only but foreigners, adding that the Nigerian Mission in Pretoria had taken steps to ensure that the lives and properties of Nigerians were protected.
According to the Minister, information at his disposal indicates that no Nigerian has so far been affected by the attacks.
“With the discussions I have been having with Nigeria’s Head of Mission in Pretoria, no Nigerian has so far been affected. They informed me that they have called the Nigerian community and addressed them and told them to close their shops, stay at home and keep out of trouble and obey the laws of South Africa.
“They have also confirmed that the South African authorities have moved in to take actions that would forestall any further disturbance in South Africa.
“If it gets worse it is the duty of our country to make sure our people are brought back, and we are taking that duty serious.
“We are not prepared to allow any of our nationals to be subjected to such inhuman treatment,” he said.
He defended the stance of government saying that Nigerians were not being targeted in the orgy of violence that has so far gripped the country.
“We are not being reactionary because this is happening to all foreigners, not Nigerians alone. We are monitoring the situation and will take action according to the situation that develops,” he said.