As FG denies knowledge of South Africa closing Mission in Nigeria
We must do everything within our powers to ensure victims are compensated
By Johnbosco Agbakwuru
DESPITE the Federal Government withdrawal from participating in the World Economic Forum, WEF, taking place in Cape Town, South Africa as a result of the xenophobic attacks on Nigerians, some governors and members of the business class still went ahead to attend.
This is as the Federal Government has denied knowledge of the temporary closure of South African Foreign Mission in Nigeria.
The Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Geoffrey Onyeama had on Wednesday told State House correspondents after meeting with President Muhammadu Buhari at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, that the President after meeting with Vice President Yemi Osinbajo decided to withdraw from participating.
However, it was reliably gathered that the governors of Ekiti and Kaduna as well as some members of the business class from Nigeria are attending the ongoing forum.
Fielding question from journalists on whether the participation of some Nigerians including the governors was not an affront on the position of the Federal Government, the Minister of Foreign Affairs explained that the governors may have arrived South Africa before the decision was taken.
Besides, he said that the WEF was not a South African event, rather a global forum but taking place in South Africa.
He said, “The World Economic Forum process has started several days ago and the governors who are there had gone there ahead even before this whole issue materialized, they were already engaged in that.
“The first thing you have to realize is that the World Economic Forum is not a South African government initiative. It is a Swiss-based mechanism and it takes place in different places
“It is not a question of disobedience because they were there already before this decision was taken.”
On the alleged withdrawal of Nigerian High Commissioner in South Africa, Onyeama said, “Yesterday (Wednesday) I did make the comment that we have not taken a decision to withdraw or recall our High Commissioner in South Africa, what I pointed out yesterday is this, Mr. President has sent Special Envoy to South Africa.
“So we are going to wait for the report of the Special Envoy when he comes back in about two days. And on that basis, after we have received the report, we must likely supplement that report by also calling the High Commissioner back for a consultation so that Mr. President will be able to get as comprehensive and full a picture of the situation in South Africa.
“So, the High Commissioner will be coming after the Special Envoy has returned for consultations and then once the President has a full briefing from all the actors directly engaged, we will be able to make an informed decision on what further steps to take.”
Asked if South African government had reacted to the position taken by Nigeria, he said, “Regarding reaction from South Africa after it was decided that the Vice President should no longer participate in the World Economic Forum meeting there, we have not received any direct reaction.
“But of course that is to be expected since we informed the South African authorities that the Special Envoy of Mr. President is coming to his country.”
On compensation, which the South African Foreign Affairs Minister, Naledi Pandor had said that the country had no provision for such in its laws, the Minister said Nigeria government would do everything possible to ensure that the victims were compensated.
He said,”Our citizens there have suffered loss and it is the responsibility of this government to ensure that they are compensated and we will take measures necessary and do whatever we have to do to ensure that they are compensated.
“I haven’t seen the statement from South African yet when we see it, we have to look at and study it and we will decide what further measures we need to take.”
Also answering the question on the closure of the South African mission offices in Nigeria, Onyeama said that the Federal Government was not aware of such.
The South African Foreign Affairs Minister, Naledi Pandor was reported to have said that the government had temporarily closed its embassy in Nigeria.
She also said South Africa was in constant touch with Nigerian authorities to try to restore calm, adding that there was no provision in local law for compensation for damage caused in the attacks.
But Onyeama said, “We are not aware that the South African government has closed down its High Commission here in Abuja or its consulate in Lagos.”