By Yinka Kolawole & Naomi Uzor
Major stakeholders in the Nigerian economy have denounced attempts at reprisal attacks on South African–owned businesses in Nigeria following xenophobic attacks recently carried out against African nationals, including Nigerians, working in South Africa.
Some Nigerians who suffered losses during the few attacks also lamented, noting that the actions amounted to Nigerians hurting themselves.
Last week, some South African-owned businesses operating in Nigeria were targeted with violence in retaliation for the xenophobic attacks in South Africa. The police stopped the attacks from spreading.
While South Africans attacked Nigerians and their businesses in South Africa, hurting them directly reprisal attacks in Nigeria do not visit mayhem on South Afrcans but Nigerians who own businesses in places like shoprite that are franchised. Again, even buildings housing MTN offices and those of other South African businesses are owned by Nigerians. It does not, therefore, make sense to attack businesses with South African interests in retaliation of Xenophobic attacks.
Outlets of supermarket chain Shoprite, telecommunications giant MTN, and fashion retailer PEP were among those that mostly bore the brunt of the irate protesters.
There were reported cases of vandalisation of MTN offices in Oniru, Lekki, Ikeja, Surulere in Lagos and Uyo in Akwa Ibom, while an outlet of the telecoms giant was reportedly set ablaze in Ibadan. The looters left a trail of shattered glass, tires and damaged printers in the shops.
The actual number of South African-owned businesses in Nigeria cannot be independently verified but is put at about 120, valued at over N6.5 trillion.
Attempts to ascertain the number and value of South African businesses in Nigeria, and the number of Nigerians in their employ from the Nigeria-South Africa Chamber of Commerce proved futile, as the Executive Secretary, Iyke Ejimofor, was not forthcoming when contacted.
However, some of the prominent South African-owned businesses include MTN; Shoprite; PEP; Standard Chartered Bank; Stanbic-IBTC; Protea Hotel; MultiChoice – owners of DSTv and GOTv; Eskom – a player in Oil & Gas, Power and Housing sectors; South Africa Airways; Sasol Oil; and SAB Miller, brewers of Trophy Beer, among others.
Speaking to Vanguard on the incidence, Strategy Director of Chastest Consult, the public relations firm handling Shoprite in Nigeria, Ini Archibong, said: “The management of Shoprite has, from time, been against Xenophobia attack against foreign nationals including Nigerians in South Africa.”
While declining to make a categorical statement on the attacks, Archibong said that “what is paramount on the mind of the management right now is to ensure that security situations at Shoprite locations are fine for its customers”.
Nigerians are key stakeholders in SA businesses – LCCI
Director General, Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI), said the attacks here in South Africa were most unfortunate.
He said: “I do not think that the attacks have the support of the South African government. But the fact that the government could not curb the recurrent attacks is a major cause for concern.
“However, attacking South Africa investments in Nigeria is certainly not an option. Such responses only offer opportunities for questionable elements to perpetrate criminal acts.
“Nigerians and Nigeria have significant stakes in most of the South African investments in Nigeria. These are with regards to employment, tax revenue, service provision, equity investments, suppliers and service providers etc.”
Businesses are virtually Nigerian-owned – NACCIMA
President, Nigerian Association of Chambers of Commerce, Industry, Mines and Agriculture (NACCIMA), Hajiya Saratu Iya Aliyu, said it is quite unfortunate that South Africans are attacking Nigerians.
“This happened several times before now and nothing was done. It seemed Nigeria was treading the path of peace. No matter what citizens of a country are doing, they should not be hunted and killed like animals.
“On the other hand, we must condemn what is now happening to so called South African businesses in Nigeria. MTN and Shoprite are virtually owned by Nigerians. They belong to Nigerian shareholders; they provide jobs to our Nigerian people. Our economy will be adversely affected by all these7 unwanted destructions and lootings,” she stated.
Govt should move to contain retaliation – MAN
Director General, Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN), Segun Ajayi-Kadir, said the economic implication of the attacks is grave for the continent.
He stated: “Without doubt, South Africa is amongst the first three economies in Africa. It has no less thanq 23 per cent of intra-African trade. Its companies all around African enjoy the welcome and acceptance of governments and the people. And with the onset of Africa Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) agreement (to which South Africa is a signatory), this signal from South Africa portends a dangerous trend.
“The African Union (AU) will have to move very quickly to checkmate the spread of retaliation and diplomatic row that may follow or are already following this unfortunate hate incident. Allowing the situation to degenerate to retaliatory measure in other countries may severely erode the gains we have made in economic integration of the continent and the camaraderie that the AU has actively promoted since its formation.
“The governments of affected countries should urgently take measures to contain or prevent retaliatory measures by their citizens. Come to think of it, an eye for an eye would certainly make the world go blind”
Reactions of shop owners, employees
Lilly Loveth, a Customer Relationship Officer at Novare in Sangotedo, Lekki, lamented that the mob broke into and carted away goods worth millions.
“This is no longer protest against xenophobia, it is now against the masses and innocent citizen of the country they claimed to be fighting for. I work here and am going to be rendered jobless. Am I a South African? My company is owned by a Nigerian.
Another Nigerian, Akujor Samuel noted: “A very high percentage of the mob is misinformed. As long as you bear the name of a South African company, you face their wrath. Little do they know that these stores are franchises. It’s sad.”
An outlet of PEP in Surulere was also attacked and looted. “The crowd surged and within a few minutes the shop was empty,” Stephen Obafemi told Associated Press (AP).
“They broke into the shop, carrying laptops and many other things away. I had to close my kiosk because I was afraid because some people will use the opportunity to come steal. It has happened before as they are lots of people you won’t know who to hold responsible,” a shop owner Bala Muhammed told AP.
5,000 jobs lost in Lagos, says Sanwo-Olu
Lagos Governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, said the reprisal attacks led to more than 5,000 people losing their jobs.
He said this when he visited some of the affected shopping malls in Ajah and Surulere areas of the state.
Sanwo-Olu stated: “These are jobs where Nigerians are the ones that have been affected. So, we need to be able to take the lessons out of this, be stronger together and be able to take corrective measures to ensure that things like these should certainly not repeat itself in our community.
“We have seen the amount of enormous destruction in both plazas and the first thing is to condemn in strong terms whatever could have led to this. It is an extensive destruction of people’s property. In both malls, over 5,000 people are out of jobs. These are jobs where Nigerians are the ones that have been affected.”
The governor however counselled business owners to build positive engagements with their communities so as to be acceptable by the people.
Tantamount to Nigerians hurting Nigerians – Analyst
A public affairs analyst, Innocent Adulugba, noted that attacking businesses in Nigeria amounts to Nigerians hurting themselves.
He stated: If we plunder Shoprite, Multichoice, and other South African businesses in Nigeria, it is tantamount to hurting Nigerians because of the huge Nigerian interest, aside the workforce in these mercantile establishments.
“For instance, Africa’s largest telecommunications company, MTN, has invested over N3.2 trillion in our economy. Since 2001, MTN is officially recorded to have contributed over N 1.6 trillion to government coffers through taxes, levies and regulatory payments, providing jobs for nearly one million Nigerians, directly and indirectly.
“Also, the MTN Foundation has spent over N18 billion through CSR in almost every local government in Nigeria. They’ve disbursed over $3.5 billion worth of businesses through adverts and sponsorships, and patronage of Nigerian hospitality and entertainment industry and contractors.
“Imagine the economic vacuum of unemployment and desolation if we plunder just MTN out of the others, on the adrenaline of vendetta and the psyche of reprisals?
Adulugba opined that a proactive measure to curb this mayhem is for multinationals to strengthen the impact of their Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) strategies. “These multinationals fatten their coffers of profit from Nigeria’s teeming population market,” he noted.
Cutting off your nose to spite your face – Lai Mohammed
In his reaction, Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, described the reprisal attacks by angry Nigerians as “deeply disturbing”.
In a statement signed by his spokesperson, Segun Adeyemi, the minister said targeting South African businesses is a “classic case of cutting off your nose to spite your face.”
This, according to him, is because the investors in such companies, especially MTN and Shoprite, are Nigerians. He also noted that majority of the workers in the South African companies operating in Nigeria are also Nigerians.
According to him, Nigerian workers in the companies will be hardest hit if such companies are forced to shut down for fear of attacks.