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XENOPHOBIC ATTACKS: Era of diplomatic niceties over- NIGERIANS TELL BUHARI

…FG not doing enough- Nigerians in South Africa
…We may severe diplomatic ties with SA—Gbajabiamila
…Nigeria must retaliate now —Ohaneze
…Sever diplomatic ties with South Africa — Afenifere
…Provide jobs to check migration of Nigerians — Northern leaders
…Redouble your good efforts — PANDEF
…CSOs, Human Rights groups, Youth bodies want action too

By Emma Amaize, Regional Editor, Niger Delta; Soni Daniel, Northern Region Editor; Dapo Akinrefon; Deputy Editor, South West Region, Levinus Nwabughiogu, Dirisu Yakubu and Dennis Agbo

As prominent citizens continue to react to spates of xenophobic attacks against Nigerians in South Africa, the leadership of the House of Representatives has come out forcefully declaring that it was time to take drastic action against the country assuring that the House would seek and obtain by whatever means available, due restoration and  recompense for everything that has been lost by Nigerians in South Africa.

Other ethnic groups in the country, Ohaneze, Afenifere, PANDEF, northern leaders, civil society organizations and rights activists have also harped on the need to take lasting measures to checkmate the development.

Earlier in the week, reprisal attacks on business ventures linked to the rainbow nation took place in Nigeria’s major cities including Abuja, Lagos, Ibadan among others.

For the first time in recent memory, politicians put aside their political differences to condemn in unison the gruesome killings of Nigerians and nationals of other African countries and called on the President Muhammadu Buhari-led government to mount pressure on his South African counterpart, Cyril Ramaphosa, to demonstrate sufficient leadership acumen to guarantee the safety of Nigerians living and doing businesses in the former apartheid country.

FG not doing enough- Nigerians in South Africa

In the words of Collins Mgbo, Head of Secretariat, Nigerian Union in South Africa, the Buhari-led government was partly to blame for the spate of agony visited on Nigerians in South Africa recently.

Mgbo who spoke with Channels Television on Skype in the wake of the violent attacks had this to say: “We have not seen enough commitment on the part of the Nigerian government until recently. We believe the Nigerian government and its South Africa counterpart, have what it takes to end this crisis. You only get to see the Nigerian government intervening when crisis has already erupted. I believe it should be more proactive.”

Mgbo also accused the South African authorities of connivance adding that when the Police was called upon in the event of an outbreak of xenophobic violence, they arrived after huge damage would have been done.

He continued: “Before the recent attacks, there were audio notes circulating that attacks were going to take place in some areas. The South African government ought to have deployed its intelligence to ensure that people and businesses in those areas were protected. They never did. And when these attacks started, there were often no Police in sight and before they arrived, the attackers would have looted and destroyed these places”.

It’s time for action against South Africa —Gbajabiamila, Reps Leadership

Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila and the leadership of the House have unanimously okayed a revocation of old diplomatic arrangements with South Africa that make attacks on Nigerians possible. In a joint press conference in Abuja, the Speaker who led the leadership said that it was time for action and not the usual talks. He said that the House would explore all possible means to seek redress to the injustice meted against Nigerians in South Africa.

According to him, “we do not intend to speak many words here today. The time for speaking has long passed, and the time for action has arrived upon us with a fierce urgency demanding nothing less than our total commitment to revoking the old arrangements that have made such abominations against our people possible.

“It is unusual for the full compliment of the house leadership to come out and stand together for a joint conference, however this moment calls for unusual things. We stand before you as one body, across party lines, representatives of the entire house in our joint task towards nation building.

“The House of Representatives is united and determined in its resolve to meet our people at the point of their grievance and to channel grievance into constructive action. Let no one be left in any doubt, we will seek, and we will obtain by whatever means available, due restoration and recompense for all that has been lost in this latest conflagration and all the ones that have come before.

“We are committed to a sustained and special effort to see that the ends of justice are met for all our people who have suffered. We have heard the cries of our citizens, and we have witnessed their devastation. We will mourn for the dead, and cry for the lost, but we will not stop there”.

Gbajabiamila also said that the possibility of Nigeria severing bilateral relationship with South Africa over the incessant attacks on Nigerians and the looting and burning of their shops could not be ruled out.

The Speaker stated this while briefing State House correspondents after meeting behind closed doors with President Muhammadu Buhari at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, insisting that the government would always stand with her citizens.

Asked if there were moves to cut bilateral ties with South Africa, Gbajabiamila said, “We are not there yet, nothing is off the table, we will take each day as it comes. As of now Mr. President has taken proactive steps in evacuating our citizens, recalling the High Commissioner, and other things will follow.

“I believe we will stand with and by Nigerians. The leadership of the House has issued a statement today (yesterday) and it is in tandem with what the executive is doing. We stand by our citizens that is our priority, to protect the constitution, to protect the welfare of the citizens and that is exactly what we are doing and that is what the president is doing.”

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He said that he was at the State House to engage with the President on the burning issues, stressing that in the last few days, Nigeria had witnessed unfortunate incidence involving her citizens in South Africa.

He said, “As you are aware, I cut short my trip to Tanzania and came home with the hope of reconvening the house where we are going to address this very important issue. We have called that off because events have overtaken it; the government has taken proactive steps, the same steps we would have asked for.

“We are all on the same page with the president and the government. So I came to fully discuss that with Mr. President. We discussed the issue of security, what has been happening in South Africa and other national issues that require the attention of both the legislature and the executive, and we had very fruitful discussions on those issues.”

On the insistence of the South African government not to pay compensation to the victims of the xenophobic attacks because payment of compensation was not contained in the country’s laws, the Speaker said that he had not heard such statement from the South African government.

xenophobic
South Africa Xenophobic attacks on Nigeria

He said, “Well I haven’t heard that statement from South Africa, I don’t know if it is official or off the cuff statement by somebody. When it’s made official, we will take further steps. I am sure we will be on the delegation process in South Africa and probably other avenues that are international that we can pursue.”

FG must retaliate now  —Ohaneze

Also reacting, President General, Ohaneze Ndigbo Worldwide, John Nnia Nwodo said “the xenophobic attacks on Nigerians and other Africans in the Republic Of South Africa have been persistent, provocative and criminal. It smacks of absolute ingratitude on the part of a country Nigeria sacrificed so much for. It promotes divisive local conversations that give our government an opportunity to dramatize our unity of purpose. The Federal Government must be courageous enough to announce retaliatory measures that will make it clear that enough is enough. Such measures must address specific South African assets in Nigeria especially in the Communication, Oil,Banking and Aviation sectors. Not to do so will portray us as weak, encourage a re-occurrence of these dastardly attacks in the future and leave us a deeply angry and divided nation. Ohaneze Ndigbo Worldwide is anxious to see the Federal Government do the right thing this time around.

FG should sever ties with SA—Afenifere

In its own reaction, the pan-Yoruba socio-political organization, Afenifere called on the Federal Government to sever ties with the South African government adding that sending an envoy to South Africa at this point is meaningless.

Afenifere’s National Publicity Secretary, Mr. Yinka Odumakin said: “It is unfortunate that the post-apartheid error of ANC in not addressing the economic imbalance in South Africa to empower the black majority has created this maladjusted people taking to ultra-nationalist tendencies. The xenophobic attacks are totally reprehensible.

“Unfortunately the Nigerian government that has placed higher value on the lives of cows more than human beings has been pathetically tardy on this. A strong warning should have gone to South Africa before things degenerated to this level. Sending an envoy to South Africa at this point is meaningless.

We have seen strong actions taken by other African countries which show serious leadership.

“The Nigerian government can still get up from its lethargy to take strong diplomatic actions that would make South Africa cringing. The government must sever diplomatic ties with South Africa and step on its economic interests in Nigeria to show it cares for the lives of its citizens.”

Nigerians not safe anywhere —Aisha Yesufu

Speaking exclusively with Saturday Vanguard, rights activist and co-convener of the Bring-Back-Our-Girls Movement, Aisha Yesufu lamented the worsening security situation Nigerians are facing not only at home but also outside the shores of the country. According to her, government is partly to blame for the lack of job opportunities which culminated in the migration of Nigerians in search of greener pastures.

She said: “Isn’t it such a sad thing that Nigerians are not safe anywhere? Nigerians are being killed abroad, at home, in their houses, on the streets and on the roads. No one is safe; everybody is going around with sense of fear. You don’t know whether it is going to be your turn.

“Look at what is happening in South Africa. If we were a nation that takes its citizens as citizens that matter such that if you touch one of them, it will come after you; South Africans wouldn’t be doing what they are doing now. I saw a tweet in which a South African was actually taunting a Nigerian that they will kill Nigerians and that our President will not do anything. Sadly, he is right. Is this the way we are supposed to live? Our lives must matter!

“We cannot be hounded like animals. We must come together as citizens and speak with one voice to say, enough is enough to the manner Nigerians are being treated as sub- citizens both in their own country and outside. Until we realize that each and every one of us is affected when one of us is affected, they will keep treating us shabbily. Unfortunately, the way we are today, the life of a livestock appears more important than the life of a Nigerian citizen. How do we expect to continue like this?.”

She called on the federal government to remember that “governance consists of demand and supply. The citizens must make the demand and the government must supply good governance.”

Buhari must take decisive step now—Joe Odumakin

On her part, Founder, Women Arise, Dr. Joe Odumakin counselled President Buhari to move beyond diplomatic tribute to take urgent steps to show concern on Nigerians living outside the country.

“The reports from South Africa are quite disturbing, not only out of our concern as Nigerians, but also in realization of the value that is placed on the life of the average victims, by the perpetrators of this ugly xenophobic incidences. It is therefore imperative that President Muhammadu Buhari must take a decisive step, not only in defense and safety of our country men, but also in the discharge of our responsibility, as a mother body to many countries within the continent, and the spirit of African solidarity. Xenophobia stands condemned and everybody must condemn this ongoing madness,” she said.

Severing diplomatic ties not enough—CHRICED

For the Resource Centre for Human Rights & Civic Education, CHRICED, severing ties with South Africa is necessary but not enough. In a statement issued by its Executive Director, Ibrahim Zikirullahi, the CSO said regardless of the narratives trailing the ugly incidents; Nigerians have been the subject of the planned attack with their businesses not spared either.

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The statement read in part: “In waves of mind boggling attacks, which are clearly premeditated and carefully coordinated, several Nigerians have been killed, just as their business premises were looted or set ablaze. Particularly for Nigerians, the losses in terms of lives and property, and the consistency with which our citizens have been targeted make it abundantly clear that it is time for the Federal Government to fundamentally rethink diplomatic relations with South Africa.

“We dare say that the era of diplomatic niceties and notions of African brotherhood, with specific reference to South Africa, are over. A country, whose citizens delight in the mindless and senseless slaughter of fellow Africans can no longer be considered “brotherly,” by any stretch of the imagination. This point is even more crucial to note because some high ranking South African officials have been on record spewing hate speech and inciting their citizens to attack foreign nationals.

“An example of this terrible behaviour is Mr Bongani Mkongi, who was the Deputy Minister of Police of the Republic of South Africa from 31 March 2017 until 25 May 2019. In a video currently circulating online, the said Mkongi could be heard justifying the xenophobic attacks on the alleged grounds that South African cities were being taken over by foreigners. In the light of the inciting rhetoric from highly placed South African officials, which then manifests in the dastardly acts, including the killing of Nigerians, CHRICED calls on the Federal Government to immediately move beyond mere issuing of statements.”

It urged the Buhari-led government to “invoke the principle of reciprocity by mobilizing its soft power assets to put pressure on South African economic interests in Nigeria, in the first instance.

“The federal government of Nigeria must mobilize the relevant national institutions to properly document these xenophobic crimes with the view to holding all perpetrators accountable, using the instrumentality of multilateral diplomatic circles like the Africa Union, the International Criminal Court in the Hague and the United Nations Human Rights Commission.” Beyond taking decisive steps, the federal government is also called upon to provide useful education to Nigerians bent on travelling out of the country.

Poorly educated black South Africans responsible —CISLAC

Executive Director, Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre, Auwal Musa Rafsanjani in his own reaction said: “I think those involved in these acts are poorly educated black South Africans and I must say their conduct is unfortunate. The problem here is even worse in the sense that it is not the White South Africans that are attacking the blacks. It is a case of black South Africans attacking Nigerians and black nationals of other countries. I will like to advise the Nigerian government to take time to properly educate Nigerians on how to conduct themselves in foreign countries. They should register with the Nigerian embassies and provide information about their places of abode. If an American comes to Nigeria today, the first thing he will do is to make documentation with the American embassy. This should be encouraged here as well,” he said.

Presidency should bring back Nigerians in South Africa — NYCN

For the National Youth Council of Nigeria, NYCN, “the agony of watching fellow Nigerians gruesomely murdered in a fellow African country and the pain of seeing Nigerian nationals degraded below animals is beyond our emotional ingest. National Youth Council of Nigeria calls on all Nigerians in South Africa to start coming back home with immediate alacrity.”

In a statement signed by its Public Relations Officer, Comrade Olugbode Damola Hammed, the council called on the Presidency to “make provision for all Nigerians in South Africa to return home as a matter of urgency, provide the necessary support for the victims to get back to their feet.”

South Africa
Xenophobic attack in South Africa

The statement also called on aggrieved Nigerians to “desist from attacking shops perceived to be South Africa establishment,” saying “most of these establishments are owned by Nigerians through franchise.” It is rather shameful that a country which ordinarily ought to see Nigeria as a long-term ally would have her citizens turned against Nigerians in a manner bereft of civilization and decency.

It shows lack of vision, expediency and statesmanship —Osuntokun

Also reacting to the xenophobic attacks, Mr. Akin Osuntokun, Political Adviser to former President Olusegun Obasanjo flayed both the Nigerian and South African Governments for failing to exhibit vision, expediency and statesmanship.

Osuntokun said: “Ultimately what is currently going on in South Africa now cannot be divulged from the background of predisposition to violence that the apartheid culture of repression and violence had fostered. Recall that the country almost slid into civil war at the beginning of the transition from apartheid. You had these supremacist struggles among the ethnic nationalities comprising South Africa especially the recalcitrance of the gatza buthelezi led KwaZulu natal province.

“The other relevant background is the fact that political liberation has not been complemented by any meaningful economic emancipation of the overwhelming majority of the South African population. They are still more or less enthralled in economic servitude. So you are dealing with a population that is primed for violence and blind fury. As is often the case in history it is easy to channel such anger into nativism where immigrants and foreigners are made to become the object of transferred aggression. Of course, we must not minimise the criminality and brigandage of immigrants including Nigerians as a trigger. So, it is a syndrome that must be understood as such beyond the simplification of attributing the tragic turn of events as xenophobia.

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“What has been lacking in the response of the leadership of both South Africa and Nigeria is vision, expediency and statesmanship. This degeneration has become long in coming and should have been anticipated with containment measures. It is just as difficult to imagine that things could have gone awry were Nelson Mandela and Olusegun Obasanjo to hold the reins of leadership in South Africa and Nigeria respectively. Both of them are thoroughly schooled in international diplomatic activism and Pan Africanist vision- the critical attributes that would have made all the difference ultimately what is playing out.”

Provide jobs to check exodus of Nigerians—Ango Abdullahi, Junaid Mohammed

Similarly, two prominent Northerner leaders-Professor Ango Abdullahi and Dr Junaid Mohammed have however asked the Nigerian government to take urgent steps to stem the tide of poverty, joblessness and a general sense of dislocation and exclusion in the land in order to checkmate the migration of Nigerians into South Africa and other countries in search of non-existence opportunities.

The two leaders blamed the attacks on Nigerians in South Africa on Nigeria’s bad leadership, which has effectively created a wide gap between the rich and the poor with successive governments seemingly helpless in bridging the burgeoning space, thereby forcing Nigerians to leave in droves for other countries.

To solve this nagging challenge, according to Ango Abdullahi, a former vice chancellor of the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, Nigeria must urgently effectively harness the huge natural resources available in the country to provide equal opportunities for all Nigerians so as to reduce their sense of despondency and dejection.

Abdullahi, a professor of Agriculture, said that Nigeria must also stop the continuous looting and stealing of Nigeria’s core assets by powerful elements under dubious schemes and policies, which have ended up transferring enormous public wealth to a few Nigerians at the expense of the majority, who are languishing in abject poverty and disillusion.

“If Nigeria had been properly run and its resources not mismanaged and hijacked by a few powerful elements through the backdoor, it would have been impossible for Nigerians to be trooping to South Africa, which we rescued from the claws of apartheid a few decades ago,” Abdullahi said.

“The question to ask is: What has happened to the vast wealth that God has given to Nigeria, and where has it gone over the years and why should Nigerians be going to such countries as South Africa, Greece, Mexico and others that we were far ahead some years ago in terms of wealth?” he asked.

On his part, Junaid Mohammed, a medical doctor-turned politician, advised the Buhari administration to urgently provide jobs for the teeming population of Nigerian youths, who are frustrated by poverty and graduate unemployment now staring the country in the face.

According to him, “there is a lot of anger and frustration in Nigeria arising from the absence of opportunities for qualified and unqualified Nigerian youths because the leadership of Nigeria has been very inept over the years and incapable of providing good governance, direction, hope and confidence for the people”.

“The high level of dissatisfaction and frustration across the length and breadth of Nigeria coupled with the Boko Haram insurgency, banditry, kidnapping and armed robbery in all parts of the country, is an indication that the leadership problem in Nigeria has not yet been fixed,” the politician said.

Redouble your good efforts —PANDEF

On its part, Pan-Niger Delta Forum, PANDEF, mouthpiece of the people of the coastal states of South South expressed satisfaction with the manner the Federal Government has tackled the Xenophobic attacks against Nigerians in South Africa, but urged it to remain on its guard.

Xenophobic Attack

National Secretary, Dr Alfred Mulade, asserted that “PANDEF is encouraged by the Federal Government’s handling of xenophobic attacks in South Africa, but wish to urge that efforts be redoubled.”

“The current diplomatic efforts should be sustained to ensure that the South African authorities come clean on the unfortunate recurrent xenophobic attacks on Nigerians. Nigerians resident in South Africa are also admonished to continue to live within the meaning of lawful and peaceful business endeavors as the Nigerian authorities work assiduously to achieve peaceful resolution of the issues in South Africa,” he said.

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