Recent renewed xenophobic attacks against Nigerians in South Africa have heightened tension in both countries. It is feared that if nothing is done very fast, the development will adversely affect the relationship between both countries. It is a common knowledge that a lot Nigerians live in South Africa, working and doing big business there.
That many Nigerians have been making it big in that country has led to jealousy among the South Africans, who from time to time rise up in arms against their visitors. The South Africans loot Nigerians’ houses and shops. They attack and beat the Nigerians up, setting their business on fire.
In extreme cases, they also kill the unprotected Nigerians, whose only crime is that they live and do businesses in that country.
This development has become very worrisome and has caused tension in the land, especially against the background that that Nigeria championed and funded the liberation of South Africans from the hands of their former masters, the Apartheid regime that was backed by colonial masters.
The recent attack was tense in Johannesburg and Pretoria where South African youths in their hundreds, ransacked and looted Nigerians’ shops. While all these go on, that country’s authorities have been reticent, saying and doing very little to stop the attacks.
The attacks have led to uproar in parts of Africa, especially in Nigeria and Ghana. While the Ghanaians are calling on the African Union to suspend South Africa or impose harsh sanctions, Nigerians have been urging their government to take it out on South African businesses in the country.
The xenophobic attack led to protests in Abuja, Nigeria’s capital, where some people reportedly vandalised the offices of South African telecommunications company, MTN Group Ltd, in protest over the xenophobic attacks in that country on Nigerians. The Nigerian government summoned South Africa’s High Commissioner to register its concerns about the threat to its nationals.
Also, the Senate has raised a delegation led by the Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu, to take up the issue with their South African government.
However, the question by many Nigerians has been if the government is doing enough to protect the lives of its citizens in that country. What practical things is it doing to make the South African government sit up to stop the attacks against Nigerians?
Government Is Doing What Is Necessary – Rep
Daniel Reyenieju, a member of the House of Representatives, has said that Nigerian government is doing what is allowed under international diplomatic convention to address the xenophobic attacks against its citizens in South Africa.
Reyenieju, representing Warri Federal Constituency of Delta State, said: “It is quite unfortunate that we have this kind of incidents re-occurring too many. South Africa has been a very close ally of Nigeria in terms of bilateral relationship.
“But, for people to directly indict the Nigerian government of not doing enough to protect its citizens, I think it is over-reaching. I said that against the backdrop that Nigeria does not provide security to its citizens living outside its shores. It is the responsibility of the countries where they so reside to protect their lives and properties.
“What government can only do is what the government is doing, which is to call to the consciousness of countries in which its citizens live to halt such unwarranted killings and discrimination against its citizens. I think that is ongoing, the engagement is on, the Federal Ministry of Foreign Affairs is doing its best.
“I also see the Special Assistant to the President on Diaspora Matters being on top of the issues very seriously, and I think with that we can do more. We can do more in the sense that we can engage more with those countries. I think it is something that should be addressed through diplomatic efforts.”
He added: “Even if you have to apply the principles of reciprocity which is allowed in international diplomacy, it will still not amount to Nigeria deploying soldiers to South Africa, it would still entail high level diplomatic shuttles and discussions which I think are ongoing.
“If that did not work then what Nigeria can do is to recall our ambassador to that country and then expel their own ambassador here to show that Nigerians are really serious. You could see what happened during the Obama era in the stand-off with Russia over the latter’s alleged role US election. So these are some of the measures you can take but such reciprocity shouldn’t go beyond high level diplomatic shuttle or engagement”, Reyenieju added.
It Is Early To Judge FG On Attacks Against Nigerians -APC Chieftain
Emeka Okafor, a lawyer and chieftain of All Progressives Congress (APC) believes that it is too early to judge whether the Federal Government is doing enough to protect Nigerians in South Africa or not.
Okafor maintained that people should not expect Nigeria to go war against South Africa as both countries enjoy bilateral ties.
Accoding to him, “We have to follow it diplomatically. Some Nigerians engage in crime in South Africa. Some do illegitimate business. I strongly believe that government will intervene. But, it is early now to say that government is not doing enough.”
He warned Nigerians against reaching quick conclusion on such matters, especially when it is not an internal matter, but one involving Nigeria and another country.
‘Government has not done much to protect Nigerians’
Jezie Nzomiwu, a commentator said: “ The Federal Government has not done much to protect Nigerians from the xenophobic attack against Nigerians in South Africa. Since South Africa’s independence, Nigeria has not deployed enough diplomatic influences to obtain reciprocal loyalty from South Africa in appreciation of the colossal sacrifices made by Nigeria and her people towards liberating her from apartheid rule.
“If the Federal Government had done that, maybe the South Africans should have shown more respect to, and appreciate the crucial role Nigerians played towards their independence.’
He maintained that the South Africans now feel that they are now better off that Nigerians, who are flocking their country to eke a living sand there do not want their visitors, hence the unwarranted attacks on Nigerian citizens.
He lamented that the Federal Government appears to be keeping quiet about the situation or has no idea on how to end the hostilities against the citizens diplomatically.
“The Nigerian government should have by now registered a strong protest by recalling the Nigerian Ambassador in South Africa as a strong warning that the killing of its citizens is not acceptable. This and such action like the one taken by the Senate will no doubt shake that country and make the citizens to be more cautious in their dealings with Nigerians.
“However, the action by the Senate, by raising a delegation to be headed by the Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu, to take up this issue with the South African government, I hope will send a strong signal not only to South Africa, but to every other country that does not value the sanctity of life by taking the lives of Nigerians for granted and waste them with impunity,” he added.
‘South Africans’ Actions Are Unfortunate’
Comrade Joshua Dada, a social critic and commentator, described the xenophobic attack on Nigerians in South Africa as unfortunate, even as he said that the extent to which Nigeria government protects her citizens in other countries depend on the foreign relationship between the two countries.
He said: “What the federal government is expected to do in terms of foreign relations have been done by alerting the South Africa government on the consequences of the attack on Nigerians which international community is watching.
“The attack on Nigerians should not been viewed as something serious because lots of Nigerians are fond of travelling out of the country for greener pastures and this is causing additional burden on the affected countries.
“What the federal government needs to do is to ensure that the home front is okay and that everyone could be conveniently accommodated in their countries. The zeal to go out to other countries is too much and must be controlled.
“The attack may be means to check or control entrance into their country. Activities of Nigerians in that country are another factor that could cause the attack. The number of Nigerians there has negative impact on their economy.”
Chief Kenneth Onumaegbulam, an elder statesman and Second Republic Politician under the Peoples Redemption Party (PRP), said it is unfortunate that Nigerians in South Africa are under attack.
He lamented: “Nigeria contributed a lot towards the eradication of racism in the apartheid South Africa. If Nelson Mandela were to be alive today, this kind of rubbish would never have happened. I am yet to hear of any concrete steps taken by the federal government on the attack.
“I have not heard of any bilateral talk between Abuja and Pretoria in respect of the inhuman treatment meted to our people in South Africa. You press men, should tell better. I had expected the federal government to issue a stern warning to the South African government to minimise this and to direct our Embassy in South African to provide safety for our people.
“With my rudimentary knowledge in International Relations and Diplomacy, the federal government might adopt what is known as ‘gun-boat diplomacy’ to tackle the situation. This entails telling them to stop the dastardly act, pay reparation to the victims within a stipulated period, failure of which will attract severe penalty against them.
“I do not think that the South African government has tendered any apology to us and yet the government appears to the treating the matter with kid gloves. It is as a result of this that the National Assembly recently issued a threat to the South African government and I commend them for this.”
Xenophobic Attacks Against African Unity –Activist
Vitus Ugwuegbulem, a chieftain of Campaign for the Defence of Human and Child Right Abuse, maintained that ahat is happening in South Africa is antithetical to the call for sustained unity among African nations.
He lamented: “We woke up one morning only to hear that Nigerians in South Africa are being attacked there. Granted that South Africa is more advanced in growth and development than Nigeria, I had expected the federal government to make it clear to the authorities in South Africa that their people do not have the monopoly of violence.
“We have many South Africans here in our country doing all forms if businesses. Our Embassy in South African enjoys a reasonable degree of immunity and should use this to protect our people. I have not even heard of any categorical statement from the federal government on this.”
The Government Should Act Now – Party Chief
Isaiah Okafor, Chairman of Accord Party in Oguta Local Government Area of Imo State maintained that the federal government has been sleeping on the matter. Ha asked: “Can you tell me any concrete measure the federal government has so far taken to protect our brothers and sisters since this incident erupted in South Africa.
“Not even a government delegation has visited South Africa to discuss the matter. Although, I do not believe in the application of the doctrine of tit for tat, the federal government should take necessary measures against South Africa to serve as deterrent to them.
“The South African Embassy here should be compelled to tender an unreserved apology to us for such atrocities against Nigerians by their people.”