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Xenophobia: President Buhari’s envoy meets South Africa’s Cyril Ramaphosa today

President Ramaphosa has prioritised land redistribution as he seeks to win public support ahead of election next year [Themba Hadebe-AP]
Associated Press

President Muhammadu Buhari’s special envoy, the Director-General of the National Intelligence Agency, Ambassador Ahmed Abubakar, has arrived in Johannesburg and is expected to meet President Cyril Ramaphosa of South Africa.

Abubakar was received yesterday at the Oliver R. Tambo International Airport by the Nigerian High Commissioner to South Africa Ambassador Kabiru Bala and other mission officials.

The special envoy and the High Commissioner, who had earlier been recalled, are expected back in Nigeria at the weekend.

Meanwhile, Nigeria and South Africa have disagreed over compensation for victims of the anti-foreigner violence.

Nigeria’s foreign affairs minister, Geofrey Onyeama, had told a press conference on Wednesday that the Nigerian government was going to fight for full compensation.

But his South African counterpart Naledi Pandor was quoted by the Reuters news agency as saying that her country’s “laws do not have provision for such [compensation]”.

Pandor said the South African government decided to temporarily close the embassy in Nigeria for security reasons after a protest march was planned there and threats of violence were received.

She however said she was in touch with Nigerian authorities to restore calm.

“There is an Afrophobia we are sensing that exists, there is resentment and we need to address that,” Pandor was quoted to have said.

However, the Federal Government insisted yesterday that victims of xenophobic attacks must be compensated.

“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,” Onyeama said adding that “We are not aware that the South African government has closed down its High Commission here in Abuja or its consulate in Lagos.”

On attendance at the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Cape Town, South Africa by some Nigerians, despite Nigeria pulling out of the forum, he said those Nigerians had gone there before the decision was taken.

“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 actually there already before this decision was taken,” he said.

On the recall of Nigerian High Commissioner to South Africa, Onyeama said they have not taken a final decision on it.

“So, we are going to wait for the report of the Special Envoy when he comes back in about two days’ time. And on that basis after we have received the report, it is likely that we must supplement that report by also calling the High Commissioner back for consultation so that Mr. President will be able to get as comprehensive and full a picture of the situation in South Africa,” he said.

Nigeria is also considering filing an application before the African Court of Human and Peoples’ Rights in Tanzania against the South African government over the xenophobic attacks against its citizens in South Africa.

A source in the Federal Ministry of Justice said on Thursday that this will happen if diplomatic moves between both countries break down.

“Nigeria is thus entitled to take actions in this xenophobic attacks on her citizens because South Africa has blatantly and with impunity failed to apply the “National Treatment” principle, treatment equal to that given by South Africa to its own nationals to foreigners within its territory and consistently encouraged gross violation of the Fundamental Rights and Freedoms of Nigerian citizens living in that country.”

The legal option is also predicated on Nigeria’s ratification of the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights on the establishment of an African Court on Human and Peoples Rights done 20th May, 2004.

The Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami (SAN) failed to respond to phone calls yesterday. Also, the Secretariat of the African Court of Human and Peoples’ Rights failed to reply to an email message on the procedure open to a state at the court.

But Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Yusuf Ali, said the individuals affected could proceed against those who committed the act in domestic court since they are not multilateral bodies or state actors, adding however that the Federal Government can also pursue justice at regional courts for the victims if it looks at the quantum of losses involved.

For his part, human rights lawyer, Hameed Ajibola Jimoh said Nigeria can explore the judicial option through the regional courts established by international laws and protocols where the diplomatic option failed.

Also speaking with journalists yesterday, the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, said some unscrupulous people had been identified to be using fake videos to inflame passion of Nigerians over the xenophobic attacks targeting Nigerians in South Africa.

The minister identified three of the videos being circulated on the social media to be fake saying they have nothing to do with recent attacks on Nigerians.

The minister added that apart from inflaming passion, the videos were also complicating the efforts of the government to calm frayed nerves at home in the wake of the xenophobic attacks in South Africa.

He warned those who are circulating the videos to immediately desist from doing so.

Already, Mohammed noted that reports in the media have indicated that hoodlums have hijacked the peaceful protests by some Nigerians to loot shops at Shoprite and other Malls in some locations across the country.

“A Nigerian lady whose shop was looted at the Novare Mall in Lagos said she lost millions of naira to the hoodlums who looted her shop.The offices of the MTN nationwide have either been attacked or threatened. Nigerians own and run the shops in the various Shoprite malls across the country.

“Nigerians work there also. MTN is listed on the Nigerian Stock Exchange and the investors in this company are Nigerians. The workers are mostly Nigerians. Same applies to other South African businesses in the country. By attacking them, we are hurting our own people. That is the blunt truth,” the minister said.

The minister further appealed to opinion leaders and celebrities to be guarded in their utterances and comments on the xenophobic attacks and the reactions from Nigerians.

The National Chairman of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) has urged President Muhammadu Buhari to bar South African Airways from flying to any part of the country to protest the xenophobic attacks on Nigerians.

Oshiomhole, who gave the advice yesterday at a press briefing in Abuja, also urged President Buhari to cut off all diplomatic ties between the two countries.

He also implored all Nigerians to stop patronising South African businesses in Nigeria in order to show concerns to the killings of Nigerians.

The South African businesses which Oshiomhole mentioned included the telecommunications giant, MTN; Standard Chartered Bank, Stanbic IBTC and Multi-Choice, owner of DSTV and GoTv.

“The best way to deal with these issues, I think right away, Nigerians in our individual capacity, this is the time to show commitment to our citizens and show sympathy to those our loved ones by boycotting South African goods and businesses.

“Happily, we have indigenous network like GLO, Airtel and I believe 9mobile is still standby. If Nigerians desert, at least for the next 30 days, as a first step to stop using MTN, it would have sent a clear message and pay befitting tribute to the lives of those that have been wasted in a very crude and barbaric manner by the South African authority,” he said. Oshiomhole flayed the statement credited to National Youth Leader of the ruling party in South Africa, African National Congress (ANC), Julius Malema.

The former labour leader said the statement showed that the South African government was behind the crimes being committed against Nigerians.

Meanwhile, the Lagos State Police Command has arraigned 83 suspects over the attack and looting of Shoprite and other South African businesses in retaliation for the attack on Nigerians and their businesses.

The police told the Magistrates’ Court at Yaba that the defendants attacked the Shoprite Malls at Surulere and Sangotedo-Ajah and allegedly stole and damaged properties estimated at N500m.

The suspects face six-count charges bordering on conspiracy, riotous assembly, arson, stealing, malicious damage, unlawful destruction of property and conduct likely to cause the breach of peace. They however pleaded not guilty to all the charges and were admitted to bail by the magistrate, Mr P.A. Ojo, in the sum of N500,000 with two sureties in like sum.

The magistrate also adjourned the case to October 9, 2019.

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