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President Muhammadu Buhari on Monday directed the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Geoffrey Onyeama, to monitor the measures the South African government would take to end the xenophobic attacks on Nigerians by further engaging the “appropriate authorities.”
The President also gave clear instructions that Nigerians willing to return home should be evacuated from South Africa immediately.
The President took the decisions when he received the report of the special envoy he sent last week to his South African counterpart, President Cyril Ramaphosa, to register Nigeria’s concerns over the attacks.
The Presidency, in a statement on Monday in Abuja, said the special envoy, who is the Director-General, National Intelligence Agency, Ahmed Rufai-Abubakar, returned to Nigeria after the assignment and had submitted his report to the President.
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It said Rufai-Ababukar was in Pretoria from Thursday to Saturday. While in Pretoria, the envoy conveyed the following to Ramaphosa, “The deep concern of President Buhari and Nigerians about intermittent violence against Nigerians and their property/business interests in South Africa.
“President Buhari stressed the need for South African government to take visible measures to stop violence against citizens of brotherly African nations.
“President Buhari is worried that the recurring issue of xenophobia could negatively affect the image and standing of South Africa as one of the leading countries on the continent, if nothing is done to stop it.
“The special envoy conveyed the assurance of President Buhari that the Nigerian government was ready and willing to collaborate with the South African government to find a lasting solution to the involvement of few Nigerians in criminal activities, and to protect the lives and property of the larger groups of other law-abiding Nigerians and indeed Africans in general, against all forms of attacks including xenophobia.
“President Buhari further assured that the Nigerian government will guarantee the safety of lives, property and business interests of South Africans in Nigeria.”
The statement, which was signed by the President’s Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Mr Femi Adesina, also gave details of Ramaphosa’s responses.
It added, “On his part, President Ramaphosa agrees that the violence is most disconcerting and embarrassing, adding that his government completely rejects such acts, which undermine not only the country’s image, but also its relations with brotherly African countries.
“President Ramaphosa reaffirmed his stand against criminality and that he was committed to doing everything possible to protect the rights of every Nigerian and other foreign nationals in the country.”
Upon receiving the report, Buhari said he had taken note of it and directed Onyeama “to continue to engage with appropriate authorities on the concrete measure the South African government is expected to take.”
He also gave “instructions for the immediate voluntary evacuation of all Nigerians who are willing to return home.”
The Presidency added that the envoy also met with his South African counterpart “where they reviewed the situation of foreign emigrants in general and Nigerians in particular.”
It said the two “agreed to work together to find a permanent solution to the root causes of the recurring attacks on Nigerians and their property.”
Also on Monday, the Presidency said the number of Nigerians in South Africa, who had shown interest in returning home had risen from 400 to 640.
The Chairman/Chief Executive Officer, Nigeria Diaspora Commission, Abike Dabiri-Erewa, stated this when she appeared before the Senate Committee on Diaspora.
Dabiri-Erewa, who addressed journalists in company with the Chairman of the Senate panel, Ajibola Basiru, said emergency travel documents were being issued to Nigerians whose papers had expired.
She added that two aircraft had landed on the South African soil to bring the first batch of Nigerians.
She said eight South African policemen were already being prosecuted over various xenophobic cases against Nigerians.
She said the documentation process for those with expired papers had started to ensure their easy entry into Nigeria.
She said, “As I speak with you now, we have 640 Nigerians voluntarily registered to come home and they will be home in a couple of days.
“We believe that more will still be coming to register. Two planes will convey them. The envoy will be briefing the President. When we receive the first two batches, we will know how many more will come.
She said eight policemen had been charged for their involvement in killing of Nigerians in South Africa and four more had been arrested.
Dabiri -Erewa said the Federal Government was still expecting the report of the investigation into the death of the Deputy Director-General of the Chartered Insurance Institute of Nigeria, Mrs Elizabeth Chukwu, who was murdered in South Africa.
She said, “They promised us to get the result. Also, there must be consequences for actions. If policemen or your people go out killing people and nothing happens to them, it will continue to happen.”
Nigeria’s Consul General in Johannesburg, Godwin Adama, had told the News Agency of Nigeria on Sunday in Abuja, that Air Peace had offered to airlift those willing to return home.
In a related development, the Presidency on Monday reiterated its condemnation of the xenophobic attacks in South Africa, saying if Nigerians had the kind of country they wanted, they would not go and become second-class citizens elsewhere.
The Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Adesina stated this in Abuja on Monday, adding that although there might be many faults with Nigeria, citizens must strive to love the country and work for its progress.
Adesina spoke at the Naija Youth Talk organised by the United Nations Children’s Fund to mark the 2019 International Literacy Day.
The President’s spokesman said, “Youths have a right to want a country because they are stakeholders. They have a right to ask for the country they want, a country where there will be no xenophobia and nobody will tell us; go back to your country.
“If we have the kind of country we want, why would we go and become second and third class citizens anywhere else? We should get the kind of country we want. I would like to stress that for us to get that country, we must love our country.
The UNICEF Country Representative, Peter Hawkins, said Nigeria youths deserved an education system with “good learning outcomes, where a child of nine years f basic education can read, write and have excellent numeracy skills.”
Also, the presidential candidate of the Allied Congress Party of Nigeria in the 2019 election, Dr Obiageli Ezekwesili, and leaders of the Nigerian community in Cape Town, called on Ramaphosa to apologise to countries whose citizens were attacked.
They made the demand at a meeting held on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum in Cape Town.
Members of the delegation that met with Ezekwesili included the representative of Yoruba community in Cape Town, Chief T.A Odutayo; Chairman of Ohaneze Ndigbo (Western Cape), Chief Vincent Nzekwe and Secretary, Simon Odumegwu.
Ezekwesili and the Nigerian community in South Africa, according a communique issued after the meeting and obtained in Abuja on Monday, described the attacks as Afrophobia.
While demanding an apology from Ramaphosa, they called on South African government to trigger series of actions necessary to de-escalate the brewing conflict to ensure that bilateral trade agreements between the countries would not be affected.
The Nigeria Labour Congress, Ekiti State chapter Chairman, Kolapo Olatunde, on Monday appealed to Nigerians not to destroy the property and businesses of South African nationals.
Olatunde, who said failure of the government to provide employment for citizens forced Nigerians to seek greener pastures in other better countries, thereby subjecting them to attacks as being witnessed in South Africa.
The NLC boss said in a telephone chat with journalists in Ado Ekiti that “the killing and the destruction of Nigerians and their property in South Africa confirmed failure of governance. The solution to xenophobia is for Nigerian government to provide reliable jobs for its citizens.”
Meanwhile, the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights has said it will take “appropriate actions,” in response to the xenophobic attacks in South Africa.
Nigerian advocacy group, Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project, had on Sunday called upon the commission to sue South Africa and demand $10bn damages for Nigerian victims of xenophobia.
SERAP’s Deputy Director, Kolawole Oludare, said in a statement on Monday that justice might be on the way for xenophobia victims as the African Commission had promised to take up the issue.
Oludare’s statement quoted the Chairperson of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights, Ms Soyata Maiga, as acknowledging SERAP’s letter and promising that necessary actions would be taken.
“Thank you for your open letter requesting our commission to take action to the court. I have just shared the letter with Ms Jamesina Essie King, the Chair of the Working Group on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, for follow-up and appropriate action,” Maiga was said to have written in a reply mail to SERAP.
Commending Maiga’s quick response, Oludare said it signified the commitment of the African Commission “to stand up for the human rights of Nigerians and other foreign nationals in South Africa, and to become more responsive to rights holders and victims.” “This will put massive pressure on the South African authorities and political leaders to uphold the highest standards in the protection of human rights of Nigerians and end their political rhetoric and incitement to hatred, violence and discrimination,” the SERAP Deputy Director said.
On his part, Senator Benjamin Uwajimogu said the Federal Government should change strategies to tackle the spate of xenophobic attacks on Nigerians in South Africa.
He said the advice became necessary following the failure of previous efforts to engage the South African government on the killings.
Uwajimogu, representing Imo North senatorial district on the platform of the All Progressives Congress, stated this in a statement in Abuja on Monday.
He said, “Enough is enough! This is wicked and shameless. The Federal Government has my full support and that of the Senate is taking every measure necessary to tackle the rising xenophobic attacks in South Africa,
“Since previous efforts to engage the South African government on these unabated attacks have yielded no gain, the onus is now on the Federal Government of Nigeria to change tactics and strategies, and make a profound statement.”
He described South Africans as intolerant and spiteful of Nigeria which was “a country that gave its all for their freedom from apartheid.”
Uwajimogu said, “My heart bled when I heard the news of the unfortunate incident, where hundreds of Nigerians in South Africa have been mobbed, harrassed, some maimed and killed, and their property looted and vandalised.
“Some are subjected to all forms of indignities, all in the name of envy, hate and prejudice, while the security agencies in that country were either complicit or they watched helplessly.”