BY BONI AND ANASTASIA
Members of both chambers of the National Assembly are piqued at the xenophobic attacks against Nigerians living in South Africa and have threatened reprisals, if the attacks continued.
Berating the Executive arm of government for not engaging the South African government seriously on the attacks, the Senate and House of Representatives resolved to send their members to engage their counterparts in South Africa.
The lawmakers spoke as the Federal Government told the Senate that no Nigerian was killed in the latest xenophobic attacks in South Africa, just as protesters in Lagos, called for the closure of the South African High Commission in Nigeria. Meanwhile, the House of Representatives Committee on Diaspora Matters, yesterday, met with the Ghanaian High Commissioner to Nigeria, Willians Awinador Kanyirige, over the alleged hostile business environment Nigerians are being subjected to in Ghana.
Minister of State, Foreign Affairs, Hajia Khadija Bukar Abba-Ibrahim, yesterday, while appearing before the Senator Monsurat Sunmonu, APC, Oyo Central- led Joint Senate and House of Representatives Committee on Foreign Affairs, said based on the information she got from Nigeria’s High Commission in South Africa, no Nigerian was killed in the latest attacks in South Africa, but their property were destroyed. She said the ministry was not sure of the number of Nigerians killed between 2014 and 2015. She added that “we spoke with our High Commission today (yesterday) before we left for this meeting and it has been confirmed that no Nigerian’ s life has been lost; this is what we have today.”
However, the National Assembly took a swipe at the Federal Government for not engaging the South African government seriously over the attacks on Nigerians and others in the country. Chairman of the Joint Committee, Senator Monsurat Sunmonu, warned that henceforth attacks on Nigerians in South Africa would be “tit-for-tat.” According to her, if the trend continued, South Africans and South African businesses should be prepared for reprisal attacks, insisting their firms would also suffer similar attacks being meted to Nigerian businesses in South Africa.
Senator Sunmonu said: “I will say that while we appreciate your coming and as we have to speak on behalf of Nigerians that what we discussed today is not what Nigerians are expecting from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. We want to hear from the ministry that the acting high commissioner has invited Nigerians to give them solace because tomorrow nobody knows what is going to happen again.
“We know the efforts of Nigerians in South Africa. We have been talking to you based on report of the Senate committee and foreign affairs ministry in April, 2015. Two years ago, we had this booklet and we have gone through all the findings and recommendations. Have you been able to invite Nigerians that lost their properties in 2015 to tell them that we are negotiating something for them? No, you haven’t.
To the committee, we are not happy, we are highly disappointed and what we would expect is that in your delegation, we have the mandate of the two houses for us to go to South Africa. We will all go together, see them and look at the memoranda of understanding or bilateral agreements you are signing; it has to be give and take. If it is necessary, Nigeria will not hesitate to place sanctions against South Africa in this country.”
Earlier, during the plenary, the Senate condemned, in strong terms, the return of xenophobic attacks in South Africa, which it described as extra-judicial killings of Nigerians by both the South African police and South Africans. The Senate also advised the Federal Government to reconsider Nigeria’s diplomatic ties with South Africa with a view to averting recurring xenophobic attacks and extra-judicial killings of Nigerians in South Africa.
It also resolved to send a delegation to South Africa to engage their fellow parliamentarians on the matter. The resolutions of the Senate were sequel to a motion by Senator Rose Oko, PDP, Cross River North and titled: “Resurgence of Xenophobic Attacks and Extra-judicial Killings of Nigerians in South Africa.”
It was co-sponsored by three other Senators. Senator Oko, who expressed concerns over recurring cases of xenophobic attacks and extra-judicial killings of Nigerians in South Africa, said that on February 18, this year, South Africans attacked and looted businesses belonging to Nigerians in Pretoria, pointing out that the acts violated Article 5 of the United Nations Universal Declaration on Human Rights, which she said provided that “no one shall be subjected to torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment.”
She also recalled that in 2016, 20 Nigerians were killed under similar circumstances over allegations of drug trafficking without a recourse to legal processes and the principle of fair hearing. Cataloging the series of xenophobic attacks and extra-judicial killings of Nigerians in South Africa in recent times, Senator Oko said it is sad these are happening despite Nigeria’s remarkable contributions to the liberation of South Africa from the clutches of apartheid and despite Federal Government’s consistently engaging the South African government on ensuring an end to the killings and attacks.
“South Africa has over 120 companies that are thriving in Nigeria; the MoU signed in 2013 between Nigeria and South Africa was aimed at finding lasting solutions to the xenophobic attacks and to reinforce the two countries’ diplomatic cooperation in legal field, oil and gas sector, power sector development, environment, defence, women development and empowerment, as well as child development.’’
In his contribution, Deputy Senate President Ike Ekweremadu recalled Nigeria’s role in liberating South Africa from the claws of apartheid and the punishment it had to endure in the hands of its colonial master, Britain for daring to champion South Africa’s cause.
The Acting President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, was yesterday told to close South African embassy in the country and declare the High Commissioner and other officials “personae non grata” until safety of Nigerians is guaranteed in South Africa. This was the demand of some youths, who protested against xenophobic attacks in South Africa at the South African embassy, in Lagos. Media Coordinator of the group, Ayodele Samuel, said the protesters were unhappy with the xenophobic attacks on Nigerians and their businesses in South Africa. General Secretary of the group, Comrade Ifetoluwa Ajayi said the Federal Government must take some drastic decisions to shut down the South African High Commission.