by GEORGE OJI, AYO ESAN AND WOLE OLADIMEJI
*** Wants S’Africa to pay compensation
The Senate also urged the government to file a formal petition before the International Criminal Court at The Hague against the King of Zulu to protest the hate speech made by the monarch, which precipitated the attacks.
In addition, the lawmakers resolved to invite the Minister of Foreign Affairs to appear before the Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs to brief members on the situation and measures being taken to safeguard the lives and properties of Nigerians in South Africa.
These resolutions followed the adoption of the recommendations contained in a motion sponsored by the Senate Leader, Victor Ndoma-Egba, and co-sponsored by 107 other senators on the, ‘Rising incidence of Xenophobic attacks in South Africa.’
The lawmakers condemned the spate of attacks on immigrants and particularly, Nigerians in South Africa.
This was also as the senators resolved to urge the Federal Government to demand from the government of South Africa that the perpetrators of the evil act be brought to book and ensure adequate protection of Nigerians and their investments as well as compensate families who have lost members and those who have lost property as a result of the attacks.
In his lead presentation, the Senate Leader noted the anxiety the wave of attacks in Johannesburg and Durban by locals on African immigrants, which has led to the death of not less than seven persons, massive looting and destruction of foreigners’ properties and forcing of hundreds of migrants to relocate to police stations across the country has generated.
The leader also expressed concerns that Nigerians living in South Africa have been seriously affected by the crises as no fewer than 50 have been reportedly rendered homeless after being displaced by the attacks and about 300 others displaced near Johannesburg.
He noted that as at the last count, properties and Nigerian businesses worth millions of naira have been destroyed.
Ndoma-Egba said the Senate was worried that Nigerians living in South Africa who have always been targets of such attacks and other foreigners have maintained that immigrants could not really rely on the police for protection because the police rather retreat and extort money from them.
The lawmaker recalled that prior to 1994, though immigrants faced discrimination and even violence in South Africa, much of that risk stemmed from the institutionalised racism of the time which was one of the products of apartheid, noting that after democratisation in 1994, contrary to expectations, the incidence of xenophobia increased such that between 2000 and March, 2008, at least, 67 persons died in what were identified as xenophobic attacks.
He stated that the Senate was alarmed that the recent wave of attacks was precipitated by the comments of the renowned Zulu King and that while these barbaric acts were going on, some members of the South African security forces who ought to quell them, protect citizens and prevent the violence from escalating were pictured encouraging the perpetrators to continue the dastardly acts.
All the senators who contributed to debate expressed rage at the action of the South Africans against the immigrants as well as the nonchalance of the South African government in quelling the attacks.
For instance, in his contributions, Senator Solomon Olarewaju Ganiyu regretted that the sad incidence is coming from a country Nigeria refers to as a brother nation. He blamed it on Nigeria’s foreign policy which makes Africa its cornerstone.
He wondered why Nigeria is yet to recall its Ambassador to South Africa as would have been the case if other nationals were involved.
“We should have recalled our ambassador in South Africa because this is the way other countries would have reacted,” he said.
Senate Deputy Leader, Senator Abdul Ningi, suggested that Nigeria should have brought a resolution to the African Union for the suspension of South Africa from the body.
The lawmaker disclosed that Nigeria has over 20 million Africans living within its borders and that nobody is chasing them away.
Senator Helen Esuene, while also condemning the ugly development, blamed the action of the South African youths on the absence of good family orientation and values.
She noted that most of the youths in that country were born without proper parenting, noting that, “there are lots of street children in South Africa, who did not have normal family life.”
Senator Andy Uba suggested that Nigeria should go after the economic interest of South Africans in Nigeria as a way of mounting pressure on the government of that country so that it could see reasons to promptly quell the crises.
He suggested, for instance, that, “MTN should be shut down immediately. “Nigeria should stand up against South Africa. Nigerian businesses in South Africa do not amount up to 10 per cent of the money MTN alone makes in Nigeria,” he added.
In the House of Representatives, lawmakers demanded that South African government facilitate immediate payment of compensation to Nigerians affected in the attack.
Chairman, House Committee on Diaspora Affairs, Abike Dabiri-Erewa made the call while presenting the resolution of the House to the South African Ambassador to Nigeria, H.E. Lulu Louis Mnguni in his office in Abuja.
Dabiri-Erewa said apart from putting an end to the provocative and barbaric attacks on immigrants, the South African government should compensate survivors so that they can restart life.
“It is unfortunate that our first meeting with you is about this xenophobic attacks. We view it with strong condemnation and we want the South African government to expedite action on how to stop this barbaric act against our people.
“We also feel that the best thing the government should do is to compensate those victims of the attacks. We are calling on the South African government to compensate Nigerians that are victims of these attacks so that they can have something to fall back on,” she said.
She expressed regret that the attacks have undermined the unity, which African Union has fought for over the years.
Responding, Louis Mnguni expressed regret over the development, saying that instead of celebrating the strides Nigeria has made in deepening democracy in Africa, they were discussing hate caused by a few South Africans.
He said although, his country has not ruled out compensation, it is presently concentrating on stemming threat to lives caused by the attacks and stabilizing the situation before moving to the next stage.
“The issue of compensation has been raised on a number of occasions, but threat to life still remains our concern for now. We want to secure life and livelihood and stabilise the situation,” the ambassador stated.
Nigeria foreign ministry also, yesterday, complained to South Africa about the wave of attacks on foreigners and called on Pretoria to punish the culprits while at the same time compensating the victims..
Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, Musiliu Obanikoro, had summoned South Africa’s High Commissioner to Nigeria, Lulu Mnguni to a meeting.
“In the meeting, Ambassador Obanikoro condemned the attacks on foreigners in South Africa, expressing concern on the fate of Nigerians and indeed of other nationals who are migrants in the country,” a statement from the foreign affairs ministry stated.
South Africa needs to take “concrete steps to quell the unrest and bring the culprits to book” to act as a deterrent and prevent further violence; the South African authorities need to compensate the victims of these attacks,” the statement added.
However, soldiers were deployed overnight to tackle gangs hunting down and killing foreigners after at least seven people had died in violence in the last few weeks. On Wednesday, police said 11 men were arrested in a raid in Johannesburg.
In a related development, Nigeria’s Consul General in South Africa, Amb. Uche Ajulu-Okeke, said yesterday that eight Nigerians have so far indicated interest to return home due to the xenophobic attacks.
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