•We ‘ll rescue Nigerians —FG
•AU, Zuma condemn attacks
SUNDAY ODE and MUSA BABA AHMED, Abuja with agency reports
Following recent xenophobic attacks by South Africans on Nigerians and other Africans living in South Africa,the House of Representatives yesterday urged the Federal Government to immediately recall the nation’s Ambassador to South Africa for proper consultations with a view to taking appropriate actions.
However, a move to compel the government to sever diplomatic ties with the former apartheid nation suffered defeat on the floor of the House.
The lawmakers reached the resolution following a motion on matters of urgent public importance raised by Hon. Abike Dabiri-Erewa (APC, Lagos) drawing attention to recent violent attacks targeted at Nigerians in particular and other black Africans living in South Africa.
Leading debate on the matter, Hon. Dabiri-Erewa told her colleagues that ‘’a Nigerian business man in the course of the mayhem was beaten, tortured and his business premises vandalized and destroyed’’.
‘’South African government’s response to these occurrences has been very lukewarm. Not much has been done to curb this ugly trend. South Africans are in Nigeria running multi-national conglomerates without any hindrance. Why should Nigerians in their own country be always subjected to attacks and humiliation just because they do legitimate business?
‘’Nigeria must stand up and say no to this inhuman behaviour once and for all’’, she said.
Members in their separate contributions unanimously supported the motion, urging serious action from Federal Government as a warning to other would-be offending countries in future.
Ahmed Baba Kaita (APC, Katsina) opined that: “as far as I can see, it is probably because nobody has gotten up to do anything about this, that’s why they are continuing”.
“We shouldn’t allow this to go this time. I’ve seen countries demand that compensations be paid to their nationals manhandled by citizens of their host countries anywhere in the world. We as a nation must press charges in light of this ugly development because it’s not happening for the first time”, he said.
Hon. Gideon Goni (PDP, Kaduna) towed the same line of argument saying that; “it is a shame that Africans living in Africa are being attacked by their own kinds. It’s unfortunate for South Africans to ask other Africans to leave South Africa”.
“ There are South Africans businesses here, so if they continue to hound and kill our people on the basis of their nationality and economic activities in their country, then we too will be forced to take similar reciprocity in getting back our pound of flesh using their businesses here in Nigeria”, he threatened.
Deputy Minority Whip, Garba Datti Ahmed (APC, Kaduna) berated the South Africans stressing that they have forgotten so easily how Nigeria struggled to get them liberated from white apartheid regime.
“We all know how nonchalant the United Nations was toward the plight of black South Africans under apartheid regime, and the role Nigerian government played to ensure a way out for them. So it baffles me that they still have the moral justification to subject other Africans to unwarranted attacks and humiliation”, he said.
Tobi Okechukwu (PDP, Enugu) lamented the incident saying that “the situation in South Africa concerning Nigerians reminds me of the shortness of their memories. They have forgotten so soon the role Nigeria played in the liberation of that country”.
“In all purposes, you can’t say that South Africa is a poor country to warrant the citizenry feeling usurped by other African nationals. This thing as I heard was started by the Zulu king and supported by the son of the President. South Africa as one of the richest countries in Africa cannot justify this act as being necessitated by poverty or lack of economic opportunities for their citizens”.
“They have quickly forgotten that some of their anti-apartheid leaders who became prominent were hosted here in Nigeria for many years even as Nigeria government was working tirelessly to fight the evil regime that subjugated them.
“Now what do we do, is it that we should retaliate by attacking their businesses here in Nigeria? I think apart from calling on our government to take action through the Foreign Ministry or Ambassador to be withdrawn. We should send a strong message to the South African government that enough is really enough”, Tobi pointed out.
Prayers to the motion were amended that: Nigeria should recall her Ambassador to South Africa for further consultation.That Nigeria government should also frown at the killing of Nigerians in South Africa and urge the South African government to as a matter of urgency investigate the act and bring all perpetrators to justice. The motion was passed as amended.
But the Federal Government yesterday assured that it would spare no effort to come to the rescue of Nigerians in South Africa if the crisis in the country did not subside.
Minister of Foreign Affairs, Alhaji Aminu Wali gave the assurance at the Presidential Villa, Abuja in a chat with State House Correspondents.
He spoke against the background of the reports of incessant attacks on foreigners including Nigerians, by South African citizens.
He said, already, the Head of Nigeria’s mission in South Africa had taken precautionary measures by instructing Nigerian nationals to remain in -door and shut down their businesses until normalcy returned.
According to the minister, though the South African Government was said to have stepped into the matter with a view to ending the violent attacks, the Federal Government is duty bound to bring all its citizens in the affected places back into safety in the country.
He said: “With the discussions I have been having with Nigeria’s Head of Mission in Pretoria, no Nigerian has so far been affected. They informed me that they have called the Nigerian community and addressed them and told them to close their shops, stay home and keep out of trouble and obey the laws of South Africa.
“They have also confirmed that the South African authorities have moved in to take actions that would forestall any further disturbance in South Africa. If it gets worse, it is the duty of our country to make sure our people are brought back, and we are taking that duty serious. We are not prepared to allow any of our nationals to be subjected to such inhuman treatment,” he said.
On allegations that the Federal Government was being reactionary in its approach since that was not the first time that such violent attacks targeted at Nigerians had taken place in South Africa, he said: “We are not being reactionary because this is happening to all foreigners, not Nigerians alone. We are monitoring the situation and will now take action according to the situation that develops.”
Meanwhile, South African President Jacob Zuma on Thursday appealed for an end of attacks on immigrants as a wave of violence that has left at least six people dead threatened to spread across the country. “No amount of frustration or anger can ever justify the attacks on foreign nationals and the looting of their shops,” Zuma told parliament. “We appeal for calm and an end to the violence.”
In the past two weeks, shops and homes owned by Somalis, Ethiopians, Malawians and other immigrants in Durban and surrounding townships have been targeted, forcing families to flee to camps protected by armed guards.
Foreign-owned shops in the Jeppes town area of Johannesburg were attacked overnight, while police used tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse anti-immigrant protesters in the Actonville area on Thursday.
“We have witnessed shocking and unacceptable incidents of violence directed at foreign nationals,” Zuma told parliament in Cape Town. “No amount of frustration or anger can ever justify the attacks on foreign nationals and the looting of their shops “We appeal for calm, an end to the violence and restraint. Criminal elements should not be allowed to take advantage of the concerns of citizens to sow mayhem and destruction.
“The police have been directed to work round the clock to protect both foreign nationals and citizens and to arrest looters and those committing acts of violence,” he stated.
Police have vowed to quell the unrest, which claimed its latest victim on Monday when a 14-year-old boy was killed in KwaMashu, a township north of Durban. In 2008, 62 people were killed in similar violence in Johannesburg townships
Thousands of people attended a march in South Africa’s coastal city of Durban in solidarity with the country’s foreign nationals.
The march, on Thursday, which includes religious leaders and concerned citizens, comes after weeks of attacks against foreign nationals in which at least five people have been killed and 74 people arrested since the end of March, according to Colonel Jay Naicker, the police spokesperson.
Al Jazeera producer Mukelwa Hlatshwayo, reporting from the march in the coastal city of Durban in KwaZulu-Natal, said as many as 5,000 people had joined the procession and that the atmosphere was calm with people singing songs of solidarity.Many shops remained closed in the business capital of the country, Johannesburg in the Gauteng province fearing attacks as well.
Groups of people were said to have travelled to Durban from other provinces to join in the show of solidarity with the foreign nationals.
Messages circulating on social media warned people in Gauteng province and KwaZulu-Natal to be on high alert for possible attacks and to also remain indoors.
Similarly, the African Union,AU on Thursday in Addis Ababa, described the South Africa xenophobic attacks on foreigners as unacceptable and called for an immediate halt.
Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, the Chairperson, AU Commission, said in a statement that “whatever the challenges we may be facing, no circumstances justify attacks on people whether foreigners or locals.”
The attacks had escalated with foreign-owned shops being looted and torched while some foreigners have been burnt alive and others brutally assaulted.
She welcomed current efforts by the South African government to engage those affected as well as the deployment of more police officers to provide protection and keep law and order.
The AU chief decried the incident as particularly unfortunate as the continent was approaching the celebration of the African Freedom Day on May 25.
“On 25 May we remember the founding of the Organisation of African Unity, which played such a critical role in mobilising international solidarity to end apartheid.
“The challenges faced by South Africa—poverty and unemployment, are challenges faced by all countries on the continent.We must work together to address them and build a better future for all Africans”, she said.