Attacks Not Xenophobic, 89 Nigerians Killed Since 2017 – South Africa

..Believes bond with Nigeria still strong

..Seeks amicable resolution of crisis

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..640 Nigerians register to return home

..Ezekwesili, others ask Ramaphosa to apologise

Omololu Ogunmade, Chuks Okocha and Adedayo Akinwale in Abuja

The
presidency yesterday revealed the message conveyed to South African
President, Mr. Cyril Ramaphosa, by President Muhammadu Buhari’s special
envoy, Mr. Ahmed Rufai Abubakar, which had hitherto been shrouded in
secrecy.

The presidential brief showed that the South African
government repudiated the general belief that recent attacks on
foreigners in the country were xenophobic even as THISDAY independent
sources said its senior officials put the deaths since December 2017 at
89.

Abubakar, who is the Director General, National Intelligence
Agency (NIA), was dispatched to South Africa in the wake of the
xenophobic attacks by South Africans against their fellow Africans,
including Nigerians.

The attacks, which are yet to abate, have
made the federal government to intensify efforts at evacuating Nigerians
willing to return home from South Africa.

So far, 640 Nigerians have registered to come back home from the rainbow nation.

The
evacuation plans are going on just as efforts are being made for a
peaceful resolution of the diplomatic crisis between the two top African
nations.

Already, a former presidential candidate, Mrs. Obiageli
Ezekwesili, and leaders of the Nigerian community in Cape Town have met
to proffer a solution to recurring xenophobic attacks in South Africa
with a demand that the South African government should apologise to
Nigeria.

In spite of the general belief, THISDAY presidential
sources said yesterday, that President Cyril Ramaphosa and senior
officials of his government insisted to Buhari’s envoy that the
widespread attacks were not xenophobic, revealing that although between
December 2017 and September 2019, 89 Nigerians were killed in the
country, 39 of them were slain by their compatriots due to drugs related
disputes.

South African officials nevertheless admitted that 19
of the death arose from police brutality while the rest were due to
other causes.

The South African authorities were also said to
have revealed that between 300,000 to 400,000 Nigerians are in South
Africa. Of this number, 10,860 are currently in prison serving various
terms but 60 percent of these inmates are in for drug-related crimes.

The
authorities reportedly told the envoy that there are three categories
of Nigerians in South Africa. The first are professionals, who are doing
very well in such fields as medicine and the academics. The second are
businessmen, including genuine traders. The third are those into drugs.

“These
people (drug couriers) are few but they are very loud. Sadly, it is
they that are seen as the faces of Nigeria in South Africa,” a senior
official was said to have told the special envoy.

The history of
Nigerians in South Africa was traced to the face-off between the late
President Nelson Mandela and late Gen. Sani Abacha, following the
killing of environmental rights activist, Dr. Ken Saro-Wiwa, in 1995.
After the spat between the two leaders, Mandela said any Nigerian
desirous of relocating to South Africa could do so. Many took him by his
word and went.

However, giving details of what transpired
between the president’s special envoy and Ramaphosa, Special Adviser to
the President on Media and Publicity, Mr. Femi Adesina, said in a
statement yesterday that the special envoy, who was in Pretoria from
September 5 to September 7, among others, conveyed to Ramaphosa the
president’s deep concern about violence against Nigerians in his
country.

Highlighting the message delivered by Abubakar and the
response of Ramaphosa, whom he said described the attacks as
embarrassing, Adesina said the special envoy told the South African
president about Buhari’s deep concern about the intermittent violence
against Nigerians and their property/business interests in South Africa.

He
said: “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 is 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 would guarantee the safety
of lives, property and business interests of South Africans in Nigeria.”

Adesina
also narrated the South African President’s response to the envoy’s
message, saying Ramaphosa “agreed that the violence was most
disconcerting and embarrassing.”

He also said the South African
president told the envoy that his government completely rejected acts of
xenophobia, which he said undermined not only the country’s image but
also its relations with brotherly African countries.

According to
the statement, Ramaphosa did not only reaffirm his stance against
criminality but also expressed his commitment to doing everything
possible to protect the rights of every Nigerian and other foreign
nationals in the country.

Adesina also added that the special
envoy also interfaced with his South African counterpart where they both
reviewed the situation of foreign emigrants in general and Nigerians in
particular.
According to him, they agreed to work together to find a
permanent solution to the root causes of the recurring attacks on
Nigerians and their property.

He also added that Buhari had taken
note of the report and consequently instructed the Minister of Foreign
Affairs to continue to engage appropriate authorities on concrete
measure the South African government is expected to take.

Adesina also said Buhari gave an instruction for the immediate evacuation of all Nigerians who are willing to return home.
640 Nigerians Register to Return from South Africa

Meanwhile, the federal government has said 640 Nigerians have registered to come back home from South Africa.

The
federal government had earlier deferred the date for the evacuation
following the need to get travel certificates for many of them that do
not have legal papers and others that have expired passports.

With the support of Air Peace, the government has scheduled tomorrow to begin the evacuation.

However,
the Chairman, CEO of Nigerians in Diaspora Commission, Hon. Abike
Dabiri-Erewa, in a statement yesterday, said 640 Nigerians had
registered to come back to Nigeria so far, adding that Air Peace in two
operations would transport them home.

Spokesperson of the
Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Ferdinand Nwonye, had earlier told
THISDAY that the evacuation would begin this week, but said the day for
the evacuation would be announced.

But a reliable source in the ministry told THISDAY that the evacuation might start tomorrow.

It
was also learnt yesterday that the leaders of the Nigerian community in
Cape Town have met with Ezekwesili to proffer a solution to recurring
xenophobic attacks in South Africa, asking the South African government
to apologise to Nigeria

The meeting, which took place on the
sidelines of the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Cape Town, South Africa,
was attended by Nigerian entrepreneurs, professionals and the Nigerian
community led by Mr. Cosmos Echie, the acting President of the Nigerian
Community Western Cape.

According to the communiqué of the
meeting held in the form of an interactive session and made available to
THISDAY in Abuja, the group preferred to describe the attacks as
“Afrophobia.”

“It was unanimously agreed that the crisis is
detrimental to the spirit of African renaissance, affirmation of black
heritage, progress and development,” it said, adding: “Afrophobia
compromises everything that the recently brokered intra-African trade –
Africa Continental Free Trade Agreement — represents and aspires to
deliver.”

According to a copy of the communiqué made available to
THISDAY yesterday, the governments of Nigeria and South Africa were
urged to guide against provocative comments.
Ramaphosa was also asked to apologise to Nigerians and other countries whose citizens were attacked.

This, the experts said, would ensure that bilateral trade agreements between the two countries would not be affected.

Source:- Thisdaylive

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