South Africans Plan Ambush For Returning Nigerians

By Henry Umoru, Olasunkanmi Akoni, Johnbosco Agbakwuru, Victoria Ojeme & Rotimi Ojomoyela

Some
Nigerians in South Africa yesterday raised alarm that foreigners will
be target of attacks today in different parts of the country.

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To
avoid being caught in the web of the attacks, they have started sending
text messages to other Nigerians resident in the country to be alert,
saying the South Africans planned to even search cabs and buses for
foreigners to be killed.

The alarm came as President Muhammadu
Buhari yesterday ordered evacuation of Nigerians resident in South
Africa who are willing to return home from tomorrow.

This is even
as Chairman of Nigerians in Diaspora Commission, NIDCOM, Mrs Abike
Dabiri-Erewa, told the Senate Committee on Diaspora and Non-Governmental
Organizations yesterday that 640 Nigerians in South Africa have
voluntarily registered to return home.

One of such messages
sent to our correspondent by a Nigerian who preferred to remain
anonymous read: “Hello everyone, just wanted to pass this message for us
all to be careful against tomorrow (today), as we have just been
briefed by a friend from Ntuzuma that tomorrow (today) is going to be
terrible in Durban.

“Locals will be checking all the taxis to
find foreigners… So be alert and be careful. Pass this message to all
your friends and family members to caution them about tomorrow (today).
If possible, no one must make a move to town tomorrow (today). If you
must go out, first wait and watch. What happened in Johannesburg was
just a joke. Thanks for your understanding. Be warned.”

Responding
to some of the text sent to Nigerians in South Africa and other blacks
asking them to leave with immediate effect, the Nigerian Consul-General
in Johannesburg, Godwin Adama, told Vanguard on phone last night that
those messages were not authentic.

Adama said: “It is not authentic, the police authorities have said even the taxi drivers have denied it as well, it is hoax.

“All
we are doing right now is to protect the Nigerians who are to be
evacuated. It is our responsibility to take care of every Nigerian
living in South Africa.’’

Buhari orders evacuation of willing Nigerians
Also yesterday, President Buhari ordered immediate voluntary evacuation of Nigerians willing to return home from South Africa.

The
President gave the order when he received report from Ambassador Ahmed
Rufai Abubakar, the Special Envoy he dispatched to South Africa to meet
President Cyril Ramaphosa on the xenophobic attacks on Nigerians.

He
told the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Onyeama, to continue to
engage with appropriate authorities on the concrete measure the South
African government was expected to take.

The President’s directive was contained in a statement signed by his Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Chief Femi Adesina.

It
read: “In the wake of the xenophobic attacks by South Africans against
other Africans, including Nigerians, President Muhammadu Buhari sent
Amb. Ahmed Rufai Abubakar, Director-General, National Intelligence
Agency, NIA, as his Special Envoy to South Africa, to convey a special
message to his counterpart, President Cyril Ramaphosa.

“The
Special Envoy, who was in Pretoria from Thursday, 5th to Saturday, 7th
September 2019. 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 will guarantee the safety
of lives, property and business interests of South Africans in Nigeria.

“On
his part, President Ramaphosa agreed that the violence was most
disconcerting and embarrassing, and 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 commitment to do
everything possible to protect the rights of every Nigerian and other
foreign nationals in the country.

“The Special Envoy also
interfaced with his South African counterpart, where they reviewed the
situation of foreign emigrants in general and Nigerians in particular.
They agreed to work together to find a permanent solution to the root
causes of the recurring attacks on Nigerians and their property.

“President
Buhari has taken note of the report and instructed the Minister of
Foreign Affairs to continue to engage with appropriate authorities on
the concrete measure the South African government is expected to take.
“President
Buhari has also given instruction for the immediate voluntary
evacuation of all Nigerians who are willing to return home.’’

640 Nigerians willing to return home
Speaking
in a similar vein, Chairman/CEO of Nigeria Diaspora Commission, Abike
Dabiri-Erewa, told the Senate Committee on Diaspora in Abuja yesterday
that the number of Nigerians eager to return to Nigeria now stood at
640, adding that their documentations were still being prepared.

Dabiri-Erewa,
who noted that emergency travel documents were being issued to some of
the home-bound Nigerians whose papers had expired, said two aircraft had
landed in South Africa to bring the first batch of Nigerians home.
She
also disclosed that eight South African policemen were already being
prosecuted over various xenophobic cases against Nigerians.
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.

“With
the envoy’s briefing of the President, we will be having everything in
place. In the meantime, we continue to demand compensation for Nigerians
that have been attacked in South Africa.

“Also, we know that
eight policemen have been charged to court for their involvement in the
killings of Nigerians in South Africa and four more have recently been
arrested.

“We are demanding that these investigations must end so
that we can know exactly what is happening. As it is now, Nigerians in
South Africa are very excited about the move taken by the government.

“We
continue to reiterate Mr. President’s directive that no Nigerian should
be treated anyhow anywhere in the world. We assure Nigerians wherever
they are that the Nigerian government will continue to come to their
aid.

“As for Nigerians in South Africa, we advise them to remain
calm. There are some shops in volatile areas which should not be opened
while we continue to engage to get justice for all Nigerians affected.”

Dabiri-Erewa,
who noted that despite the move being made to bring interested
Nigerians back home, said the Federal Government would continue to
demand compensation from South Africa for what has happened to
Nigerians.

Asked what government has in stock for Nigerians
heading home voluntarily from South Africa, Dabiri-Erewa said: “They
went on their own and have volunteered to come back. They belong to
states as well but on the part of the Federal Government, we have the
Special Intervention Programme that we’ll encourage them to enrol in.

“This
administration is doing everything possible to make Nigeria a better
country to live in. We will also be issuing more advisory as to what to
expect, where to go, and what to do.”

Dabiri-Erewa’s position was
corroborated by the Nigerian Consul-General to South Africa, Godwin
Adama, who told AFP in Johannesburg yesterday that the first flight out
of South Africa would leave tomorrow with 320 Nigerians.

“We will
have another one immediately after that,’’ said Adama, who also noted
that at least 100,000 Nigerians live in South Africa.

AU body to take action on SERAP’s petition

In
a similar development, the African Commission on Human and Peoples’
Rights has expressed its readiness to take appropriate action on the
request by Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project, SERAP, to
submit a case on the escalating xenophobic attacks against Nigerians and
other African citizens in South Africa to the African Court on Human
and Peoples’ Rights.

SERAP is also seeking an effective remedy and reparation for Nigerian victims.

Recall
that SERAP had in a letter to Chairperson of the commission, Ms Soyata
Maiga, last Friday maintained that the xenophobic attacks constituted
serious violations of the human rights of Nigerians and other African
citizens in South Africa.

The group also urged the commission to
seek in the African Court, punitive damages and adequate compensation of
$10 billion to hundreds of Nigerian victims and their families.

In
an email response to SERAP yesterday, Maiga said: “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.”

Responding to Maiga’s email, SERAP
Deputy Director Kolawole Oluwadare, said: “Thank you very much for your
email and quick response to our request. We really appreciate your
commitment to human rights in Africa, and the indication and assurance
that the commission will take action on this very important matter, and
to address the grave human rights violations of Nigerians in South
Africa. “Please let us know if you have any questions or need any
further information. The fact that a preeminent African human rights
body has decided to take action on the matter shows the commission’s
willingness 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.”

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