BREAKING NEWS: Tit-for-tat: grass suffers as Africa’s two elephants fight

Nigerians counter South Africans' xenophobic violence

Nigerians counter South Africans’ xenophobic violence

ABUJA – THE xenophobic violence characterizing South Africa in recent weeks, targeting Nigerians, has degenerated into a tit-for-tat affair that has seen frosty relations returning to haunt the continent’s two powerhouses.

No sooner than Nigeria’s envoy for the Diaspora described the attacks as “unacceptable top the government to the Government and people of Nigeria” and Foreign Minister summoned the South African High Commissioner than Nigerians retaliated to the attacks in South Africa by attacking MTN offices in the capital Abuja before they ransacked, destroyed property worth millions and looted other wares.

The illegal spree was done in similar fashion as the attacks that Nigerians in South Africa, most recently in Pretoria, the capital suffered.

The singing and dancing youths, joined by concerned group of adults denounced South Africans of being xenophobic before threatening to escalate their attacks on other South African companies operating in the country until they halt their evil xenophobic violence.

The attacks came days after Abike Dabiri-Erewa, Senior Special Assistant to President Muhammadu Buhari on Foreign Affairs and Diaspora, alleged some 116 Nigerians have been killed during xenophobic attacks in South Africa over the past two years.

She advised Nigerians to be extra cautious “as it looks like South African government seems to have no control over these attacks.”

“We have lost about 116 Nigerians in the last two years. And in 2016 alone, about 20 were killed. This is unacceptable to the people and Government of Nigeria,” Dabiri-Erewa said.

Dabiri-Erewa in frantic efforts to quell the tensions met with South African High Commissioner in Nigeria, Lulu Aaron-Mnguni who pledged his country was investigating.

Aaron-Mnguni promised South African government was investigating.

Foreign Minister Geoffrey Onyeama also summoned Mnguni to answer to the xenophobic attacks that are targeting Nigerians in both Johannesburg and Pretoria.

The lack of progress and continued violence against the nationals of the West African country has left their compatriots back home agitated.

“We are not turning back, instead, we will hit hard on all South African companies operating in our country, especially the ones with presence in Abuja and Lagos. The South African government must educate its citizens to live in harmony with fellow Africans,” said Ogenyi Enyeama of the National Youth Council of Nigeria.

“You can’t through stones in other people’s houses when your house is made of glasses, that is the scenario the South Africans are doing,” he added.

He said the youths would escalate their attacks to other South African companies in the country.

South Africa has 120 big companies operating in Nigeria.

Among them are Shoprite, Eskom Nigeria, Protea Hotels, South African Airways, Stanbic Merchant Bank of Nigeria, Multichoice, South African Breweries (SAB miller), Umgeni Water, PEP Retail Stores, LTA Construction, Critical Rescue International, South African-Nigeria Communications, Global Outdoor Semces, and Oracle.

Amid the fears of the attacks spreading, MTN called for calm.

However, South Africa’s Department of International Relations and Cooperation (DIRCO) spokesman, Clayson Monyela, told CAJ News on Thursday (this evening) that indeed they received the reports of South African companies being attacked in Nigeria.

“I talked to the South African High Commissioner in Abuja, and he has been summoned. There is nothing extra-ordinary about our High Commissioner being summoned by Nigerian government because we can also do the same here,” Monyela said.

“The sad development is that MTN in Abuja has called to alert us their computers have been broken with property worth thousands of dollars destroyed,” said Monyela.

In a telephone interview with CAJ News, Nigerian High Commissioner to South Africa, Martin Cobham said: “I have been at the SA foreign ministry to request that they advise the police not to allow the protest march by locals in Mamelodi and parts of Pretoria on Friday, 24th February, but they argued that people here had fundamental human rights. Believe me, there will be consequences for this.”

He added: “There is no reason whatsoever to justify attacking all Nigerians. Those suspected (Nigerians) of committing crime must be arrested and prosecuted, not to brush all Nigerians with the same brush.”

President of All Nigerian Nationals in Diaspora South Africa, Chief Emeka Johnson, said it was unfortunate that some government officials in South Africa were inciting violence against foreign nationals.

“I can assure you, more threats are coming South Africa’s way, and some of them are serious,” he told CAJ News Africa.

Africa Diaspora Forum President, Marc Gbeffou, said, “It looks like SA is locking itself in denial while Nigeria businesses are threatened. Government must ensure safety of migrant community.”

He added, “It is very clear the Nigerians attacked and vandalised MTN its seems that is the language South Africans understand.”

MTN Group’s spokesman, Chris Maroleng, confirmed the attack on MTN property in the capital Abuja.

“Reacting to recent events that appear to be directed against non-nationals both in South Africa and Nigeria, MTN Group expresses concern over the violence. MTN requests people to exercise restraint and remain calm,” said Maroleng in a statement.

There were no immediate comment from Onyeama but talks were underway in Abuja with Aaron-Mnguni by the time of going to press.

Rochas Ikpeazu, a Lagos commentator, pointed out the recent attacks in South Africa and reprisals in Nigeria was the latest in a series of relations ever straining between the two biggest economies and political heavyweights.

The relations went frosty under the previous Nigerian presidency of Goodluck Jonathan, reaching a low point in April last year when Nigeria recalled its acting high commissioner ironically, following a wave of xenophobic attacks that targeted foreigners including Nigerians, albeit on a smaller scale.

The South African Department of International Relations and Co-operation condemned Nigeria after more than nine months’ delay in repatriating the bodies of the 84 South Africans who had died when a church run by prominent evangelist, TB Joshua, collapsed in Lagos in 2014.

It is not the first time MTN has been caught in the middle of the turbulence.

In 2015, a move seen as Nigeria flexing its muscles on South Africa, the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) slapped South African mobile network operator MTN with a “harsh” fine of US$5,2 billion, later reduced to $3,9 billion after the South African headquartered operator failed to disconnect millions of unregistered subscriber identity module (SIM) cards.

These were said to have been used to commit terror.

The fallout cost MTN President, Sifiso Dabengwa his job.

Earlier, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) arrested South Africans and a Nigerian colleague employed by the Sun International hotel group. They were detained without charge for four nights.

Multichoice, the digital satellite television company, was been charged with price inflation while a prominent bank had also been under probe.

“This is a continuation of the two elephants ever locking their tusks in a battle of supremacy and it is always the grass that suffers,” Ikpeazu said.

– CAJ News

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