The Presidency yesterday condemned the killing of Nigerians in xenophobic attacks in South Africa.
“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,” the Presidency said in a statement by Senior Special Assistant to the President on Foreign Affairs and the Diaspora, Hon. Abike Dabiri-Erewa.
The Nigerian community has continued to live in fear. Some of its members were yesterday receiving calls threatening more attacks against their homes and businesses.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that some South Africans launched xenophobic attacks against Nigerians and other foreign nationals in Pretoria West at the weekend.
No fewer than five homes and businesses belonging to Nigerians were burnt by a mob.
Mr Ikechukwu Anyene, President, Nigeria Union, South Africa, told NAN on telephone from Pretoria, that some Nigerians received calls asking for payment to protect their homes and businesses.
“Some Nigerians and other foreign nationals in Pretoria West now live in fear. Some have started packing their belongings for fear of more attacks.
“ They confirmed to the union that some South Africans were calling and threatening to unleash more mayhem against them.
“ The union is worried about the development because the South African police are yet to arrest those who perpetrated last Saturday`s attacks,” he said.
According to Anyene, the union has pleaded with Nigerians to take precautionary measures and remain law abiding.
“We also urge the Federal Government to persuade its South African counterpart to put in place measures to guarantee the safety of Nigerians,” he said.
The Presidency urged restraint and called on Nigerians to be extra cautious.
The statement called on the South African government to take decisive and definitive measures to protect Nigerian citizens and other Africans within South African borders.
Anyene added: “As we speak, five buildings with Nigerian business, including a church, have been looted and burned by South Africans.”
Mrs Dabiri-Erewa said that the African Union (AU) was being called upon to intervene because there was credible information that more xenophobic attacks on foreigners will take place on February 22 and 23.
Two weeks ago, Mrs Dabiri-Erewa met with South African High Commissioner in Nigeria Mr. Lulu Aaron-Mnguni, on the killing of Nigerians in South Africa.
Mr. Mnguni said the government was investigating the matter.
The Senate and the House of Representatives Committees on the Diaspora also yesterday condemned the attacks.
The committees asked the Federal Government to take a harder stance against attacks on Nigerians in other countries. The condemnation was informed by alleged killing of many Nigerians, including Tochukwu Nnadi, a 34-year-old businessman by South African police on December 29, 2016.
Chairman of the Senate Committee on the Diaspora Senator Rose Oko said her committee wrote to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to furnish it with details of the killing.
She said: “We have written to Ministry of Foreign Affairs to avail us with what happened in South Africa between the police and the man.
“We condemn in very strong term these attacks on Nigerians. There are extra-judicial killings in South Africa and there are xenophobic attacks on Nigerians in South Africa.
“You aware that in 2016 alone, about 20 Nigerians were killed in extra-judicial manner. Before this time, several others have been killed in extra-judicial manner. There are several incident of xenophobic attacks on Nigerians in South Africa.
“You are also aware that Nigeria/ South Africa have excellent diplomatic ties. In 2013, when there were xenophobic attacks, our former President signed Memorandum of Understanding to re-enforce diplomatic ties.”
The Cross River North lawmaker said killing of Nigerians in South Africa is against all known laws across the globe.
She noted that even the constitution of South Africa guaranteed human rights and fair hearing.
Senator Oko recalled the contributions of Nigeria towards the liberation struggle in South Africa.
The House Committee on Diaspora did not spare the Federal Government, criticising it for doing nothing to stem the attacks.
Speaking with reporters at the National Assembly Chairperson Rita Orji said she was not going to be part of the “conspiracy of silence”.
According to her, Nigerians in the Diaspora are only dear to the government because of the funds they remit home.
She accused the government of over-protecting the businesses and interests of South Africa to the detriment of Nigeria.
The government, she said, “is not taking a critical look at what Nigerians in Diaspora face in the countries in which they are”.
She urged the Foreign Affairs Ministry to call for a full briefing from the Nigerian Embassy in South Africa “on how many Nigerians were killed and how many houses were burnt and property looted.
“The South African Government should bear in mind that Nigerians know that they have interests, they have businesses here and they have South Africans here. They should not put their people in jeopardy.”
Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Khadija Bukar Abba Ibrahim told the committee that though it was the responsibility of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to protect the interest of Nigeria and Nigerians abroad, funds were not made available to the ministry until the 2017 budget proposals.
The minister said: “It is estimated that there are up to 15 million Nigerians abroad. It is, therefore, a herculean task for the ministry to provide protection and welfare assistance when no provision was made for that purpose in the missions’ budget.
“Other countries make financial provision for repatriation of remains, lost income and loss of passport, funeral expenses, medical bills, among others, which our missions can’t, due to the paucity of funds. Yet, Nigerians expect, unrealistically, missions to offer these services.”
According to her, it is only in the 2017 budget that the sum of N400,000,000 ($1.3 million) was appropriated.”