Lives of Nigerians at Stake in S’Africa, Says FG

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Describes minister’s response as reprehensible

Gboyega Akinsanmi

The federal government yesterday said the lives and welfare of Nigerians resident in South Africa “are at stake now more than any time in recent history,” lamenting that xenophobic attack had killed over 116 Nigerians.

Consequently, it condemned a statement credited to the South African Home Affairs Minister, Mr. Malusi Gigaba, that the issues of attacks on Nigerians “were better discussed at the diplomatic levels.”

It condemned Gigaba’s response in a statement signed by the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Foreign Affairs and Diaspora, Mrs. Abike Dabiri-Erewa, yesterday, acknowledging that the two countries have a long-standing diplomatic relationship.

It cited a pivotal role Nigeria played in ending apartheid, among so many of her positive interventions, noting that Nigeria should not be paid with the killing of its citizens resident in South Africa.

It said indiscriminate killings, in which 116 deaths have been recorded of her people “must not be how Nigeria should be paid back. Xenophobia is such a debilitating social disease, based mostly on ignorance, in which its carrier also suffers.”

It therefore condemned Gigaba’s response in the aftermath of serial xenophobic attacks, which culminated in reprisal on MTN Nigeria, a South African business conglomerate, describing as reprehensible, if not unacceptable.

According to the statement, it appears that Gigaba would rather dwell on and entertain himself with diplomatic niceties when the welfare of Nigerians resident in South Africa are at stake now more than any time in recent history.

It said Gigaba’s response “to the xenophobic attacks, which has now become a recurring decimal on Africans, most especially Nigerians living peacefully in their host country of South Africa was indeed unfortunate.

“While it is no longer news that law-abiding Nigerians in that country have borne the major brunt of these attacks, the news by the Home Affairs Minister that his country is trying to get rid of criminals at the time indiscriminate mayhem and looting of law-abiding Nigerians is very suspicious, to say the least.

“Even if this unguarded statement must be taken in its face value, we wonder if wanton destruction and indiscriminate killing of their African brothers is the most sensible excuse to give. The home affairs minister should have been more guarded and introspective in his statements so as not to further fan the embers of xenophobia that may get out control if care is not taken.”

The statement, therefore, strongly urged the home affairs minister “to engage in the mass education of the South African people about the debilitating effects of this disease with immediate effect.”

It acknowledged that the home affairs minister only met with African consulates forum, an association of African consuls general, based in South Africa recently, though noted that the meeting was long overdue.

It added that Gigaba’s response “to the mayhem that a segment of the South African people perpetrated on law-abiding Nigerians in South Africa smirks of insensitivity. It is therefore very reprehensible, if not unacceptable.”

The statement called the African Union (AU) “to take up the South Africa’s xenophobic issue as a matter of urgency. The days that the Nigerian government will fold its arms while its citizens are maltreated to the point that some of them have lost their lives for no just cause are long gone.”