The recent xenophobic attacks on Nigerians and other nationals in South Africa, barbaric, but the call for reprisals on South African investments in Nigeria is wrong, writes Emma Okonji

Last month, some Nigerians who live and do businesses in South Africa were attacked by South African youths, who alleged that foreigners, especially Nigerians were taking away the jobs that were meant for South Africans.

Although world bodies have decried the act, the call for reprisal attacks on South African investments in Nigeria, including MTN investments in the telecommunications sector, is condemnable. This is so because the consequences of such attacks could cause harm that could further plunge Nigeria into untold hardship, even with the current state of recession in the country.

The pains

Sudden death of relative brutally murdered in South Africa by South African youths is the most painful aspect of the problem, because there was neither news of their failing health nor were they sick until they met their untimely death in a hard way. The photos of some of the brutal killings had gone viral and relations had to see how their loved ones were gruesomely murdered, causing great pains to the living. Apart from the heartless killings, shops that belong to Nigerians were looted in broad day light.

Disturbed by the action of South African youths, some Nigerians at home have tried to instigate others to carryout reprisal attacks on South African investments including Shoprite, PEP, MTN facilities among others. While some Nigerians have justified the call for reprisal attacks, others have sued for peace, insisting that two wrongs cannot make a right. Although the call for reprisal attacks may be justified because those killed did absolutely nothing wrong to warrant such treatment, yet their lives were wasted and their property burnt, but those calling for calm may be looking at the best approach to the ugly situation to avoid further catastrophe in Nigeria.

FG’s position

Worried about the xenophobic attacks on Nigerians, some lawmakers have urged the federal government to reconsider its diplomatic ties with South Africa. But the federal government said it would rather meet with the South African parliament to discuss ways Nigerians could be protected in South Africa, rather than allowing reprisal attacks. The lawmakers resolved to send delegation to South African parliament to table the position of the federal government on the matter. But their visit to South Africa to discuss the position of the federal government, has been widely criticised by Nigerians who felt it was a mere waste of resources, since the executive arm of government was in a better position to handle such diplomatic conflicts.

Consequences of reprisal attacks

Although Nigerians are bitter over the xenophobic attacks, those who know the consequences of reprisal attacks have continued to call for calm.
They have argued that many Nigerians are in the employment of these South African companies in Nigeria, and any attempt to ground their operations would cause ripple effects on Nigerians employees. If the investments are grounded, those working there will be out of jobs and it would deepen the current economic recession.

Another thing is the mobile network connectivity. MTN is the biggest network in Nigeria with over 62 million subscribers and should the telecoms facilities be vandalised in the country, it would definitely cut off over 62 million subscribers that are connected to its network. Today MTN is faced with serious network challenge, to the extent that most of its subscribers can no longer make successful calls and can also not successfully browse the internet. There are feelings that the aborted attempt to destroy MTN’s facilities in Abuja recently by aggrieved Nigerians over the xenophobic attacks may be the reason. Some are of the view that the aggrieved Nigerians may have vandalised MTN telecoms facilities in other parts of the country, aside Abuja, which could be the reason for the current difficulties that MTN subscribers are facing.

Another area that Nigerians felt may affect the our economy, should reprisal attacks be encouraged in Nigeria, is in the area of e-commerce, which is an emerging market that has shown signs of rapid growth, since most Nigerian businesses are beginning to get online visibility.

Some Nigerians argued that should reprisal attacks be encouraged in Nigeria, it will affect e-commerce in Nigeria. According to them, MTN has the largest network in Nigeria with so many Nigerians connected to its network to drive their e-commerce bud unless. Should MTN facilities suffer reprisal attacks, definitely it will cut off so many Nigerians on the MTN platform and their online business will go down immediately.

Many Nigerians are indirectly employed by MTN, especially those doing businesses that are connected to the MTN network, like recharge cards sellers, equipment vendors and many more. All these could add to the nations challenges, if reprisal attacks are encouraged, some Nigerians said, while still calling for calm and understanding.

Nigerians calling for calm, have noted that there is need for renewed dialogue between the Nigerian government and the South African government in order to find a lasting solution to the challenges posed by xenophobic attacks.