By Victoria Ojeme & Princess Owoh
The Nigerian Federal Government says it has made proposals to the South African Government demanding accountability, responsibility and compensation for all Nigerian citizens affected by the recent xenophobic attacks in SA.
Minister of Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Onyeama said that Nigerian has made concrete proposals to the South African government for immediate implementation to avoid a recurring attack on Nigerians in the country.
Onyeama disclosed this on Tuesday in Abuja when he invited the South Africa’s Head of Mission, Bobby Moroe to respond to the recent and incessant attacks on Nigerians and their businesses in South Africa.
Onyeama said that alongside proposal for implementation, the Nigerian government has also urged its South Africa’s counterpart of sign the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) agreed upon by both countries last year.
He said that the MOU contained frameworks and mechanisms that would bring an end to the unfortunate and recurring situation.
The Minister said that the MoU highlighted the need for early warning system mechanisms regular meetings between high level members of the South African government and the Nigerian High Commission.
The MoU also seeks regular meetings with the Consular General and Nigerian Union of South Africa, informing each other of developments, anticipating events and essentially being prepared to preempt attacks.
“The Nigerian government feels that very definitive measures have to be taken to stop once and for all these acts of aggression and criminality against Nigerians in South Africa.
“I invited the South African’s head of mission and we had very lengthy discussions and the South African government has issued a statement, arrests have been made.
“But for us the Nigerian government, we are determined that we should not have any recurrence of this going forward, so new have to put in place, we must put in place mechanisms to ensure that this does not reoccur.
“We have made very concrete proposals to the South African government today and we believe that if those measures are implemented, we have a very good chance of ensuring that this does not reoccur.
“We have to address the issue of compensation, there have to be accountability and there have to be responsibility for compensating all those Nigerians that have suffered loss and we are going to absolutely push.
“Secondly we believe that the two security forces, South Africa and Nigeria can have an arrangement where there would be cooperation underground in South Africa to arrest such events and occurrences.
“This is something that we have to work out details with South African government and hopefully and hopefully the South African government will support us in that initiative we believe will make all the difference”, Onyeama said.
Responding, Moroe said that the South African government greatly condemns the attacks which he describes as act by criminal elements to sabotage the cordial relationship between South Africa and Nigeria.
The Envoy said that the attack was not xenophobic, explaining that the South Africa’s Police Minister announced that some South African businesses like Spar and Shop-rite were also burnt.
“Our government condemns by all means any act of violence against any individual, the constitution of South Africa says that South Africa belongs to all those who live in it regardless of race, creed, gender.
“This new phenomenon that suggest that there are criminal elements within society that seeks to create retrogression in the advancement that we have made between South Africa and Nigeria
“The South Africa police authorities have already arrested 70 individuals in Johannesburg and Pretoria districts who have been found to be looting and destroying properties.
“We had a lengthy discussion with the minister, a number of proposition among which is the early warning mechanism, an agreement which has been proposed between the two countries and from now henceforth.
“We are going to be conveying the message of the Nigerian government to our government to ensure that we find logical conclusions to this problem on ground”, Moroe said.
On the delay of the signing the MoU, Moroe explained that it was due to consultation processes with the Country’s International Relations lawyers which he promised would be expedited.
Moroe also urged Nigerians and the media to be cautious and disregard viral videos and voice clips on social media showing Nigerians been brutalized and killed, explaining that most of them were from 2008.
Meanwhile, the government in South Africa has denounced the violent attack by its citizens to foreign nationals in the country while calling for calm and restraint in certain parts of Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal.
A statement by Acting Government Communication Information System, GCIS Director-General, Phumla Williams said “No amount of grievance or unhappiness can justify the looting of shops, destruction of properties and illegal blocking of roads. Such acts constitute a criminal offence and the law enforcement agencies must respond without any fear or favour.”
“We are a democratic state that promotes robust dialogue and engagement with the dissatisfied communities. As government, we will not allow anarchy and violence to be the order of the day. We commend the quick response of the South African Police Services (SAPS) which has resulted in the arrest of a number of individuals.”
“With regard to the attacks on trucks, 20 individuals have been arrested in KwaZulu-Natal after responding to incidents along major routes and known hotspots in the province. These arrests relate to public violence and obstruction of traffic, possession of unlicensed firearms, attempted murder and malicious damage to property.”
“In Gauteng following the violence and looting of shops in Ekurhuleni, Tshwane and the Johannesburg CBD, seventy (70) arrests have been made in connection with public violence, malicious damage to property and theft.”
She added that the police will continue their work to restore order in the affected areas and government urges all the law-abiding citizens to continue to work with the police and isolate the criminals.
“Government urges all members of the community to work together with the law enforcement agencies. Community members can report any criminal activities they have witnessed to the police using the 10111 emergency number,” she said.