The Lagos State Police Command on Thursday arraigned 83 persons who allegedly participated in the attack and looting of South African-owned mall, Shoprite, in protest against continued xenophobic attacks and killings of Nigerians in South Africa.
This is just as the South Africa’s Minister of International Relation and Cooperation, Dr Naledi Pandor, blamed drug dealers for xenophobic attacks on Nigerians and pleaded with the Federal Government of Nigeria to assist her country by preventing Nigerians dealing in narcotics from coming to South Africa.
Pandor, who spoke with an interview with an online news platform, enca.com, on the sidelines of the ongoing World Economic Forum on Africa on Thursday, said there was a widely held belief that many Nigerians in South Africa dealt in drugs, adding that the Federal Government should help to address this issue.
While she was speaking in South Africa, the 83 suspected looters were being arraigned before the Lagos State Magistrates’ Court at Yaba on six counts bordering on conspiracy, riotous assembly, arson, stealing, malicious damage, unlawful destruction of property and conduct likely to cause the breach of peace.
The police told the court that the defendants attacked the Shoprite Malls at Surulere and Sangotedo-Ajah areas of Lagos and allegedly stole and damaged property estimated at N500m.
The prosecution said they committed the offences on Tuesday, September 3, 2019 in contravention of sections 50, 287 of the Criminal Law of Lagos State, 2015 and were liable to be punished under sections 339 (1) (2), 168 (d) and 411 of the same Act.
The defendants, however, pleaded not guilty.
The magistrate, Mr P.A. Ojo, admitted each of the 83 defendants to bail in the sum of N500,000 with two sureties in like sum.
The magistrate said the sureties must be the defendants’ parents or a paternal family member.
The case was adjourned till October 9, 2019.
Pandor in the interview with enca.com said the South Africa authorities were aware that the attacks against foreigners were driven by what she called “Afrophobia.”
The minister said, ”I would appreciate them (Nigerian government) in helping us as well to address the belief our people have, the reality that there are many persons from Nigeria who are dealing in drugs in our country, who are harming our young people by making drugs easily available to them.
“I believe Nigerian nationals are involved in human trafficking and other abusive practices. This kind of assistance of ensuring such persons don’t come to our country would be of great assistance to our nation.”
The minister cast doubts on the proposal suggesting that Nigerian police officers should be embedded with the South Africa Police Service to assist them in preventing xenophobic attacks against Nigerians.
Pandor said she was not aware of any South African law that permitted the implementation of the idea.
She added, “I had an interview and one of the interviewers, a journalist from Nigeria; he was repeating some of the statements that Nigeria’s Foreign Affairs Minister (Geoffrey Onyeama) had made.
“Part of it being that their security forces should come to South Africa to somewhat work alongside with our police and I indicated that I don’t know any provision in the constitution or our law which would allow that.”
The minister described the attacks as a complex phenomenon “whose root causes were not easy to define.”
Nationalise Shoprite, MTN, others, APC urges FG
But Nigeria’s ruling party, the All Progressives Congress, called on the Federal Government to ensure a complete takeover of Shoprite, the MTN and other South African businesses in the country by Nigerians.
The party also called for the revocation of licences of banks owned by the South Africans in Nigeria including Stanbic IBTC and Standard Chartered banks.
The party made the calls after an emergency meeting of the National Working Committee in Abuja on Thursday presided over by the National Chairman, Adams Oshiomhole.
Addressing journalists after the meeting, Oshiomhole said the attitude of the ruling African National Congress and that of the South African government indicated approval of the unwarranted attacks on black immigrants and wanton destruction of their property.
He said, “Having listened to all the explanations from the authorities in South Africa, these people are neither being accused of being irregular migrants nor were they involved in any illegal activities. Those who have business permit to set up businesses, whether they are pretty traders or small manufacturers, are operating within the letters of the law of the South African nation.
“Over the past one year and virtually every other week, Nigerians are being wasted in one part of South Africa or the other. We know that the Federal Government has had conversations with the South African authorities drawing their attention to these abuses but the escalation of the attacks on foreigners – many of who are Nigerians – has reached a level that is no longer tolerable.
“At some point, people wonder whether these attacks had the backing of the South African government. What has been clear over the period is that the South African authorities have not demonstrated sufficient commitment to bring these attacks to an end. For example, in spite of the fact that many peoples’ lives have been wasted, not one South African is known to have been convicted and sentenced to prison.
“South African companies are making billions of dollars from the Nigerian economy year in year out and repatriate same out of Nigeria. The MTN was recently in the stock market and some Nigerians bought shares in the MTN but in a moment like this and in order to send a very strong message to the South African authorities and the South African people, Nigeria government must take steps to take over the remaining shares of the MTN that are owned by South African so that the MTN become fully Nigeria owned.”
The former Edo State governor said South Africans had not reciprocated the kind gestures extended them by Nigerians in the past.
He asked them to look inward for the cause of their problems instead of attacking Africans who accounted for only two per cent of their gross domestic product.
Oshiomhole urged Nigerians to protest against the killing of their brothers and sisters and other nationals by boycotting South African businesses and goods.
“I think right away, Nigerians in our individual capacities, this is the moment to show our commitment by boycotting South African good and beginning with Nigerians refusing from today to use MTN services. If Nigeria decides at least for the next 30 days to stop using the MTN, they would have sent a clear message.
“We should reflect on why we should continue to allow the DSTV to repatriate millions of dollars to South Africa arising from their activities in Nigeria. We have reviewed all of those things that give South Africans monopoly such that they make money with very little value addition.
“To show that we mean business and in a practical step, the South African Airways, landing right in Nigeria should be stopped until these issues are sorted out.
“Many Nigerians believed that Shoprite is owned by South Africans. They are repatriating money purely from franchise, but the capital with which these shopping malls were built were Nigeria’s. The shop owners are Nigerians. This poses an obligation on the government to review any agreement that gives South Africans power to develop monopoly in our commercial lives.
“We have a duty to encourage the government to do what we believe is right. Happily, the government has already taken the initiative. This resolution we have reached will be communicated to Mr President and to the Federal Government. And, it will be up to the government to decide how to respond to them.
“But, we need the government to recognise that Nigerians wants a more firm action because the MTN cannot be carting away money, the DSTV carting away so much money; Shoprite making so much money from their franchise and Stanbic dealing with corporate Nigerians patronising the oil companies making fabulous billions of dollars and South Africans are wasting away our young men and women people – who are struggling to manage small businesses.
“This is meant to give the government the support base it needs to proceed with further direct measures. And, I think on this issue, Nigerians are united across all the divides. We must protect Nigeria’s image and protect its citizens and businesses wherever they are. And, any country that attacks our businesses, an injury to one is an injury many. That must be the philosophy. Nigeria first.
“We also know that Standard Chartered Bank and Stanbic Bank, are South African banks, Nigerians may have more shares there, if any. It is time to ask them to wind up so that Nigerian banks will take advantage of their departure and expand their operation. We have enough to save by transferring these businesses to Nigerians.”
Xenophobia, threat to economic cooperation in Africa –ECOWAS
Also, the Economic Community of West African States has condemned the xenophobic attacks on Nigerians and others in South Africa, saying that this had no place in its cooperation agenda vision for the continent.
The ECOWAS President, Jean Kasi-Brou, while condemning the attacks, said cooperation and integration went beyond national and regional levels.
Responding to questions from journalists in Abuja on Thursday, Kasi-Brou said the violence against foreign nationals was a threat to economic cooperation on the continent.
The ECOWAS President said, ‘’Any issue can be resolved through dialogue, cooperation, discussions as long as it is positive and constructive which is important in the situation because African nations are not only working on the regional but also the continental level under the African Union umbrella for the full integration of the regions of the continent.”
FG alerts Nigerians to fake videos on killings
Meanwhile, the Federal Government on Thursday alerted the public to fake videos in circulation purportedly showing how Nigerians were being killed during the xenophobic attacks on foreigners in South Africa.
The government warned the persons circulating the videos to immediately desist from such as they were inflaming passion and complicating efforts at calming frayed nerves at home.
The Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, stated this during a press conference in Abuja.
According to him, despite alerting Nigerians to the danger posed by fake news and disinformation when the government inaugurated its national campaign against fake news on July 11 2019, bad elements were misinforming the public and fanning embers of violence.
He said, “I also want to use this press conference to alert Nigerians to the video clips being circulated on the social media, purportedly showing how Nigerians are being killed in South Africa. Three of such videos come to mind.
“One video shows a man who has been set ablaze trying to escape, and those circulating the video identified the man as a Nigerian. This is not true. The video shows Mozambican Ernesto Alfabeto Nhamuave, a victim of xenophobic violence in South Africa in 2008, and it is not that of a Nigerian being attacked in 2019.
“Another video shows those said to be Nigerians jumping down from a multi-storey building that was purportedly set on fire by xenophobic attackers in South Africa. This is fake news as the video is that of a Suraj Coaching Centre in Gujarat State, India, that was gutted by fire on May 24, 2019, leaving about 18 people dead.
“The third video, purportedly showing the bodies of Nigerians who were burnt in xenophobic attacks, is the raw footage of those who were killed in a Tanzanian fuel tanker explosion in Morogoro that left at least 60 dead on August 10 2019.
The minister also warned celebrities and opinion leaders to be circumspect by guarding their utterances on the xenophobic attacks and the reactions from Nigerians.
He said the Federal Government was ready to evacuate Nigerians willing to return home from South Africa, in addition to other measures being considered to decisively tackle this cankerworm of xenophobic attacks against Nigerians in South Africa.
…warns against reprisals on foreigners
Mohammed appealed to Nigerians who were angered by the xenophobic attacks on their compatriots in South Africa not to engage in reprisals, because such attacks hurt Nigerians more.
The minister appealed to Nigerians, who were justifiably angered by the attacks on their compatriots in South Africa, not to resort to self-help by carrying out reprisal attacks against South African businesses in Nigeria.
He said, “Reports of these attacks, which have dominated the social and traditional media in the past two days, are quite disturbing and depressing. Obviously, hoodlums have hijacked the peaceful protests by some Nigerians to loot shops at Shoprite and other malls in some locations across the country.
“A Nigerian lady whose shop was looted at the Novare Mall in Lagos said she lost millions of naira to the hoodlums who looted her shop. The offices of the MTN nationwide have either been attacked or threatened. Other South African firms have either shut their doors or are open under heavy security. As we said in our intervention on Tuesday, Nigerians own and run the shops in the various Shoprite malls across the country.
“Nigerians work there also. The MTN is listed on the Nigerian Stock Exchange and the investors in this company are Nigerians. The workers are mostly Nigerians. Same applies to other South African businesses in the country. By attacking them, we are hurting our own people. That is the blunt truth.”
Buhari against escalation of tension between Nigeria, S’Africa, says Presidency
Also, the Presidency made a further clarification on Thursday on whether Nigeria’s High Commissioner to South Africa, Ambassador Kabiru Bala, had been recalled, saying that a final decision on it had not been taken.
It said a recall was one among the options before the Federal Government as a response to the xenophobic attacks on Nigerians in South Africa, but noted that President Muhammadu Buhari was not interested in the escalation of tension between the two countries.
A Presidency source, who made the clarification in Abuja, stated that the point made by the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr Geoffrey Onyeama, was that Bala would be “invited” home to brief government on developments in South Africa, which did not amount to a recall.
The source said, “When the Minister of Affairs, Geoffrey Onyeama, spoke yesterday (Wednesday), he made it clear that government might, if necessary, be inviting the Nigerian High Commissioner to brief the administration.
“It was not a recall. A recall at this time, even if not ruled out, will be a short-sighted move. Not having diplomatic contact is not a good development for now. Our envoy will remain at his post.
The source added that the minister had so far carried out the directive of Buhari, which was to convey Nigeria’s reservations on the attacks to his South African counterpart.
The source added, “What President Muhammadu Buhari did was to request the foreign minister to speak to his counterpart in South Africa to convey the seriousness of the concerns of the government and people of Nigeria.
This, he said, had been done.
“The meaning of recall of ambassador is an indication of extreme displeasure and disagreement.
It is the penultimate step before the breaking of diplomatic relationship.
“Nigeria does not seek escalation of the ongoing situation. We will work with South Africa to find solutions to their problems which have become our own problems. We will work as brothers.
“That is the mission by the President’s Special Envoy to South Africa.”
Violence in S’Africa, Nigeria unacceptable – MTN chairman
Meanwhile, the Chairman, Board of Directors, MTN Nigeria, Ernest Ndukwe, has condemned the violence against Nigerians and other nationalities in South Africa.
Ndukwe in a statement on Thursday also described the violent response in Nigeria as unacceptable.
While expressing sympathy to people who lost their lives and valuables to the violence, he urged the South African and Nigerian governments to work collectively to address the issues.
S’Africa shuts Nigeria’s consulate, says our diplomats, citizens not threatened in Nigeria-
Meanwhile, Pandor on Thursday said that there were no direct threats to South African diplomats and citizens in Nigeria.
She, however, explained that the South African High Commission in Nigeria and Consulate were closed due to threats against the mission staff as well as property of South Africa.
She said although there was no direct physical threat to the diplomats and citizens, Pretoria took their safety as a priority and had thus taken the precautionary measure of closing the mission as the situation remained unpredictable.
Pandor in a statement on Thursday, said, “Both offices were closed on Tuesday, following concerns reported by officials at both missions. This followed the receipt of threats against the mission staff as well as the property of South Africa.
“After extensive consultations with relevant stakeholders as well as a security assessment of threats, the Mission and the IRC Department took the decision to close the office.”
The minister, however, noted that “At this point, there has been no direct physical threat to any of our diplomats and citizens, however, we view their safety as a priority and have thus taken the precautionary measure of closing, while the situation remains somewhat unpredictable.”
She said the department had received reports of marches by demonstrators to South African companies as well as attempts to attack them, noting that the South African authorities were communicating with businesses that had branches in Nigeria and had requested their senior managers to remain in close contact with the department and the ministry.
The minister said, “It is established tradition in foreign policy that diplomatic missions should enjoy protection from the host country and while we remain perturbed at the threats directed at our missions, we are grateful to note that the security forces and the government of Nigeria are upholding this long-established practice of foreign policy.”
The minister confirmed that her directive to the mission that links should be encouraged between youths of South Africa and Nigeria had been acted upon, noting that the Nigerian students’ association should be invited to visit South Africa.
She said, “Meetings have been held at the mission with the student organisation and a committee was established to continue the dialogue and work on the details of the proposed visit.
“The department and the ministry will remain in constant contact with our representatives and will continue to assess the situation on the ground and provide feedback as new information becomes available.”
She disclosed her plans to meet with the African Heads of Mission to South Africa next week.
Nigerians pulling S’Africans out of vehicles beating them-Envoy
However, the South Africa High Commission on Thursday alleged that its citizens were being pulled out of vehicles in Nigeria and attacked.
The acting South African High Commissioner in Nigeria, Ambassador Bobby Moroe, who disclosed this in an interview one of our correspondents in Abuja, also said the commission had shut its offices and consulate in Nigeria for fear of attacks by youths in the country.
He explained that the reported attacks on South Africans in parts of the country informed the decision to close down the mission.
Moroe stated, “I directed that the mission should be closed until the situation improves. We heard that South Africans were being pulled out of vehicles and attacked. We feel unsafe and that is why I directed that the mission should close down until further notice.”
When told that the police had beefed up security to prevent retaliatory attacks, the envoy said the mission would remain closed because he did not want to take chances.
We are not aware of attacks on S’Africans in Nigeria—Police
But the spokesman for the Nigeria Police, Force Frank Mba, in an interview with The PUNCH, said the force was not aware that South Africans were being pulled out of vehicles and assaulted, noting that the police had beefed up security to protect South African businesses and interests in the country.
He stated, “I am not aware such a report was made to the police. Our position is clear; the IGP does not believe that two wrongs can ever make a right and that’s why he has taken very decisive decision in ensuring that businesses and foreign missions in the country are adequately protected.
“A public statement has been made in that regard and we are walking our talk. You should have seen the kind of deployments we have done around businesses belonging to South Africa. So, it would be uncharitable for anybody to make such a comment.”
Why El-Rafai, others are still in Town for summit -FG
Meanwhile, the Federal Government said that some state governors attending the World Economic Forum on Africa in Cape Town, South Africa, did not necessarily act in disobedience to Nigeria’s decision to withdraw from the summit.
It said the governors and other prominent Nigerians had already arrived in Cape Town days before the government’s decision was announced on Wednesday in Abuja.
Nigeria had pulled out of the forum on Wednesday in protest against the ongoing xenophobic attacks on its citizens in South Africa.
The President had initially delegated Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo to attend the summit, but the trip was later called off in protest against the xenophobic attacks.
The governors in South Africa include the Chairman of the Nigerian Governors Forum, Dr Kayode Fayemi and Nasir El-Rufai of Kaduna State. The Emir of Kano, Alhaji Sanusi Lamido Muhammad II, is also said to be in Cape Town.
Other Nigerians participating include a former Minister of Education, Obiageli Ezekwesili, and Mr Jim Ovia.
On Thursday, Onyeama tried to defend the governors, saying that they were already in South Africa before Nigeria announced its decision to pull out of the summit.
‘Fayemi not in South Africa for WEF’
But the Ekiti State governor denied reports that he was at the WEF in South Africa.
His Chief Press Secretary, Yinka Oyebode, said the governor was in South Africa to honour an invitation by a long time friend and one of Nigeria’s most celebrated journalists, Mr Dele Olojode, for a programme.
Oyebode said in a statement in Ado Ekiti that the governor was in South Africa for “Africa in the World Festival of Ideas” which held in Stellensbosch far away from Cape Town.
Ovia withdraws from WEF
However, one of those in South Africa and Chairman of Zenith Bank Plc, Mr Jim Ovia, on Thursday, withdrew from further activities at the World Economic Forum Africa in Cape Town.
Zenith Bank, in a statement on Thursday, said before his exit, Ovia stressed the need for youth empowerment and better government policies to curb continual attacks on persons living within and outside Africa.
Don’t pay for evacuation flight from S/Africa, Air Peace tells Nigerians
Nigerian carrier, Air Peace, warned scammers who were allegedly collecting money from Nigerians in South Africa for their evacuation back to the country.
The Chairman of Air Peace, Mr Allen Onyema, told newsmen in Lagos on Thursday that the airline was offering free flights for Nigerians fleeing from xenophobic attacks in South Africa
He said the gesture was part of the airline supports to the government.
Onyema said the airline decided to set the record straight following an email from a Nigerian in South Africa that unauthorised persons were illegally collecting $1,000 from each Nigerian that wanted to take advantage of that flight.
Nnamani cautions Nigerians against reprisals
Like Buhari, the Chairman, Senate Committee on Cooperation and Integration in Africa/NEPAD, Senator Chimaroke Nnamani, cautioned Nigerians against carrying out reprisal attacks against South Africans and their investments in Nigeria.
But a member of the National Assembly representing Anambra South Senatorial District, Ifeanyi Ubah, said his constituents, constituted majority of Nigerians suffering xenophobic attacks in South Africa.
Ubah, in a statement in Abuja alleged that the South African government was complicit in the attacks by failing to decisively deal with the situation over the years.
He said, “My attention has been unavoidably drawn to the recent spate of mindless xenophobic attacks on Nigerians, the majority of which are my constituents from Anambra South Senatorial District.
“These baseless and senseless attacks which destroy the very fabric of our unity as Africans are highly deplorable and condemnable, to say the least. South Africa seems to have forgot so soon, memories of their not too distant past.
Lagos lawmakers flays xenophobic attacks on Nigerians
Also, members of the Lagos State House of Assembly condemned in strong terms the xenophobic attacks by South Africans on Nigerians living in their country.
The condemnation followed a motion moved by Tunde Braimoh under matters of urgent public importance.
Braimoh had drawn the attention of other lawmakers to recent brutal attacks on Nigerians and their businesses in South Africa, where many lives were lost and several Nigerians brutally assaulted and killed.
Contributing, Gbolahan Yishawu stated that the attacks also extended to professionals such as doctors and lawyers who faced discrimination in their places of work, adding that Nigerians must not stoop to their barbaric level of attacks while the Federal Government of Nigeria must display a force of strength in safeguarding Nigerians.
The Speaker, Mudashiru Obasa, berated the South African government’s action, which he claimed, consequently encouraged the attacks of Nigerian citizens in South Africa. He, however, implored the Federal Government of Nigeria to act more for the aid of Nigerians.
Buhari’s special envoy arrives South Africa
Meanwhile, the special envoy President Buhari sent to South Africa following the xenophobic attacks on Nigerians in that country has arrived Johannesburg, South Africa.
The special envoy, who is also the Director General of the National Intelligence Agency, Ahmed Abubakar, was said to have arrived the OR Tambo Airport on Thursday evening.
He was said to have been received by top officials of Nigeria’s High Commission led by the High Commissioner.
He is scheduled to meet with President Cyril Ramaphosa in Pretoria on Friday (today) and deliver Buhari’s message.
Abubakar is expected to express Nigeria’s displeasure at the treatment meted out to Nigerians to the host President during the meeting.
On his arrival back to the country after the meeting, he will brief Buhari of the outcome following which the high commissioner will return to Nigeria “for consultation.”