The Federal Government on Tuesday demanded an end to the killing of Nigerians in South Africa and called for compensation for the victims.
At a joint news briefing with the South African High Commissioner to Nigeria, Mr. Bobby Moroe, Foreign Affairs Minister Geoffrey Onyeama, spoke on the xenophobic attacks.
The proposal also includes security collaboration between the two countries.
He said: “We feel that very definitive measures have to be taken to stop once and for all this act of aggression and criminality against Nigerians in South Africa.
“For us, Nigerian government, we are determined that we should not have any reoccurrence of this going forward. So, we have to put in place mechanism to ensure that this do not occur.
“We made very concrete proposals to South African government today, and we believe if those measures are implemented, we will have a very good chance of ensuring that this does not reoccur.
“In the first place, we must address the issue of compensation. There has to be accountability and there has to be responsibility for compensating all those Nigerians that have suffered loss and we are going to absolutely push forward.
“Secondly, we believe that the two security forces (South Africa and Nigeria), can have an arrangement where there will be cooperation on the ground in South Africa to arrest such events and occurrences and this is obvious something we have to work out details with the South African government and hopefully, see us addressing at the field level the challenges caused by this incessant attacks so we have put that forward to the South Africa government. Very clear proposals and we will be discussing that and hopefully the South African government will support us in that initiative as we believe it will make all the difference.”
The minister said past efforts made to stem the incessant attacks included a jointly agreed Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) which the South African government was yet to sign.
“As you are all aware, there has been another looting and burning of properties belonging to Nigerians in South Africa and of course this is something we have seen in the past. As a result of some of these incidence in the past, I undertook at a time with the former minister of interior a trip to South Africa where we met senior members of the South African government.
“We proposed then that we should have an early warning mechanism, which essentially would see regular meetings between South African government and the Nigerian High Commission and Consul-General and Nigerian Union in South Africa on the other side meeting regularly, informing each other, anticipating events and essentially been prepared to preempt such attacks as we are witnessing today and taking other measures including compensation and so forth. Essentially haven the two working as a team.
“Now unfortunately, the Memorandum of Understand (MoU) that was prepared to capture this has not been signed. The disadvantage with that is that there is no framework now for the relevance parties to meet and address this ongoing situation.”
Moroe noted that his country cherished the long term relationship it shared with Nigeria, informing that 90 arrests have been made so far across the cities.
He stressed that the recent attacks was not xenophobic attack but an act of criminality and sporadic attacks and hence, attention should be on the cordial relationship between the two countries rather than the challenges, stressing that the bond is stronger.
He condemned the attacks on Nigerian businesses; adding that his country has been doing its best to address the ugly situation.
He commend the minister for providing the opportunity to unlock the bottlenecks between the two countries.
“Every national in South Africa have always been integrated within the society and we have a lot of foreigners who have chosen South Africa as their home. It is therefore very unfortunate that we found ourselves in this situation we found ourselves now.”
In a statement, the government condemned the spade of violence and rate of criminality, which demonstrate that there are criminals within society that seek to destabilise the country and create an impression that South Africans do not subscribe to the principle of “Obundo”, you are because I am”.
The South African Government Communication and Information System (GCIS) quoted the envoy as calling for calm in the statement.
The South Africa government according to the statement denounced violence and crime as a way of addressing grievances.
It stated: “The government calls for calm and restraint in certain parts of Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal, as community members raise their concerns and grievances about various issues affecting them. 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.
“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. Let us remain vigilant against fake news that are being peddled through the social media platforms to fuel tensions within the respective communities. Anyone found to be spreading the fake stories on social media will be dealt with accordingly. We cannot allow those who want to portray our country in a bad light to succeed.
“The 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.”
In South Africa, the Nigerian Mission attributed the renewed xenophobic attacks on its citizens and the spate of violence to weak judicial system and lack of adequate stringent measures against crimes in South Africa.
The Nigeria Consul-General in Johannesburg, Godwin Adama, told the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in a telephone chat that lack of arrest, prosecution and trial with stringent punishment against crimes and other offences have contributed to the rising crime wave in South Africa.
The consul-general was reacting to renewed attacks against foreigners on Aug. 28 and Sept. 1, in Pretoria and Johannesburg, leading to looting and burning of businesses and property belonging foreigners and death of three people.
Adama called for review of the South African judicial system to promote the fights against crime and all forms of impunity in that country.
He said: “The judicial system is very lenient with those types of crimes, so if somebody commits crime now, the system will grant him bail immediately.
“Criminals cease the opportunity of such lenient system to commit crimes; and it is expected that if the government can review its judicial system, it will boost fights against crime.
“This will help in the future because as it is today, the whole law is lenient and it leads to impunity. This is why the crime rate is difficult to control, even when you kill somebody now, they will grant you bail almost immediately and this is what leads to impunity.”