…recalls Ambassador to South Africa, boycotts economic forum
The Federal Government has withdrawn the Nigeria High Commissioner to South Africa, Ambassador Kabiru Bala, following continued xenophobic killings of its citizens in that country.
Minister of Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Onyeama, disclosed this while giving an update to State House Correspondents on unfolding developments on the crisis.
The Foreign Affairs Minister said Nigeria withdrew its participation at the on-going two-day World Economic Forum (WEF) in South Africa over the xenophobic attacks.
Vice President Yemi Osinbajo had been scheduled to represent Nigeria at the forum.
“The Vice President, as you know, was scheduled to go to South Africa tomorrow (today) to attend the World Economic Forum. Clearly with this climate, he and Mr. President have agreed that he should not go to the World Economic Forum in Cape Town and we are looking at other measures to take,” Onyeama said.
According to the minister, government took all the decisions during a closed door session with President Muhammadu Buhari and Vice President Osinbajo on the raging xenophobic attacks in South Africa.
Already, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Rwanda and Malawi have pulled out of the event following the attacks on foreigners in South Africa.
Presidents Paul Kagame (Rwanda), Felix Tshisekedi (DRC) and Peter Mutharika (Malawi) have all withdrawn from the event.
Onyeama had, on Tuesday, during a joint news briefing with the South African High Commissioner to Nigeria, Mr. Bobby Moroe, insisted: “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 losses and we are going to absolutely push forward.”
The Foreign Affairs Minister, however, noted that no Nigerian life has been lost in this latest round of xenophobic attacks in that country.
He said: “So, number one is that the information we have from the High Commission, from the Consul General in South Africa is that no Nigerian life has been lost during this crisis. And I think that is very important because on social media, there is a lot of stories going around of Nigerians being killed, jumping off buildings and being burnt. This is not the case.”
He said that Nigeria, this time around, has drawn the red line against South Africa and the Federal Government would explore more options to protect Nigerians there.
“We will not accept it and, as I said earlier, enough is enough and we are not going to come back to this; we are going to address it once and for all. So this is the position of government that we are going to draw a red line here. Whatever measures that need to be taken to ensure the safety of Nigerians in South Africa, we will take.”
With regards to the withdrawal of the Nigerian High Commissioner, he said, the representative would return home after the special envoy sent by President Buhari has delivered his message to South African President, Cyril Ramaphosa, today.
Onyeama also said that President Buhari lamented the burning and looting of Nigerian businesses, but was pleading with Nigerians to stop the retaliatory attacks, vandalism and aggression being meted on South Africa branded businesses in Nigeria, like Shoprite and MTN.
“Mr. President is particularly distraught at the act of vandalism that has taken place here in Nigeria, in retaliation of what is happening in South Africa,” he added.
According to him, the President believes that “we must take the moral high ground”, while reminding aggrieved citizens that many of these businesses are franchises equally largely owned by Nigerians, who will unfortunately suffer losses too.
He said: “The government believes that we have to take the moral high ground on this matter. We are victims here and have made that position clear to the international community and to the South African government. We here in Nigeria must not fall into the temptation of also resorting to the acts that we are condemning in others.
“So, Mr. President has pleaded and he is likely to make a statement on this, addressing the Nigerian people to please desist from acts of vandalism and aggression, destroying properties.
“Now, these businesses – Shoprite, MTN and others, yes they are South African, but these are subsidiaries in Nigeria owned by Nigerians. So, as attacks are made against Shoprite and other such institutions, it is actually the property owned by Nigerians within Nigeria and the people working there are Nigerians.
“So the people that will suffer from those acts of vandalism and aggression are not South Africans or anyone else, but Nigerians. But morally, it is wrong not even because of who will suffer and not suffer.
“Mr. President is appealing to Nigerians, the government is acting, we cannot state everything in public domain with regards to what we are doing obviously, but we want to assure all Nigerians that this government is determined that the redline has been drawn and we will not give in on this occasion and that the South African government has to assume its responsibilities and do the right thing.”
While insisting that Nigeria is taking appropriate measures to protect Nigerians in South Africa, the minister said government was making strong demands for compensation for Nigerians affected by this latest attacks.