The Sun News

Nigeria, South Africa raise committee to forestall xenophobic attacks

• Onyeama, Dambazzau meet victims 

From Iheanacho Nwosu, Pretoria  

Nigeria and South Africa, yesterday, resolved to set up a special organisation known as Early Warning Unit, to work out ways of preventing xenophobic attacks and other actions that are capable of pinning on both countries’ relations.

This was the hallmark of a high profile meeting by both countries at the South African Ministry of international Relations and Cooperation, Pretoria. Nigeria’s delegation included Minister of Foreign Affairs, Geofrey Onyeama, his Interior counterpart, Abdulrahman Dambazzau and Nigerian Charge de Affairs, while that of South Africa had the country’s Minister of International Relations and Cooperation, Maite Nicoana-Mashabane, Minister of Home Affairs, Malusi Gigaba and South African High Commissioner to Nigeria, Mr Lulu Louis Mnguni.

Addressing newsmen after the meeting, Onyeama described as unacceptable the attacking of Nigerians under the guise that they were criminals. He submitted that all Nigerians residing in South Africa cannot be criminals. 

Although he exonerated the South African authorities of complicity in the attacks and harassment of Nigerians in the country, he said the Nigerian government considered it strange and regrettable that its people were victims of the attacks. 

He announced that the decision to set up Early Warning Unit was a practical step taken by governments of Nigeria and South Africa to act proactively in all issues concerning both countries. 

Onyeama said: “Unfortunately, for sometime now, there has been this incidence of attacks and Nigerians have been victims; and we, as a government, have known that this was not state-sponsored and that the south African government always condemned this, and it was very often the action of a small minority, a small criminal minority.

“Unfortunately, the events have taken place. We also recognise that not all Nigerians in South Africa are engaged in unlawful activities. The vast majority are contributing enormously to creating the dynamic south African society. The vast majority feel very much at home in South Africa and this is the narrative we also want to pursue.

“The incident should not redefine the relationship between South Africa and Nigeria. We have received assurances as a government and people of Nigeria that the government and people of South Africa are fully with us, fully supportive of Nigerians  in this country, and are taking all the necessary measures to ensure that Nigerians stay here in peace, and that their properties and rights will always be respected. And that is, of course, no less than what we would expect.”

The early warning committee, the minister explained, will meet quarterly and will be constituted by equal representatives from both countries drawn from the ministries of foreign affairs, interior, police and immigration. 

He urged nationals of both countries to engage in activities that would promote peace and good relations of both countries. 

Also speaking, South African Minister of International Relations and Cooperation Nicoana-Mashabane, said her country was committed to promoting good relationship between both countries.

“Our discussions enabled us to further appreciate the vast nature of our countries’ bilateral cooperation which covers, among others, trade and investment, energy, agriculture, mining, Defence, health, tourism, environment, education and transport, as well as science and technology. 

“In this regard, we further committed ourselves to ensuring that all the signed 34 sectoral agreements and memoranda of understanding (MoU) are fully implemented.

Meanwhile, Onyeama and Dambazzau met with victims of the recent attacks and promised them that government would do everything to ensure their protection. The ministers urged victims to obey the laws of South Africa and assured that they would work with authorities of the country to prevent recurrence of the ugly incident. 

While in South Africa, the Nigerian delegation will also meet with  President Jacob Zuma to discuss how to forestall recurrence of the attacks on Nigerians in the country.

“We noted with great satisfaction the economic cooperation between the two republics as evidenced by the increasing trade volumes, as well as private sector investments.

“In this regard, we acknowledged the pivotal role played by a Nigeria-South Africa business council in promoting and strengthening private sector participation in each other’s economies.

“We took note of more than 120 South African businesses operating in Nigeria in telecommunications, mining, aviation, banking and finance, retail, property, entertainment and fast foods industries.” They also noted and welcomed Nigeria’s small, micro and medium enterprises, as well as big companies like Dangote Sephaku Cement that are entering the South African market.”

On the xenophobic attacks she said: “I also used the opportunity of this meeting to brief Minister Onyeama on the recent unfortunate attacks on foreign nationals in South Africa, including Nigerian nationals.

“I reiterated South Africa’s condemnation of all forms of discrimination based on race, religion, sex or creed, including xenophobia or Afrophobia”. 

“I further affirmed South Africa’s constitutional democracy which enshrines human rights, Bill of Rights, democratic values, human dignity, equality and freedoms.

“I also dispelled the notion that the attacks on foreign nationals were targeted at Nigerians only as other foreign nationals were also affected. I assured my counterpart that the South African Government was fully in control of the situation and several interventions, including meetings with diplomatic community and emigre communities, security operations, policy and legislation reviews were taking place.”

Meanwhile, Onyeama and Dambazzau met with victims of the recent attacks and promised them that government would do everything to ensure their protection. The ministers urged the victims to obey the laws of South Africa and assured that they would work with authorities of the country to prevent recurrence of the ugly incident. 

While in South Africa, the Nigerian delegation will also meet with  President Jacob Zuma to further discuss on how to forestall recurrence of the attacks on Nigerians in the country.

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