•One Nigerian killed weekly, FG laments; 118 killed in 2 yrs
•Sagay, Ozekhome, others urge govt to adopt sterner measures
By Dapo Akinrefon, Charles Kumolu, Godwin Oritse & Victoria Ojeme
LAGOS—The Federal Government has expressed helplessness over the continued killing of Nigerians in xenophobic attacks in South Africa.
This is as findings revealed that one Nigerian is killed weekly as a result of xenophobic attacks in the country.
The figure is the outcome of a breakdown of the number of people, reported killed between 2016 and 2017 in an earlier statement by the Federal Government.
The government had reported that 116 people were killed in South Africa in two years.
Senior Special Adviser to the President on Foreign Affairs and Diaspora, Mrs. Abike Dabiri-Erewa, revealed this in 2017 during a visit to the South African High Commissioner to Nigeria, Mr. Lulu Mngun.
She had said: “In the last two years, 116 Nigerians have been killed in South Africa and according to statistics, 63% of them were killed by the police.”
However, the figure had since increased to 118, following the number of deaths recorded since February 2018.
The latest of the killings were the deaths of Messrs Francis Ochuba and Chidi Igwebuike last week.
Irked by the development, the Senior Special Adviser to the President on Foreign Affairs and Diaspora, Mrs. Abike Dabiri-Erewa, lamented that efforts at curbing the killings were not working.
She specifically cited the Early Warning Signal, EWS, as one of the measures set up by Nigeria and South Africa in 2017 which had failed to address the problem.
The EWS, Vanguard, learned, is a mechanism which guarantees and protects the interest of Nigerians when such early signals occur.
It is also aimed at affording Nigerians living in South Africa, access to the agencies responsible for their safety.
Lamenting the failure of the agreement in a statement, Dabiri called for a new policy that would protect Nigerians living in South Africa.
She said: “The efforts that led to the establishment of the EWS by both countries are not working as the present mechanisms seem to do little or nothing to prevent the occurrences of these killings.
“The Early Warning Signal put in place by the Foreign Ministries of both countries needs to be reviewed. I am sure the Ministry of Foreign Affairs will take a second look at the situation.”
However, Consul General of Nigeria Mission in South Africa, Mr. Godwin Adama, told Vanguard that discussions were ongoing for a review of the policy, adding that the South African government had expressed readiness.
His words: “Discussions are ongoing and we are ready for a review. They (South Africa) are also ready. In a short while, everything will fall into place.”
However, senior lawyers, who spoke to Vanguard, urged the Federal Government to take a tough stance on the matter, blaming it for not being tough in its response to the killings.
Those, who spoke include Chairman of Presidential Advisory Committee on Anti-Corruption, PACAC, Prof Itse Sagay, SAN; Chief Mike Ozekhome, SAN; and Second Vice President of Nigerian Bar Association, Mr. Monday Ubani.
FG should nationalise South African firms —Sagay
Sagay said: “The efforts are not working because South African authorities are not cooperating with us. It is a monumental problem because the ordinary South African is envious of the success of Nigerians. Nigerians are hardworking, but the average South African is lazy. He only thinks of working for his wages. He does not exert himself to create wealth.
“It is just envy killings against the success of Nigerians. Nigeria was the head of the United Nations Anti-apartheid Committee until South Africa got its independence. They have forgotten all that. They are just envious.
The South African government is not taking steps to deal with these miscreants who are killing our people. The way things are going, it will get to a stage where the federal government may ask Nigerians to wind up what they are doing and return to Nigeria.
“The government should also close down South African establishments here and nationalise them. That may be the only resort to self-help that the South African government will appreciate. Right now, they are taking us for granted. We complain, but they pretend they don’t hear us.”
Nigeria needs to take a firm stand —Ubani
On his part, Ubani said: “The government of Nigeria needs to be tougher with our policies regarding South Africa. A lot of South Africans are doing business here and we have accommodated them.
“If Nigerians, who are there, are being killed always, our government needs to see it as an urgent issue to be addressed. If they commit any crime, they should be taken to court instead of killing them unjustifiably.
“It is something that the federal government needs to take a firm stand on. Our government should make the South African government know that we will no longer tolerate it. We have not heard that any of the South Africans have been prosecuted.
“We need to be tougher by sending a very strong warning to the South African government. Whatever they want to review should be reviewed so that they will take a firm stand.”
President Buhari should call his South African counterpart —Ozekhome
Ozekhome said: “I am not aware of any effort by the government or anybody to stop the killings of Nigerians in South Africa.
“It is very sad that a country Nigeria helped to get out of its dungeon is the same country that is killing Nigerians. Xenophobia should be treated at the level of heads of government, not even at a ministerial level.
“President Buhari should pick his phone and call his South African counterpart and tell him that if they do not want any diplomatic row, South Africans should put a stop to the killing of Nigerians.
“The phone call should be followed by a letter that will be discussed at the South African parliament. A government that does not have the capacity to protect its people at home lacks the capacity to protect Nigerians in South Africa.”