Students lead protest against xenophobic attacks on Nigerians
• Move to invade MTN office, burn national flag in Abuja
• Give South Africans 48-hour ultimate to leave
Youths and members of the National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS) yesterday protested in Abuja against the xenophobic attacks on Nigerians in South Africa.
The protesters burnt the national flag of the South African High Commission.
These reprisal attacks underscore the need for the governments of Nigeria and South Africa to move fast to douse the increasing hostilities between citizens of both countries before there is a worse crisis that could strain diplomatic relations.
Led by NANS President, Aruna Kadiri, the students took off from the Unity Fountain to the MTN office in Maitama and Multichoice office in Central Area to protest against the attacks on Nigerian nationals in South Africa.
While they issued a 48-hour ultimatum to South African nationals to leave Nigeria, the protesting students urged the High Commission officials to cancel the dinner organised in honour of Regina Tambo, the co-founder of ANC Youth League.
The protest ended at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, where the youths demanded that the Federal Government should take concrete action to protect Nigerians in South Africa.
The protesters were received by the spokesman of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Clement Aduku, who urged calm and said that the Federal Government was engaging in talks with its South African counterpart on the matter. He also assured that all diplomatic means would be explored to stop the killings of Nigerian nationals in South Africa.
While addressing newsmen, Kadiri said: “We are demanding that they should break the ties between both countries if there are any because the xenophobic attacks that happened a long time ago have come again. We have decided to clear the madness with madness.”
Kadiri said they had burnt the South African flag at the High Commission to pass a message that “we don’t have a relationship with them any longer. Within 48 hours, all South Africans in Nigeria should leave or else, we won’t be able to guarantee their security any more.”
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs, in its response, expressed concerns about the attacks of foreigners, including Nigerians, in South Africa.
Citing the latest incidents which occurred on February 5, 2017 in Rosettenville, a suburb of Johannesburg and on February 18, 2017 in Pretoria West, it said the attacks involved not only Nigerians but other nationals which resulted in arson, looting, and displacement of families.
The Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, Khadijat Abba-Ibrahim, while addressing newsmen at the ministry yesterday urged South Africa to bring the perpetrators of the violence to justice.
On the reports regarding the violence making rounds in the media, she said: “The ministry has not received reports of any death of a Nigerian in the latest incidents of attacks against foreigners.
“The Nigerian High Commission in Pretoria is in constant touch with the Nigerian union in South Africa, the Department of International Relations and Cooperation (DIRCO) of South Africa, as well as the South African Police.
“All these agencies have confirmed that no Nigerian life was lost in the recent incident.”
The minister urged Nigerians in South Africa to remain calm, law- abiding and vigilant as she pledged that the ministry would continue to monitor developments all over South Africa.
The angry youths stormed the Abuja office of the South Africa-owned MTN and damaged phones, vehicles and office equipment.
According to an eyewitness, the youths gained entrance to the office premises after overpowering the security men at the gate while the staff scampered for safety.
An eyewitness told The Guardian that the attack lasted for some minutes before the intervention of security operatives.
When The Guardian visited the MTN office which is located at 4 Madeira Street, Maitama, the premises were locked while security agents were already stationed around the area to forestall a breakdown of law and order.
All the efforts to speak with MTN spokesperson, Funso Aina, failed as he rejected calls. But when The Guardian sent him a text message asking him to confirm the attack on his office, Aina rather referred the reporter to their spokesman in South Africa, saying, “Thank you for your interest in our organisation, and your continued support. Please contact Chris Maroleng on +2783………..”
In a statement later yesterday, MTN Group expressed concern over the violence. “MTN requests people to exercise restraint and remain calm,” the statement added.
The Commissioner of Police in FCT warned individuals and groups against indulging in acts that would result in the destruction of property and cause a breakdown of law and order in the Federal Capital Territory.
In a statement issued on his behalf by the Police Public Relations Officer, Anjuguri Manzah, the CP while condemning the invasion of MTN’s office in Abuja by the youths, said the police as the custodian of law and order would not hesitate to prosecute those arrested for causing the breakdown of law and order.
The South African High Commissioner to Nigeria, Lulu Mnguni, called for collaboration with the South African government and major stakeholders in Nigeria to find a lasting solution to the xenophobic attacks on Nigerians.
Mnguni stated this yesterday while receiving the Vice Chairman, Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs, Shehu Sani in Abuja.
The envoy who condemned the recent attacks on foreigners, particularly Nigerians, said there was the need for the two countries to work together to bring an end to the problem.
Earlier, Sani expressed concern over the attacks on foreigners, including Nigerians. He said if allowed to continue, they would portray the continent in a bad light, adding that it was time for major stakeholders to find a lasting solution to the problem.
Sani said: “Nigeria’s relationship with South Africa dates back to the time of apartheid. Nigeria is a major component in the struggle against apartheid. Should these attacks continue without prominent people in the society intervening, the relationship between the two countries might be weakened.”