By Clifford Ndujihe, Henry Umoru, Emman Ovuakporie,
Johnbosco Agbakwuru, Victoria Ojeme & Levinus
ABUJA—AS fear of further attacks against Nigerians in
South Africa spreads, Abike Dabiri-Erewa, Senior Special
Assistant to the President on Foreign Affairs and Diaspora,
has called on the South African government to take decisive
measures to protect Nigerian citizens and other Africans in
In a statement issued in Abuja, Dabiri-Erewa described the
attacks as an unnecessary setback. Urging restraint on the
part of Nigerians, she warned that further attacks without
any reprimand may incur dire consequences.
She spoke as the Senate, yesterday, called for harder
stance against South Africa on the issue, just as the
Chairman, House Committee on Diaspora Matters, Rita Orji,
condemned alleged lackadaisical attitude of the Federal
Government towards the protection of Nigerians outside
the country, saying the government was more interested in
remittances than the welfare of citizens abroad.
Anyene said the union had reported the incident to the
Nigeria mission and South African police.
“As we speak, five buildings with Nigerian businesses,
including a church, have been looted and burned by South
‘’One of the buildings is a mechanic workshop with 28 cars
under repairs, with other vital documents burnt during the
attack. Also, the pastor of the church was wounded and is
in the hospital receiving treatment,” Anyene said.
Disturbed by the renewed attacks, Dabiri-Erewa advised
Nigerians to be extra cautious because it looked like South
African government seemed to have no control over the
The SSA, however, urged restraint on the part of Nigerians
and warned that further attacks without any reprimand may
have dire consequences.
Dabiri-Erewa said the AU was being called to intervene
because information had it that there will be more
xenophobic attacks against foreigners on February 22 and
“These attacks should not be allowed to continue because it
is a big setback,” she said.
Two weeks ago, Dabiri-Erewa met with South African High
Commissioner in Nigeria, Mr Lulu Aaron-Mnguni, on the
killing of Nigerians in South Africa, who assured that the
South African government was investigating the matter.
“We have lost about 116 Nigerians in the last two years.
And in 2016 alone, about 20 were killed. This is
unacceptable to the people and government of Nigeria,”
Cesspool of xenophobic attacks
Since 1994, South Africa has been a cesspool of sporadic
xenophobic attacks against foreigners with Zimbabweans,
Somalis, Mozambicans, Ethiopians, Kenyans, Angolans and
Nigerians among others, being the victims.
In the case of Nigerians, the matter has been worsened by
recurring police brutality and extra-judicial killings, which in
2014 led Nigeria’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs to describe the
South African police brutality on a Nigerian, which was
caught on camera as “horror and particularly disturbing.”
Tochukwu Nnadi, a 34-year-old Nigerian businessman, was
killed by South African police on December 29, 2016.
How it began
In December 1994 and January 1995, armed youth gangs in
Alexandra Township outside of Johannesburg, Gauteng
Province, destroyed the homes and property of migrants
and marched the individuals down to the local police
station where they demanded that the foreigners be forcibly
and immediately removed.
This was to be followed by a series of more violent attacks
across the country in 1998, 2000, 2008, 2009, 2013, 2015
In August 2000, seven xenophobic killings were reported in
the Cape Flats district of Cape Town. Seven foreigners from
different African countries were killed on the Cape Flats.
Among those attacked were two Nigerians, one Kenyan
and two Angolans.
On May 11, 2008, an outburst of xenophobic violence in the
Johannesburg township of Alexandra triggered more
xenophobic violence in other townships. First, it only spread
in the Gauteng Province. After two weeks, the violence
jumped to other urban areas across the country, mainly
Durban, Cape Town and Limpopo Province.
In January 2015, Somali shop owner shot and killed a 14-
year-old boy, Siphiwe Mahori, during an alleged robbery in
Soweto Township. The boy was shot in the neck and died
within 15 minutes. Lebogang Ncamla, 23, was another
victim when he was shot three times in the arm. The
incident triggered waves of attacks and looting of foreign-
On March 5, 2015, xenophobic attacks occurred in Limpopo
Province. Foreigners on the outskirts of Polokwane left their
shops after protesting villagers threatened to burn them
alive and then looted shops. Violence erupted in the Ga-
Sekgopo area after a foreign shop owner was found in
possession of a mobile phone belonging to a local man who
On April 8, 2015, a spate of xenophobic violence occurred
after Zulu King, Goodwill Zwelithini made comments that
foreigners should go back to their home countries because
they were changing the nature of the South African society
with their goods and enjoying wealth that should have been
for local people.
For almost a week, the attacks on foreign nationals reigned.
On April 12, 2015, in KwaZulu-Natal, shops in Umlazi and
KwaMashu, outside Durban, were torched. In V Section, a
shop owned by a foreign national was set on fire by a mob.
Five people were reportedly killed.
On April 14, 2015, looting of foreign shops spread to
Verulam, north of Durban following a day of clashes
between locals, foreigners, and police in the city centre,
KwaZulu-Natal. About 300 local people looted foreign-
Senate urges harder stance against S/Africa
Piqued, the Senate, yesterday, condemned in very strong
terms, the recurring and renewed atta cks on Nigerians in
South Africa and asked the Federal Federal government to
take a harder stance against the country.
Speaking with journalists, Senate Committee Chairman on
Diaspora, Senator Rose Oko, who expressed dissatisfaction
over continuous killings of Nigerians in South Africa, said
she has written a letter to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to
furnish the committee with what really transpired.
“We have written to Ministry of foreign Affairs to avail us
with what happened in South Africa between the Police and
the man. We condemned, in very strong terms, these
attacks on Nigerians in South Africa.
“You are aware that in 2016 alone, about 20 Nigerians were
killed in extra-judicial manner. Before this time, several had
been killed in like manner. There are several incidences of
xenophobic attacks on Nigerians in South Africa. You are
also aware that Nigeria/ South Africa have excellent
diplomatic ties . In 2013, when there were xenophobic
attacks, former President Goodluck Jonathan signed
Memorandum of Understanding to re-enforce diplomatic
ties,” she said.
Noting that killings of Nigerians in South Africa were against
all known laws across the globe, Senator Oko said the
committee would come up with a motion on the floor of the
Senate on the matter.
The chairman wondered why Nigeria should have excellent
diplomatic relationship with South Africa, if the country was
not hospitable to Nigerians residing there.
“These attacks came notwithstanding the contributions
Nigeria made towards liberation of South Africa during the
apartheid regine. You begin to wonder why all these
attacks? The Federal Government should take harder
stance against the country,” Oko said.
Rep knocks FG on protection of Nigerians abroad
Chairman, House Committee on Diaspora Matters, Rep Rita
Orji, decried the Federal Government’s attitude towards the
protection of Nigerians outside the country, saying the
government paid more attention to remittances from
citizens abroad than their welfare.
The lawmaker said even if the government decided to keep
quiet in the midst of the incessant attacks on Nigerians,
especially in South Africa, she will not keep mute.
Addressing journalists in Abuja, yesterday, Orji, who
represents Ajeromi Ifelodun Federal Constituency of Lagos
State on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party,
PDP, said the government was not doing anything to protect
Nigerians in the Diaspora.
Insisting that she was not going to be part of the
“conspiracy of silence”, Orji said Nigerians in Diaspora were
only dear to the government of Nigeria because of the funds
they remit to the country.
She also accused the government of over-protecting the
businesses and interests of South Africa to the detriment of
Nigeria. The government, she said, is not “taking a critical
look at what Nigerians in Diaspora face in those countries.
“Are they only important to us just because they need to
contribute to national development? Are we calling them
ours because we needed to get hard currencies remitted by
them? What about their health and their businesses, are
they being protected? Are they being taken care of in the
treaties we are signing in this country? Have we taken any
bold step to make sure that incessant killings of Nigerians
abroad unlawfully are being taken care of? These are
pertinent questions that any Nigerian that loves life would
ask. And why would this conspiracy of silence linger while
blood is being shed? Nigerians are being killed like chicken
in various countries and Nigerians are becoming
Orji recounted some of the gory murder of Nigerians in
South Africa, Libya and other countries some of which she
said her committee had investigated and given the report
to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs with no visible action
She flayed the recent South African violence against
Nigerians, warning that no country has monopoly of
“South Africa has a lot of business interests in Nigeria; MTN
is there, Shoprite is springing up all over the place. Must we
protect the foreign interest to the detriment of Nigerians?
Now NCC is hell bent on reviewing upwards, the price of
data and voice calls in Nigeria to the detriment of
Nigerians. Even with the intervention of the National
Assembly, NCC is bent on doing that just to protect the
interest of the foreigners.”
Rep Orji called on the Foreign Affairs Ministry to call for a
full briefing from the Nigerian Embassy in South Africa “on
how many Nigerians were killed and how many houses were
burnt and property looted.
“The South African Government should bear in mind that
Nigerians know that they have interests, they have
businesses here, they have South Africans here, they should
not put their people in jeopardy.”
No provisions in the budget — Minister
Responding, the Minister of State for Foreign Affairs,
Khadija Bukar Abba Ibrahim told the committee that though
it is the responsibility of the ministry to protect the interest
of Nigeria and Nigerians abroad, funds were not made
available to the Ministry until the 2017 budget proposals
that are being considered by the National Assembly.
Her words: “It is estimated that there are up to 15 million
Nigerians abroad. It is therefore a herculean task for the
ministry to provide protection and welfare assistance when
no provision was made for that purpose in the budget.
Other countries make financial provision for repatriation of
remains, lost income and loss of passport, funeral
expenses, medical bills, amongst others, which our
missions can’t due to paucity of funds. Yet, Nigerians
expect, unrealistically, missions to offer these services.”
According to her, it is only in the 2017 budget that the sum
of N400 million was appropriated. “This is clearly
inadequate to cover the sheer volume and complexity of
the consular challenges facing Nigerian Missions abroad,
including the strategic engagement with Nigerians in the
She said the number of Nigerians in prisons abroad was
15,316 as at December, 2015, noting that, “the update for
2016 is not complete as the Ministry is awaiting updates
from our missions abroad.
“Regrettably, some Nigerians are on death row in countries
like Indonesia, with about 13 inmates for drug related
The Minister said Nigerians in Diaspora remitted over $21
billion in 2015, and that in recognition of the huge potentials
of Nigerians in Diaspora for national development, the
Diaspora Desks in Nigerian Missions abroad are now to be
part of the Economic Section.