The Federal Government of Nigeria has formally recalled its High Commissioner to South Africa, Ambassador Kabiru Bala. In the heat of xenophobic attacks against other nationals and their businesses in South Africa, the Nigerian Government, like several other African countries are taken steps to register their disapproval of what is unfolding therein.
The High Commissioner was yesterday recalled, but the Minister of Information, Alhaji Lai Mohammed explained that it was a summon to get some clarification from him while the Government wait on the envoy sent to South Africa.
Today, the Ministry of Information and Culture issued a statement signed by information Minister, Lai Mohammed through its Twitter handle:
“Nigeria is calling its High Commission to South Africa, in addition to boycotting the World Economic Forum (WEF) in South Africa, taking place in Cape Town. The Nigerian Government is also ready to evacuate Nigerians willing to return home from South Africa.”
The Nigerian Government has been under intense pressure to take retaliatory action, with many Nigerians out rightly condemning sending envoy to South Africa. An action they perceived as weakness and lack of respect for the victims.
It appears that the Nigerian Government has risen to the call of her citizens to effect measures that will sound stern warning, since the Government of South Africa appears to be in support of the xenophobic attacks.
The South African High Commissioner to Nigeria denied the xenophobic attacks when he was summoned by the Nigerian Government; and thereafter claimed that Nigerians in South Africa are drug dealers. In the face of such supportive stance by the South African Government, Nigeria is exploring further steps to address the problem.
However, Lai Mohammed has urged Nigerians not to attack businesses of South African origin in Nigeria for retaliatory reasons. He said that some of the information on social media are misleading, and are designed to instigate reprisal attacks in situations like this.
He used the video of a man who was set ablaze as an example, saying that the video dated back to 2008 xenophobic attack in South Africa, and the burning man was from Mozambique not Nigeria. He said although property and businesses of Nigerians were destroyed, no Nigerian was killed. He assured Nigerians that there is a plan in place to seek redress in AU court.
There have been calls by Nigerians urging the Nigerian Government to severe every tie with South Africa, that the steps taken so far aren’t enough to commiserate the enormity of what has been done to Nigerians in South Africa. Reacting to the clamour, the Nigerian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Onyeama said that the Government has no such plans right now because the situation has not deteriorated to that. He added that the Federal Government is waiting on the return of the special envoy sent to South Africa to make a decision on further steps to take.
However, the speaker of the house representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila has promised that the National Assembly will provide legal services for Nigerians who can identify those who destroyed their property and plundered their businesses. And the Nigerian airline, AirPeace has offered free flights to Nigerians in South Africa who are willing to return to Nigeria. A philanthropic gesture that has suffered setback due registration to ascertain that returnees are not residing illegally in South Africa.