Saturday, 18 March 2017

Xenophobic Attacks: Nigeria, South Africa agree terms

Nigeria and South Africa have agreed to setup a new mechanism tagged the Early Warning Unit to proffer a lasting solution to repeated attacks on Nigerians and other Africans in South Africa. Minister of Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Onyeama, in a joint briefing with the Minister of Interior, Lt-Gen. Abdulrahman Danbazau (rtd) at the Foreign Affairs Ministry in Abuja yesterday described the initiative as the concrete outcome of their meeting with the South African government. Onyeama, while briefing journalists, explained that the South African government condemned the attacks and assured the Nigerian delegation that there would not be a repeat of such attacks on Nigerians. He said, however, that the Nigerian delegation demanded for more genuine commitment from the South African Minister of Foreign Affairs, the Minister of Home Affairs and the Police, considering consistent reoccurrence of the attacks on Nigerians, and to assure the Nigerian community in South Africa of their safety. According to him, both delegations eventually agreed on the unit, which included representatives from both South Africa and Nigeria. They will meet quarterly to share information regarding the interests of both communities. Onyeama said: “We proposed to the South African government that from our discussions with the Nigerian community in South Africa, we feel they have no access to the government agencies that are responsible for their security, the government agencies that have it within their power to prevent such actions and the government agencies that have it as their mandate to address there complaints. “So we suggested to them that there should be a mechanism in place to bring together all those agencies with the Nigerian side and then they should meet regularly to share intelligence information so as to take necessary pre-emptive measures if required and also address the grievances of South Africans, issues of compensation, and so on. “As evident, with their cooperation, they accepted immediately that we should setup what we spontaneously called an early warning unit. “We said that this unit should comprise, from the South African side, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ministry for Home Affairs and the police.” Asked about his emphasis on the South African police, Onyeama disclosed that Nigerians in South Africa had repeatedly complained that very often, when the attacks took place, the police stood by and did nothing. “Nigerians in South Africa don’t have confidence in the police. Sometimes, it will appear as if the police had been complacent in a lot of these attacks. So it was important this unit should have police presence there,” Onyeama added. Members of the unit from Nigeria included the Nigerian High Commission in South Africa, Nigerian Consulate in South Africa and leadership of Nigerian Union in South Africa. The minister noted that Nigerians in South Africa recognised there are other Nigerians dealing in drugs, fraud and prostitution rackets, adding that these Nigerians were making things difficult. But when they arre reported to the police, he said, it always leads back to the Nigerians who reported, thereby putting them in danger, thus they became reserved about reporting to the police. The minister further stated that the unit would serve as a platform to inform the South African government of any corrupt Nigerians in the SA. In his remarks, Dambazau disclosed that about 400 Nigerians are currently serving various jail terms in South Africa. He said it was normal for Nigerians to travel to the South Africa for legitimate reasons, but the South African government should be responsible for addressing migration issues. The minister, who agreed that some Nigerians engage in criminal acts, emphasised that the population was minor compared to those contributing to the socio-economic development of South Africa. He said: “People move, but these days, we know people move because of conflict situations, disaster. Some move for economic reasons where nations have problem. So migration is not a bad idea but how to manage it. “We talked about irregular migrants. We have discussed on time to sit and discuss some of these issues. “We have Nigerians in South Africa who contribute largely to its development. We should look at that. “It is bad that they should fold their arms when it comes to issues of criminality. But in doing that, due process of the law should be taken in terms of the assumptions of innocence until proven guilty. “The right to fair hearing but due process of the law must be taken,” Dambazau added.


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