President Muhammadu Buhari on Monday ordered the immediate evacuation of all Nigerians who are willing to return home from South Africa following the xenophobic attacks on foreign nationals.
He gave the instruction when he received the report of the Special Envoy to South Africa, Ambassador Ahmed Abubakar, who is the Director-General, National Intelligence Agency (NIA), at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.
Buhari had in the wake of the xenophobic attacks by South Africans against foreigners, including Nigerians, sent the NIA boss as his special envoy to South Africa.
A News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) report quoted a statement by the president’s spokesman, Mr Femi Adesina, in Abuja yesterday, saying that the special envoy was in Pretoria from September 5 to September 7, 2019. He said that Abubakar conveyed Buhari’s special message to the South African President Cyril Ramaphosa.
The special envoy expressed deep concern of President Buhari and Nigerians about the intermittent violence against Nigerians and their property and business interests in South Africa. He said Buhari stressed the need for the South African government to take visible measures to stop violence against citizens of brotherly African nations.
In his official Twitter page yesterday, Buhari said: “I have received the report from the special envoy I sent to South Africa last week. We will continue to put pressure on the South African government to take concrete and visible measures to stop violence against citizens of other African nations.
“The recurring issue of xenophobia and attacks on African nationals remains very worrying. If nothing is done to stop it, it could negatively affect the image and standing of South Africa as one of the leading countries in Africa. It has to be stopped.“On our own part, let me reiterate that the Nigerian government will continue to do everything possible to ensure the safety of the lives, property and business interests of Nigerians in South Africa, and of South Africans in Nigeria.
“Let me also say that we have made arrangements for the immediate voluntary evacuation of all Nigerians in South Africa who are willing to return home. I have directed the relevant agencies to ensure this is done speedily and efficiently.”On his part, President Ramaphosa had agreed that the violence was most disconcerting and embarrassing. He was quoted as saying that his government completely rejected such acts, which undermine not only the country’s image but also its relations with brotherly African countries.
Ramaphosa promised to do everything possible to protect the rights of every Nigerian and other foreign nationals in the country.
Adesina said that the special envoy also interfaced with his South African counterpart, where they reviewed the situation of foreign emigrants in general and Nigerians in particular. “They agreed to work together to find a permanent solution to the root causes of the recurring attacks on Nigerians and their property,” he said.
The Chairman, Nigerian Diaspora Commission (NiDCOM), Abike Dabiri-Erewa disclosed that 640 Nigerians in South Africa had registered to return home following the willingness of the Federal Government to evacuate them to safety.
She made the disclosure yesterday while fielding questions from journalists after meeting with the Senate Committee on Diaspora and NGOs.
“As I speak with you now, we have 640 Nigerians voluntarily registering to come home, and they would be home in a couple of days. We believe that more will still be coming to register.”According to her, two planes have been secured for the evacuation of Nigerians. Those willing to return but are faced with the challenge of expired documents should not worry as the Federal Government has directed the Nigerian High Commission to provide them with documents that will make them be airlifted back to Nigeria.
Meanwhile, a former Minister of Education, Obiageli Ezekwesili, and leaders of the Nigerian community in Cape Town have met to proffer a solution to the recurring xenophobic attacks in South Africa.
The meeting held on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Cape Town, South Africa, comprised Nigerian entrepreneurs, professionals and Mr. Cosmos Echie, the acting President of the Nigerian Community, Western Cape.
In a statement issued after the interactive meeting, the forum preferred to describe the attacks as Afrophobia.
“It was unanimously agreed that the crisis is detrimental to the spirit of African renaissance, affirmation of black heritage, progress and development. Afrophobia compromises everything that the recently brokered intra-African trade – Africa Continental Free Trade Agreement — represents and aspires to deliver.”Ramaphosa was asked to apologise to Nigerians and other countries whose citizens were attacked, and the South African government should trigger a series of actions necessary to de-escalate the brewing conflict.”