hoodlums, on Thursday, took advantage of a protest by some students in Abuja to invade a regional office of telecommunications giant, MTN, where they vandalised office equipment and looted phone sets, laptops and personal effects.
Recently, Nigerians in South Africa were objects of widespread and gruesome xenophobic attacks.
The vandals also damaged car windscreens and stole cash and phones before the arrival of policemen at the office, located at 4 Madeira Street, Maitama, FCT.
The office subsequently shut down its operation following the incident as policemen took over the area to protect the building from being further looted.
An MTN worker said the staff scampered to safety while the attack lasted.
The worker, who simply identified himself as Oscar, said, “I just heard people running; then, I started running to hide and by the time we came out after the security operatives chased them out, they have packed all the laptops we used to work, all the phones on display for sale. They broke some computers and took people’s personal phones and money.”
He narrated that cash was also taken by the miscreants, but could not give the exact amount said to have been stolen.
“The people got into the premises, broke the windscreen of a car and destroyed the doors to the reception; they were chanting anti-South African songs after they were chased outside the premises by security operatives,” he added.
Some students under the aegis of the National Association of Nigerian Students, had started a protest at the South Africa High Commission in Abuja on Thursday.
The protesters burnt the former apartheid enclave’s national flag to express their anger over the attacks on Nigerians and other foreigners in parts of Pretoria, South Africa.
The students, led by their President, Aruna Kadiri, also stormed two South African firms, MTN and Multichoice, to register their anger.
At the South Africa High Commission, the protesting students issued a 48-hour ultimatum to South African nationals to leave Nigeria.
They also urged the officials to cancel the dinner organised in honour of Regina Tambo, the co-founder of African National Congress Youth League.
The students later moved to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, where their leader admonished the government to take concrete action to protect Nigerians in South Africa.
Kadiri asked the Federal Government to break diplomatic ties with Pretoria over the attacks and looting of business premises owned by Nigerians.
He said, “We are demanding that they (FG) should break the ties between both countries if there’s any because the xenophobic attacks that had happened long time ago has happened again. We have decided to clear the madness with madness.”
The student leader explained that they burnt the South African flag to pass a message that “we don’t have 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 anymore,” Kadiri threatened.
He stated that the treatment being meted out to Nigerians was particularly insulting given the role Nigeria played in ending apartheid in South Africa.
The spokesperson for the Foreign Affairs ministry, Clement Aduku, urged the students to calm down, saying the government was currently engaging South Africa on the attacks.
But the police warned individuals and groups against indulging in acts that could lead to the destruction of properties and cause a breakdown of law and order in the Federal Capital Territory.
A statement by the FCT Police Command spokesman, Anjuguri Manzah, said the command would not hesitate to apply the appropriate sections of the law in the prosecution of those arrested for causing the breakdown of law and order.
Protect Nigerians, others, Senate tells S’Africa
The Vice-Chairman, Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs, Senator Shehu Sani, on Thursday, told South Africa to protect the lives and property of Nigerians and other foreigners in the country.
He said the recurrent xenophobic attacks in South Africa, if not stopped, could break the ties between the country and Nigeria.
Sani said this when he visited the South African High Commissioner to Nigeria, Mr. Lulu Mnguni, in Abuja on Thursday.
He said, “We should not allow the misadventure of a few to affect the historical relationship Nigeria has with South Africa. Every country has good and bad people. Nigeria and South Africa have come a long way. Nigeria’s relationship with South Africa is beyond bilateral relationship; it is about the future of Africa and the black race by extension.
“It is very painful when Africans are being attacked in South Africa and the Western media are reporting as blacks being against each other. If anything happens to the relationship between Nigeria and South Africa, it will affect all of us because we are pillars of Africa.”
Mnguni, however, said foreigners must obey the laws of their host country.
He said in part, “South Africa always has respect for humanity. We are not condoning violence but it will also be wrong for us to take the expression of the grievances of our people for granted.
“South Africa cannot see itself as an island that can survive on its own. When people go to other countries, even if it South Africans, who go to Nigeria, they must respect the laws of the host country.”
The High Commissioner explained that South Africans were aggrieved with foreigners involved in drug trafficking, commercial sex and tax evasion.
He also said there was shortage of jobs for South Africans.
According to the envoy, South Africans no longer have faith in the police, as the agency is widely believed to have been corrupted by the criminal elements among the foreigners.
But Sani, in his response to Mnguni, told the envoy that criminality was not peculiar to certain countries.
He said, “The problem of drug trafficking and other crimes is continental. South African security agencies have the duty to intervene in the situation. If not, they will leave the whole issue to the mobs on the streets.
“Whoever is involved in these (attacks) must be apprehended and brought to book.”
Also, Governor Godwin Obaseki of Edo State called on the Federal Government to take necessary steps towards ensuring adequate protection of Nigerians living outside the country.
Obaseki stated this when he received officials of the Alumni Association of the National Institute for Policy and Strategic Studies at the Government House in Benin.
The governor, who described the attacks as condemnable, said government must not “sit idle” in the face of the maltreatment of its citizens.
Obaseki stated, “As a country, we should not and must not continue to sit idle and allow our citizens to be maltreated, doing nothing.
“We in Edo State condemn it and are calling on the federal authorities, especially our foreign affairs ministry, to ensure that they do not take the issue of our citizens for granted as a lot of our people have been maltreated and subjected to inhuman treatment in Libya.”
The President of the association, Maj. Gen. Lawrence Onoja (retd.), commended the governor on his efforts in the state, saying the association would partner the government in the interest of the citizens.
S’African minister condemns attacks on foreigners
Meanwhile, the South African Home Affairs Minister, Malusi Gigaba, on Thursday, in Cape Town, said despite frequent attacks on foreigners by the country’s citizens, they did not have hatred for foreigners.
At a press conference organised by the country’s Home Affairs Ministry to douse tension between South Africans and foreign nationals, Gigaba stated that the “dynamics of migration, crime, drugs, prostitution, fraud and unfair labour practices are too serious to be turned into populists politicking.”
A rally is planned for Friday (today) in the Pretoria CBD by a group, the Mamelodi Concerned Residents.
The minister said, “It is important always to be careful in the narratives we push into the public space. A democratic state bears the responsibility to save lives and to protect rights of persons. I wish to appeal to all South Africans to desist from rhetoric or actions that are xenophobic. I also want to commend the many responsible South Africans who have been a living testament to Ubuntu and tolerance.
“There will be no progressive and sustainable victory in xenophobic violence. Opportunistic individuals, who partake in it erode the human face we have struggled very hard to acquire.
“Our democracy enshrines our hard-earned human rights. We are first and foremost humans. This reality cannot be diluted by your country of origin or what documents you hold, or lack thereof. Humanity, within the context of our constitution, is not only a cultural prescription of Ubuntu; it is also about legal compliance, and respect for rights of all persons.”
In a statement obtained by one of our correspondents, the minister admitted that xenophobic violence was not new in South Africa.
Group calls for urgent action against attacks
Meanwhile, a group, advocates of Peoples Rights and Justice, called on the Federal Government to urgently address the recent xenophobic attacks on Nigerians living in South Africa.
The group, in a statement on Thursday by its National Coordinator, Victor Giwa, said the attacks on Nigerians and their investments by South Africans were gross violation of articles 12 (1)(5), 19 and 22, 23(i) of the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights.
The statement read, “Consequently, we condemn the actions of the South Africans as they amount to breach of all international treaties, it is illegal and is equal to state criminality against foreigners. We call on Nigerian government to address these atrocities before they degenerate.”