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Panic over fresh xenophobic protests as malls’ closure lingers

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Shoprite outlet in Surulere still shut at the weekend

There were fears yesterday that the simmering cold relationship between Nigeria and South Africa leading to the closure of some South African-owned businesses in Lagos State and other parts of the country could worsen with the resurgence of xenophobic protests in Johannesburg, South Africa yesterday.

Two persons were stabbed on Sunday, president of the Nigerian Union in South Africa, Adetola Olubajo, confirmed to newsmen. He, however, could not speak on the nationalities of the victims or the severity of the injuries as the police had yet to reveal the identities of the victims.

In Lagos, despite assurances from the security agencies and the government, the tension among business owners of South African-linked firms is palpable. Five days after a breakdown of order in violent reactions to developments in South Africa, which saw targeted Shoprite stores across the city witnessing attack and looting, life is yet to return to the once boisterous malls.

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Police authorities in Lagos at the weekend paraded suspected looters of Shoprite in the Lekki area of the state. The area commander of Shangotedo, Gbolahan Olugbemi, told newsmen between last week Tuesday and Wednesday, a total of 125 suspects were arrested in connection with the attack on Shoprite with 90 per cent of the stolen goods recovered.

According to the police, 112 of those arrested were found in possession of stolen items and have been charged to court.

When The Guardian visited Shoprite mall at Surulere on Saturday, it still remained locked with a few policemen guarding the entrance. Meanwhile, residents and regular visitors to the mall are lamenting the continued closure of Shoprite, especially the weekend before the resumption of pupils for a new academic session.

A resident, Thomas Adebayo, said “though it was bad for the South Africans to have treated our compatriots in that manner, we are also not happy with the closure since Tuesday, especially the looting of many goods worth millions of naira, which incidentally also belongs to Nigerians.”

A taxi driver in the area also lamented the shutdown, saying “it has affected our business badly. The area has been like a ghost town since Tuesday and for some of us who work here from Monday to Sunday in search of daily bread, it has been a difficult experience for us. Closing the mall won’t be the solution to this, because thousands of people are losing their jobs and millions of goods are locked up, wasting away.”

At Sangotedo and Lekki Shoprite outlets, the story is the same. Workers at the mall have no idea when the stores would be open for business.
Some residents have however moved on to other alternatives for their safety and comfort.

A regular Shoprite visitor, Paul Johnson, said:
“I patronize them more often. I miss the games, cinema, and the malls. I go there to get foodstuff and other items twice a week and also at weekends. Nobody wants to be exposed to an attack so I have found an alternative, which is Prime Mall at Sangotedo and I get everything I need there. It is time we start patronizing Nigerian-owned stores.”

It would be recalled that the state governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, visited the looted shopping malls at the weekend. Lamenting the colossal losses recorded in the xenophobic attacks, he disclosed that over 5,000 jobs were lost in the state.

He said: “We have seen the level of destruction at both Novare Plaza and Surulere plaza. The first is to condemn the act that had led to this destruction in strong terms. These are just enormous destruction of property. This is extensive destruction of people’s wealth. Unfortunately, during my inspection of both plazas, I discovered that those affected were all indigenous stores and companies.

“From the evidence shown, we realized that people also jumped in through some nearby properties within the community. All these are unimaginable. When people come into a store overnight to loot the goods, it is an act that must be condemned. With the act now, over 5000 people are out of job.’’

Also, Shamsudeen Abiodun Olaleye, chairman of Isolo LCDA, on Friday paid an unscheduled visit to South African business interests located within the council area that came under attack in the wake of the xenophobic attack in South Africa. The council boss visited PEP Shop located on Isolo Way, Ajao Estate and Shoprite Warehouse at Toyota bus stop along Oshodi/Apapa Expressway to inspect the extent of damage.

Olaleye praised security operatives of the council area for quickly rising to the occasion to forestall wanton looting of the facilities by irate Nigerian youths who launched attacks on the outlets as a reprisal for the xenophobic attack on Nigerians and other African nationals in South Africa.

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