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Protesters threaten South African interests in Nigeria

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mtnPROTESTS yesterday, overtook the streets of Abuja, Benin City and other places in response to xenophobic attacks in South Africa, where Nigerians have reportedly suffered injuries and lost millions of Naira.

The Flagship, an affiliate of Edo State civil society organisations threatened to shut down South African firms operating in Nigeria.  There were also similar protests yesterday in Abuja, the Federal Capital, where even more Nigerians registered their grievances over the attacks.

This is coming on the heels of a statement credited to the Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, Musiliu Obanikoro that Nigerian citizens affected by the xenophobic attacks in South Africa will be compensated.

Meanwhile, MTN one of South Africa’s major business outfits in Nigeria, has condemned the xenophobic attacks on Nigerians, businesses and other foreign black nationals.

On its part, Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has called on President Goodluck Jonathan to urgently take legal action against the South African government before the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights to seek effective remedies, including adequate compensation, for Nigerian victims of the murderous attacks.

The protesters in Benin City marched to MTN offices on 3rd East Circular Road, Muritala Muhammed Way, carrying placards, some of which read: Xenophobia is ‎inhuman, Zuma, call your boys to order and S/Africans can’t be making money from us and killing us.

Spokesperson for The Flagship, Austin Enabulele, said the protest was a warning to the South African government to stop the attacks or risk losing its investments.   His words: “We are all Africans; we wonder why they should attack our fellow Nigerians who are doing their legitimate businesses in South Africa, when we have shown them love to operate in Nigeria.

“We have come here to tell President Jacob Zuma to call his people to order because if he fails to call them to order, we will do the needful. We are aware of all their businesses in Nigeria; we know of MTN; we know of Shoprite; we know of Multichoice and we know of other companies that belong to South Africa.”

Similarly, protesters under the aegis of Advocacy for People Rights and Justice (APRJ) carried placards some of which read: We say no to killing of our brothers, we are our brothers’ keepers in Africa and Mandela lives and stood for unity.

The National President, APRJ, Victor Giwa, said: “The attack on Nigerians and indeed all Africans in South Africa is unacceptable. We say it is illegal and barbaric. We know DSTV was incorporated in Nigeria but what we are saying is that Nigerian businesses in South Africa should be protected.

It is the duty of the President of South Africa to ensure that the investments of Nigerians in that country are protected. “That is why we have come to DSTV to let Africans and the whole world know that in Nigeria South African interests are protected and it is the duty of South Africa’s government to protect enterprises of Nigerians in that country. We are saying that it is illegal.

It is against African Charter of Unity. Article 12 of African Charter of Human and People Rights forbids attack of any person in any part of Africa. Meanwhile, an opposition leader in South Africa said President Zuma must be able to reconcile his body language with his prepared speech and that is what we are saying. We are saying that Zuma must match his prepared speech with action. ‘‘

I learnt he said he would assist foreigners who want to leave to do so. That is not the language of Africans. That is not the language and values of our founding fathers in Africa.

The like of Julius Nyerere of Tanzania, Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana and Nelson Mandela believed that in Africa we are our brothers’ keepers. ‘‘Zuma should show how we can be our brothers’ keepers by ensuring that the lives and property of Nigerians and indeed of all Africans are protected in South Africa.” One of the organisers of the Abuja protest, Deji Adeyanju, said one of his friends in South Africa told him they were afraid to come out of their homes.

Adeyanju said one of them, who works in an automobile company, said some of his neighbours were wondering what they were still doing in that country. He added: “We also feel the plight of fellow Africans and foreigners who feel this same way. We use the opportunity to call on the South African government to act now.

“We are more concerned about the South African government stopping the violence.” Obanikoro, in a television interview, said that Nigerian High Commissioner, Martin Cobham, and others were taking stock of damage incurred by Nigerians to ensure that adequate compensation would be given to them. He said: “We have situations where some of our people lost their shops in this attack.

We are taking stock of the damage done to them and we are going to be engaging the South African government.

“This is a very shameful situation and it has attracted a lot of international outcry. I think the leaders have seen the need to ensure that the xenophobic attacks do not escalate.

“The attitude is now more promising and within the next few days we should be able to put this behind us.” SERAP in a statement by its executive director, Adetokunbo Mumuni said the attacks clearly violate the obligations of South Africa under the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights and urged ‘‘decisive action from our government.’’ According to him: “Both South Africa and Nigeria have ratified the African Charter.

If President Goodluck Jonathan is to side with the victims and ensure that they receive adequate compensation he has to immediately instruct the Attorney General of the Federation, Mohammed Adoke, to urgently file an inter-state communication before the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights. “There is no better time for President Jonathan to do this as the African Commission is meeting this week in Banjul, The Gambia for its 56th Ordinary Session.

Articles 48 and 49 read together with Article 47 provide the legal basis for Nigeria to submit communication against South Africa for violations of the right to life and non-discrimination provisions of the Charter.

‘‘Countries like Uganda have taken full advantage of this procedure in the past and there is absolutely no reason why Nigeria can’t do the same.” MTN Nigeria, which said that the xenophobic attacks were not state-sponsored, but just from a small number of South Africans that are aggrieved about some issues in the country, however, urged strong measures against the spread of violence.

Its Corporate Service Executive, Akinwale Goodluck, in Lagos, yesterday, said MTN Nigeria is a Nigerian company with South African root, but that 99 per cent of the company’s workers are Nigerians. Goodluck, who said the company was concerned about several online cries for reprisal attacks and boycott of South African firms including MTN, Multichoice, owners of DStv; Shoprite; PEP; Protea Hotels among others in Nigeria, however said the MTN Group would provide financial assistance to the displaced foreign nationals that will cover temporary accommodation, food, beddings and blankets, medicals among others.

While appreciating several efforts employed to protect Nigerians and their businesses in South Africa, Goodluck confirmed that there were peace protests to their offices in Abuja and Benin, which he said they were able to manage effectively. He stressed that MTN and indeed all South African affiliated businesses in the country were working to ensure that the problem was put under control.

According to him, the call for boycott of MTN and other South African-affiliated businesses in Nigeria was unjustifiable, adding: “MTN Nigeria has 6000 direct and contract staff, employs about 500, 000 people indirectly. 99 per cent of MTN Nigeria employees are Nigerians, only 12 expatriates are here. This is purely a Nigerian business.’’

Also, the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) has joined the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATUU) in condemning the attacks which have claimed several lives. Deputy President of NLC, Comrade Issa Aremu condemned ‘‘reckless violent attacks on African working people and nationals in South Africa with unacceptable resultant avoidable destruction of lives and properties.”

Aremu who said that most of “these serial xenophobic attacks on innocent African workers are grossly unwarranted, condemnable and unacceptable,” added: “We believe that African workers and foreigners have a right to seek legitimate work anywhere in the continent based on the dream and ideals set by the founding fathers such as Kwame Nkrumah, Julius Nyerere, Abubakar Tafawa Balewa, Nnamdi Azikiwe, Nelson Mandela among others.”

Meanwhile, the National Association of Nigeria Traders (NANTS) has called on the Federal Government to urgently, evacuate Nigerians in South Africa and not to wait until things get out of hand.

NANTS president, Ken Ukaoha who made the call in Abuja yesterday explained that he has been receiving distress calls from Nigerians resident in South Africa that there was a fresh plan to attack designated markets in Johannesburg, Durban and other cities where Nigerian traders are predominantly located and doing their legitimate businesses.

He added: ‘‘We therefore strongly call on the Federal Government of Nigeria to rise up to the occasion by having immediate contingency plans to evacuate Nigerians within 24 hours to avoid our losing our citizens to these attacks; or better still impress on the South African Government the need to do all within its power to guarantee the safety of lives and properties of our brothers, Nigerians and other Africans who have not violated any known convention or laws by choosing to establish in South Africa.”


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