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South Africa deports 97 Nigerians over alleged offences


• N’ Assembly flays govt’s response to attacks
• To meet with parliament in Pretoria

No fewer than 97 Nigerians have been deported from South Africa over alleged civil and criminal offences committed lately.The Guardian learnt that at least six of the deportees were returned into the country for alleged drug offences, 10 were arrested and deported for alleged criminal offences while others reportedly committed immigration offences in their host country.

The latest development is coming in the wake of xenophobic attacks on Nigerians and other foreigners living in South Africa and could further strain relationship between both countries.

Apparently miffed by the many cases of xenophobic attacks in South Africa, with the local authorities not doing enough to stem the tide, there have been protests by Nigerians back home with growing threats to South African business interests in Nigeria.

The deportees, comprising 95 males and two females, arrived at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport at night on Monday on a chartered aircraft from Johannesburg, South Africa.

Those deported for alleged drug and criminal offences were immediately handed over to the police for further prosecution while others with alleged civil cases were left to go home after clearance by the officials of the Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS) at the airport.

A top official of the Immigration Service at the Murtala Muhammed Airport, Lagos, who spoke on the condition of anonymity said the deportees actually arrived very late on Monday.

Over 500 Nigerians have been deported in the past one month from the United Kingdom, Libya and Mali. Just last week, 171 Nigerians were returned from Libya.

The National Assembly yesterday berated the Federal Government for not seriously taking up the Pretoria government on the latest attacks on Nigerians and other foreigners by South Africans.

The upper legislative chamber declared that it would directly interface with the South African parliament to tackle the issue in a manner that would prevent future occurrence.

The lawmakers’ position emerged from an interactive session the Senate and House of Representatives Committees on Foreign Affairs had with the Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, Khadijah Abba Ibrahim over the issue and the resolutions earlier taken by the Senate at plenary.

At the interactive session with the committee, the minister ran into troubled waters with the federal lawmakers for not being able to respond to questions put to her on the required actions by the Federal Government against the repeated attacks on Nigerians and other foreigners by South Africans even as she declared that no Nigerian was killed.

But when asked on measures taken so far by the ministry through the High Commission to cushion the effects of the attacks on the affected Nigerians, she became evasive by just stating that the government would ensure that relationship between the two countries was well managed.

Irked by the minister’s response, the Committee Chairman, Senator Monsurat Sunmonu declared that actions of the ministry so far on the attacks were highly disappointing.

She said: “We know the efforts of Nigerians in South Africa. We have been talking to you based on the report of the Senate committee with the Foreign Affairs Ministry in April, 2015. Two years ago, we had this booklet and we went through all the findings and all the recommendations but unfortunately you have not met even one single thing out of if.

“How would we now believe what you have come here to tell us? Does that mean that if we have not invited you, this would have been another story? Have you been able to invite Nigerians that lost their property in 2015 to tell them that we are negotiating something for you? No, you haven’t.

“The committee is not happy, we are highly disappointed and what we would do is that we have the mandate of the two chambers for us to go to South Africa. Delegations from both chambers will go together to see them and look at the memoranda of understanding you are signing; it has to be give and take. If it is necessary Nigeria will not hesitate to put sanctions on South Africa in this country.

“By so doing, we would be able to force them to do the right thing with Nigerians outside, otherwise we will have to retaliate their actions in this country. We would not hesitate to put our foot down to be able to tell them that enough is enough.”

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