PRESIDENT Muhammadu Buhari has arrived in Pretoria for the ninth meeting of the Nigeria-South Africa Bi-National Commission where the vexed issue of the recent xenophobic attacks against Nigerians will take centre state.
Over recent weeks, angry mobs of South African youths frustrated with their economic plight have vented their fury on African migrants in the country, burning down businesses and attacking foreign nationals. Their actions have led to widespread condemnation, with African leaders reminding South Africans who fought for their freedom from apartheid.
Last month, 187 returnees were the first batch of the 640 Nigerians, who registered for evacuation following the xenophobic attacks. Their return, facilitated by local airline Air Peace, faced some hitches, however, as the flight was delayed by South African officials, who insisted that some of the evacuated Nigerians did not have travel documents. The Bi-National Commission meeting was elevated to the level of the presidents’ participation, following the strategic position of the two economies in Africa and the need for stronger relations.
Mallam Garba Shehu, President Buhari’s spokesman, said that the two leaders would co-chair the meeting later today. Before the meeting which would be held at the Union Building in Pretoria, both presidents would discuss issues of mutual interests relating to the welfare of citizens and expanding economic and cultural ties.
According to Mallam Shehu, the visit would enable more harmonious relations between the two largest economies in Africa and open up more frontiers of opportunities for prosperity by encouraging more exchange and investments, especially for Nigerians. He added that 32 agreements and memoranda of understanding had been signed at the Bi-National Commission, which would be mutually beneficial to both nations.
“President Buhari is on a state visit to South Africa. While in South Africa, the two leaders will review a number of issues in our Bi-National Commission, including issues that affect citizens,” Mallam Shehu added.
He pointed out that President Buhari would also hold an interactive meetings with Nigerians in South Africa before returning to Abuja. It is not yet clear if President Buhari will visited any of the victims of the recent violence.