NIGERIANS in South Africa have expressed delight that Presidents Muhammadu Buhari and Cyril Ramaphosa plant to hold a bilateral summit next month to address the incessant occurrences of xenophobic attacks against them.
Over the last week, 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. Ben Okoli, the president of the Nigerian Citizens Association in South Africa (Nicasa), said he is optimistic that the meeting will bring lasting solutions to the recurrent xenophobia.
Mr Okoli said: “We are looking forward to the state visit by President Buhari and we believe his coming will help reduce the suffering Nigerians go through in South Africa. We will use the opportunity to lay our complaints to the president and highlight security of lives and properties of our members, as the area of concern that we want to be addressed.
“We will also be able to get assurance from our host country’s president towards securing lives and properties of Nigerians here. We hope the visit will comfort Nigerians here because we expect our plight to be tabled before the host government, so they can provide adequate protection to ensure Nigerians feel safe.”
He lamented the high handedness of police operatives in South Africa on matters that concerned Nigerians, saying issues like brutality and killings should be brought to the fore at the meeting. According to Mr Okoli, Nigerians have contributed immensely to the growth of the South African economy, so should be treated accordingly.
“We urge the South African government to ensure that the attacks do not recur and we appeal to them to devise alternative strategies since previous efforts to stop xenophobia have not worked. We believe xenophobia can be stopped and therefore appeal to the South African government to provide succour to foreigners who have lost their source of livelihood, especially Nigerians.
“What happened is that after the crisis in Pretoria where South African’s destroyed Nigerian businesses and property, those whose property were destroyed went to the mission out of frustration and anger. The mission’s gate has never been shut against Nigerians, it has always kept its door open,” Mr Okoli added.
He commended the Nigerian consulate-general to South Africa, Godwin Adama, for the pro-active steps he had so far taken to douse tension via the media in that country. Mr Okoli said they were invited in and received by an official of the consulate who went as far as organising food and drinks for them to make sure that they are comfortable.