Following repeated attacks on Nigerians in South Africa, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Onyeama, has disclosed that the government will deploy Nigeria police to South Africa in order to stem the tide of the attacks.
Onyeama who made the disclosure in Abuja when the Federal Government summoned the Acting South African High Commissioner to Nigeria, Bobby Moroe, over the ugly developments in South Africa, noted that there had been another spate of looting and burning of properties belonging to Nigerians in South Africa in recent time.
Onyeama added that as a result of some of the incidents in the past, he undertook a diplomatic shuttle to South Africa, alongside the then Minister of Interior where the Federal Government proposed an Early Warning Mechanism system to check the ugly situation.
Onyeama however regretted that the memorandum of understanding which captured the proposal had not been signed, saying that the disadvantage was that there is no framework for the relevant parties such as high level officials of the South African Government, the Nigerian High Commission in South Africa, the Consulate General of Nigeria in South Africa and the Nigeria Union in South Africa to meet regularly, informing each other of developments regularly, anticipating events and prepared to pre-empt such attacks as being witnessed today, including taking other measures such as compensation, amongst others.
Asked on what proactive measures the government will take if the attacks continued, Onyeama said: “What we are concerned about, the immediate concern, is to have in place, a robust mechanism that will pre-empt these attacks and if they break out, that will react very, very quickly to put them down and that will also be providing adequate oversight over the security of vulnerable groups such as Nigerians in South Africa.
“So, this is why we feel that as a first step, we send, if the South African Government agrees with us, some Nigeria Police, embedded, attached to the Nigerian High Commission in Pretoria and if again the South African Government agrees, that we might even have some Nigeria Police embedded within the South African Police Force to deal with matters concerning Nigerians in South Africa.
“So, Nigerian criminality, as well as South African criminality targeting Nigerians. We believe that the advantage of this will be that the law enforcement, the police itself, will have the benefit of Nigeria input in their engagement with Nigeria community and with threats against Nigerian community. And we believe that this will be a game-changer and it will give confidence to the Nigerian community in South Africa and it will also give an added input really to the South African Police because of course, Nigeria Police will understand Nigerians better and will probably be in a position to provide certain intelligence that might not be available to the South African Police.
So, we believe that it will be a very important synergy in achieving the aims that we want to achieve. We believe that if the two sides, South African Government and Nigerian Government are really working together, really want to address this issue and take those particular steps, that it will be very, very much difficult to have the scale of damage that we have witnessed in the past. And if after that there are still attacks, of course we have to reassess the measures that we have taken and see where they need to be improved otherwise,” Onyeama said.
Earlier, Onyeama said the Federal Government felt that very definitive measures had to be taken to stop once and for all, the acts of aggression and criminality against Nigerians in South Africa.
He said he invited Moroe and both of them had lengthy discussions, even as the minister acknowledged the statement issued by the South African Government to condemn the situation.
Onyeama however said the Nigerian Government was determined that going forward, it should not have any recurrence of such situations.
“So, we have to put in place, we must put in place and we will put in place, mechanisms to ensure that this do not re-occur.
“We have made very concrete proposals to the South African Government today and we believe that if those measures are implemented, we have a very, very good chance of ensuring that this does not re-occur,” Onyeama said.
Onyeama also said that going forward, both countries have to address the issue of compensation, saying that there had to be accountability and responsibility for compensating all Nigerians who had suffered losses in South Africa.
“We are going to absolutely push for that and secondly, we believe that, but I will not go into that much detail on that, but that the two security forces, South Africa and Nigeria, we can arrange, have an arrangement where there will be cooperation on the ground in South Africa to arrest such events and occurrences.
“And this is obviously something that we will have to work out details with the South African Government and hopefully, see us addressing at the field level, if I can call it that, the challenges posed by this incessant attacks.
“So, we have put that forward through the South African Government, very, very clear proposals and we will be discussing those and hopefully, the South African Government will support us in that initiative as we believe that it will make all the difference,” Onyeama added.
On his part, Moroe said it was in order to express appreciation to the Federal Government for the opportunity to meet with the Minister of Foreign Affairs.
He said for the South African Government, the move was a reflection of the cordial relations that both countries enjoyed, including the peoples.
Moroe added that it was only through such gestures that both countries would be in a position to unlock the bottlenecks that exist between both countries.
He also said foreign nationals have always been integrated in the South African society, even as he said that there a lot of foreigners who have chosen South Africa as their home and a place where they conduct businesses.
“It is therefore quite very unfortunate that we found ourselves in a situation that we found ourselves in now. The government has issued a statement yesterday, condemning the acts of violence and acts of criminality.
“For us, these are acts that continue to demonstrate that there are criminals within the society that seeks to destabilize the country, there are criminals who seek to create an impression that South Africans do not subscribe to the principle of Ubuntu,” Moroe said.
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