Time to talk

•Proposed meeting between Buhari and Ramaphosa over spate of killings of Nigerians in S/Africa is good, but …

THERE is no doubt that President Muhammadu Buhari and his South African counterpart, Mr. Cyril Ramaphosa, need to rub minds over the spate of killings of Nigerians in South Africa. The question is whether the October date chosen for the talk is not too far. The president’s senior special assistant on media and publicity, Mallam Garba Shehu, said his principal spoke with his South African counterpart on phone during the Sallah holiday from his hometown Daura, Katsina State, and accepted an invitation to visit South Africa so that the two of them can thrash out the issue of xenophobia against Nigerians in that country, as well as other issues of mutual concern.

According to Mr Ramaphosa’s invitation:  “Your visit will provide an excellent opportunity for our sister countries to further consolidate and advance our strategic partnership and cooperation on matters of peace, security and socio-economic development in our continent. We will discuss issues of mutual interest and concern in global governance.’’

President Ramaphosa said the meeting would also provide an opportunity for them to inaugurate a bi-national commission for both countries to “effect the strategic decisions taken in 2016 to elevate it to the level of Heads of State.’’

We welcome the proposed talks.

Our concern, however, is that the October date is too far and does not seem to reflect the urgency the issue deserves. Over 150 Nigerians have been allegedly killed in South Africa in recent years. These included Benjamin Simeon, 43, a taxi driver who was killed on August 3.

However, the most talked-about of the killings would appear to be that of the former Deputy Director-General of the Chartered Insurance Institute of Nigeria (CIIN), Mrs. Ndibuisi-Chukwu, in June. Mrs. Ndibuisi-Chukwu was on a business delegation to South Africa when she was found dead in her room at Emperor’s Palace Hotel and Convention Centre, on the eve of her departure for home.

Initial reports said she died of cardiac arrest but this was countered by an autopsy report by the South African Department of Home Affairs which said her death was unnatural and suspected to be murder. To worsen matters, the hotel where she died did not want to cooperate with law enforcement agents, especially with regard to releasing the CCTV footage which could have given some hints about what killed her.

To say that Nigerians are angry over the spate of killings of their compatriots in South Africa is putting it mildly. As a matter of fact, the anger has led to protests in major cities against South African firms in Nigeria, including telecoms giant, MTN, and Shoprite, after several warnings by Nigerian youths of the impending picketing if the killings continued. Even the Nigerian upper legislative chamber, the Senate, urged the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to issue travel alerts to Nigerians travelling to South Africa. It is imperative that something has to be done at the highest levels of government before things get out of hand

In all of these, we commend the Nigerian Citizens Association South Africa for the yeoman’s job it has been doing, keeping tabs on these killings and ensuring that Nigerians back home got a true picture of the strong resentment towards Nigerians by some South African youths.

We urge the two presidents to discuss the issues dispassionately. They must be guided by the fact that no country is an island unto itself and that there must be some level of dependency between and among countries. Law-abiding Nigerians in South Africa deserve the government’s protection like other nationals in that country. Again, like other nationals, those of them who run foul of the host country’s laws must be made to face the law. Jungle justice or, worse still, xenophobic attacks are an anathema that should not be tolerated in any civilised nation.

©2018 VivaLasGidi

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