• Nigeria, Malawi issue travel alerts, Zambian radio bans South African songs
• My sister-in-law was burnt alive during attacks, says Nigerian
• Buhari warns against reprisals
Protests against xenophobic attacks on Nigerians in South Africa continued on Wednesday with the Federal Government declaring that Nigeria would boycott the World Economic Forum on Africa scheduled for the former apartheid enclave.
Though the Federal Government beefed up security at companies including the MTN and Shoprite linked to South Africa, this could not stop protesters from attacking some of these companies in cities across the nation.
The Federal Government also expressed its determination to end the xenophobic attacks on Nigerians living in South Africa once and for all.
The government’s latest stance came after a morning meeting summoned by President Muhammadu Buhari to review developments so far.
At the meeting were Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo and the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr Geoffrey Onyeama.
The meeting resolved that “enough is enough,” adding that this time round, Nigeria would ensure that attacks on its citizens in South Africa must end.
Onyeama, who spoke with State House Correspondents after the meeting, said several measures had been reached and would be unfolded in the days ahead.
He stated that talks with the South African authorities would be detailed this time round and would shape the pattern of the Nigeria-South Africa relations in the years ahead.
Onyeama confirmed that one option considered was that Nigeria’s High Commissioner to South Africa, Ambassador Kabiru Bala, should return home.
However, he clarified that this would be after the special envoy Buhari sent to his South African counterpart, Mr Cyril Ramaphosa, would have concluded the assignment and reported back to the President.
He declined to name the special envoy for “security reasons” but added that he was expected to be back from South Africa by the weekend.
FG may recall ambassador
On the recall of the high commissioner, Onyeama stated that it was one of the options being considered, adding that it was the wish of the government that he had returned home already.
The minister clarified, “It is one of the options we are considering. He will need to come back, but we feel he should come back after the envoy has gone there, so that Mr President will also have the benefits of the full and comprehensive brief from all the individuals who are in the position to have seen things at a close range.”
But Onyeama confirmed that Nigeria had indeed withdrawn its participation at the World Economic Forum on Africa to be held in Capetown, South Africa, from September 4 to 6.
He stated that Osinbajo was delegated by Buhari to attend the summit, but explained that the President later asked him to withdraw on account of the attacks.
The minster cited the examples of Congo, Rwanda and Malawi, whose leaders had also withdrawn their participation, adding that it was natural that Nigeria, being a major victim of the attacks, should withdraw as well.
No Nigerian died in xenophobic attacks –Onyeama
Onyeama also dismissed reports, especially on the social media, suggesting that Nigerians had been killed in the latest attacks.
However, he admitted that their property were vandalised and looted massively, a reason the government demanded compensation for victims.
“The information we have from the High Commission, from the Consul-General in South Africa, is that no Nigerian life has been lost during this crisis. And I think that is very important because on social media, there are a lot of stories going around of Nigerians being killed, jumping off buildings and being burnt. This is not the case.
“What we know is that premises, shops of Nigerians have been looted and property destroyed,” he added.
My brother’s wife was burnt to ashes –Victim’s family
But contrary to report that no Nigerian was killed in the attack in South Africa, a relative of one of the victims, Idiareh Rita, in a WhatsApp message shared by Derin Omowon on ‘Think Oyo WhatsApp platform,’ lamented the killing of his sister in-law.
According to the message Rita stated, “What’s terrible with reprisals from Nigerians? Should I send you a video of how my brother’s electrical shop on Small Street in Johannesburg was looted and his wife burnt to ashes?
“Since our government won’t say or do anything, let everything about South Africa be destroyed, we have been in tears since Monday in my family.”
One of our correspondents put a call through to Rita’s phone number to confirm if her sister in-law’s killing happened during this week’s attacks in South Africa she said, “It is this recent one that happened.”
Asked to give details, Rita amidst sobs said, “I don’t want to talk about it.”
Nigeria, Ghana, Malawi issue travel alerts
Besides Nigeria, countries such as Malawi and Ghana took measures to protest their citizens on Wednesday.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation of the Republic of Malawi, in a statement on Wednesday stated, “As a precautionary measure, the Malawi Government is advising all Malawians living in the Republic of South Africa to stay away from communities where there are incident of violence for their safety.”
The Malawian government advised truck drivers and those who were planning to travel to consider suspending such trips during this period until such a time that the security situation would improve.
On its part, the Ghanaian government urged South Africa to take measures that would ensure peaceful co-existence between South Africans and other Africans.
Foreign ministry advises Nigerians in S’Africa
Also, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs advised Nigerians in South Africa against going to volatile and high risk areas until the tense situation was brought under control.
It commended the arrest of 70 suspects in connection with the attacks and looting of shops belonging to some Nigerians by the SA authorities.
The spokesman for the ministry, Ferdinand Nwonye, in a statement assured Nigerians in South Africa of the protection of the Federal Government.
Zambian radio station banned SA songs
Also in protest against xenophobic attacks in South Africa, Zambian students, on Wednesday, embarked on a protest march to the South African High Commission in Lusaka.
According to Sky News, the students, who marched from the University of Zambia to the South African embassy, started a fire in a display of anger against the continued killings of foreign nationals in South Africa.
A video clip emerged online showing irate protesters in Zambia attacking South African-owned Pick n Pay store in Lusaka.
Zambian radio station, Hot FM, has said it will stop playing South African songs in protest.
The radio station wrote on Wednesday on its Twitter handle, @Hot877Zambia: “In light of the xenophobic attacks on foreign nationals in South Africa, Hot FM will cease to play music by South African artistes on our airwaves until further notice.”
Stop reprisals, it’s hurting Nigeria, says Buhari
On the reprisals on property and companies linked to South Africa in Nigeria, the minster disclosed that Buhari was “totally and completely” against it on the grounds that violence must not be paid back with violence.
Onyeama added that the President felt reprisals would make the world see Nigeria the same way they saw South Africa at the moment.
The minister said, “Mr President is particularly distraught at the act of vandalism that has taken place here in Nigeria, in retaliation of what is happening in South Africa.
“The government believes that we have to take the moral high ground on this matter. We are victims here and have made that position clear to the international community and to the South African government. We here in Nigeria must not fall into the temptation of also resorting to the acts that we are condemning in others.
“So, Mr President has pleaded and he is likely to make a statement on this, addressing the Nigerian people to please desist from acts of vandalism and aggression, destroying properties.
“Now, these business concerns, Shoprite, MTN and others, yes, there are South Africans but these are subsidiaries in Nigeria owned by Nigerians. So, as attacks are made against Shoprite and other such institutions, it is actually the property owned by Nigerians within Nigeria and the people working there are Nigerians.
“So, the people that will suffer from those acts of vandalism and aggression are not South Africans or anyone else but Nigerians. But, morally, it is wrong not even because of who will suffer and not suffer.”
Sanwo-Olu warns against reprisals
Also, the Lagos State Governor, Mr Babajide Sanwo-Olu, vowed to deal with troublemakers exploiting the ongoing xenophobic attacks on foreign nationals in South Africa to foment trouble in the state.
The governor, in a statement on Wednesday by his Chief Press Secretary, Gboyega Akosile, warned people engaging in reprisals against innocent people in Lagos.
He said, “We have watched the disturbing videos of attacks and vandalism against Nigerian nationals and their businesses in South Africa. These precipitated strong reactions by some Nigerians who chose to vent their anger on investments on South Africans in Lagos yesterday (Tuesday).
“As a government, we condemn the violence visited on innocent people by the hoodlums who attacked Shoprite and other business interests owned by South Africans in Lagos. We cannot attempt to find a solution to criminality by committing criminality. This is not part of our values as Nigerians.”
IG orders security at embassies, 125 arrested in Lagos
However, the Inspector-General of Police, Mohammed Adamu, ordered water-tight security around foreign missions, foreigners and their businesses across the country.
He has also placed zonal Assistant Inspectors-General of Police and Commissioners of Police across the federation on red alert to ensure that no similar violence was replicated in the country.
This was as the police said they had arrested 125 suspects for allegedly attacking and looting Shoprite outlet in Lekki area of Lagos on Tuesday, under the pretext of protesting against the xenophobic attacks in South Africa.
A good number of looted valuables were said to have been recovered by the force. “The force has commenced investigations and profiling of the arrested suspects with a view to establishing their connection with the stealing, malicious damage, arson and disturbance of public peace on the day of the incident,” the force spokesman, DCP Frank Mba, disclosed in a statement on Wednesday.
The IG condemned the violent attacks, noting that three police officers were seriously injured while an operational vehicle was set ablaze during the attack.
The police noted, “Miscreants and criminally-minded people who masquerade as genuine protesters are, therefore, warned to stay off the streets of Nigeria as the force will not hesitate to bring to bear the full weight of the law on any such law-breaker.”
MTN shuts down offices nationwide
Meanwhile, MTN Nigeria on Wednesday announced the closure of its offices nationwide and directed its workers to stay at home.
However, the telecom company said its social media handles, mobile app and call centres were available to attend to subscribers’ concerns.
The telecom company also directed all its stores and service centres to be closed as a precaution until further notice.
On the company’s social media handle, MTN said, “Dear customer, all MTN shops are closed today. You can reach us on call centre 180, Twitter @MTN180, Facebook @MTNloaded, email firstname.lastname@example.org, and chat on my MTN App.”
The company said it would continue to provide uninterrupted services as it was concerned about the safety and security of its customers, members of staff and partners.
In a statement issued on Tuesday, the CEO, MTN Nigeria, Ferdi Moolman, said that the company was against all forms of violence and xenophobia against people.
FG beefs up security at MTN, Shoprite, others
Also, the Federal Government on Wednesday beefed up security at the South African companies in Nigeria to forestall reprisals following xenophobic attacks on Nigerians in South Africa.
Combined teams of policemen and soldiers guarded South African companies, including Shoprite, DSTV, PEP and a telecommunication giant, MTN, in Abuja, Kano, Port Harcourt, Enugu, Ibadan, Lagos and other cities.
But the companies did not open for business on Wednesday for fear of reprisals.
Protesters set bonfire on Abuja airport road
But despite the security beef-up, some youths made bonfire on the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport Road, Lugbe, Abuja, a few metres from a South African franchise, Shoprite mall.
Billowing smoke from the bonfire paralysed vehicular movement on the expressway as security agents mounted guard over the shut shopping mall.
Men of the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps and armed policemen were seen providing security in the area.
Similarly, a branch of Shoprite at Jabi, Abuja, was under heavy police protection to deter would-be protesters or looters.
Speaking on a radio programme, the Federal Capital Territory Commissioner of Police, Bala Ciroma, said he had deployed police personnel across the city to maintain law and order.
MTN office in Ibadan burnt
However, the Bodija, Ibadan, Oyo State MTN office was razed as an irate mob put fire into the complex.
The incident resorted in gridlock as vehicles passing through the Agodi Government Secretariat Road en route to the University of Ibadan had hectic times, navigating the road.
The development made the state police command to deploy riot policemen in other MTN outlets in the city.
Similar incident was aborted on Tuesday evening as youths attacked the MTN service centre located at the Mobil bus stop on MKO Abiola Way.
Also speaking about the burning of the MTN office at Bodija, a commander of the Oyo State Road Traffic Management Agency, Ayoade Adeoye, stated that the men of the traffic agency arrived at the scene at about 10.30pm on Tuesday when it got the information of the attack on the MTN building.
The Commissioner of Police in the state, Shina Olukolu, in a statement issued by the Police Public Relations Officer of the command Gbenga Fadeyi, said, “The attention of the command, had been drawn by credible sources that some aggrieved Nigerians had perfected plans to carry out coordinated attacks on South Africa economic interests in Nigeria including Shoprite .”
The Oyo State Police Command also deployed its men in Shoprite, Dugbe, and the MTN zonal office in Ibadan.
Fadeyi stated that “all South African investments in the state had been properly secured.”
Police cordoned off Owerri Shoprite
Also, the police in Imo State have cordoned off a South African company, Shoprite, in Owerri, the state capital, following rumours that angry youths were planning to attack the complex.
But the management of Shoprite, Owerri had shut down the business outfit over fear of attacks by youths.
The Police Public Relations Officer in the state, Orlando Ikeokwu, told The PUNCH that the police took the action in order to prevent a breakdown of law and order in the state.
In Kano, Shoprite and another South African firm were shut on Wednesday due to fear of attacks.
When The PUNCH correspondent visited the MTN office, on the Civic Road in Kano metropolis, and Shoprite at the Ado Bayero Mall on Zoo Road, he observed that both business facilities were shut.
The spokesman for the Kano State Police Command, Abdullahi Haruna, said a combined team of soldiers and policemen had already been drafted to both business premises, so as to ward off any possible protest, within the vicinity.
However, attempts by some persons to attack Shoprite in Onitsha in Anambra State were aborted by security agents on Wednesday.
Heavy police presence was noticed on the GRA Road in Onitsha where the shop was located.
Investigation by one of our correspondents showed that a joint security operation of the police and army aborted an early morning attempt to attack the facility by some youths.
Similarly, MTN offices were shut in Awka and environs.
A worker with the network provider in Awka told The PUNCH “We were told yesterday (Tuesday) not to come to work today (Wednesday) because of fear of a possible attack because of what is happening in South Africa.”
MTN offices in Katsina remained shut throughout Wednesday, forcing many customers who had earlier thronged there for business transactions to return in disappointment.
MTN shuts down offices in Port Harcourt
MTN offices in Port Harcourt, the Rivers State capital, were not opened on Wednesday, following the increasing anxiety that there could be a reprisal from youths in the state.
The PUNCH correspondent, who visited an MTN office in Garrison, along the popular Aba-Port Harcourt Road, observed that the office was shut when he visited the place at 10.30am on Wednesday.
At the Artillery and Oil Mill Market, policemen were seen manning the frontages of the MTN offices to forestall any attack.
An MTN official, who did not disclose her name, said she did not go to the office after receiving a text from her boss that they should not be in the office.
The text message the MTN sent to its employees obtained by one of our correspondents, read, “Yello, A change of plan. We are not working tomorrow (Wednesday) due to the latest ongoing attacks on MTN offices. You will be to notified on when we are to resume work.”
Also PEP in Port Harcourt, a retail store with headquarters in Cape Town, South Africa, was on Wednesday shut over fears of reprisals.
Police prevent entry into Shoprite, MTN offices in Ondo
Also, there was heavy presence of men of the Ondo State Police Command at the main entrance of the Ondo State branch of Shoprite and the MTN office in Akure, the state capital.
When one of our correspondents visited the Shoprite Shopping Mall, located at Alagbaka area of the capital city, on Wednesday, no fewer than five police patrol vans were parked at the entrance of the mall.
Each of the vans had no less than five armed policemen in it.
It was also observed that the shopping mall was under lock and key and there was no worker found on the premises. Although the mall was shut, the policemen did not allow anybody to enter its premises.
In a reaction, the state Police Public Relations Officer, Mr Femi Joseph, confirmed the deployment of the officers and men of the command at the Shoprite.
Heavy security in Enugu Shoprite
Also, there was heavy security presence at the Shoprite Polo Mall Enugu to prevent retaliatory attacks by Nigerian youths over the xenophobic attacks and killing of Nigerians in South Africa.
When The PUNCH visited the shopping mall on Wednesday, the complex was heavily guarded; only one entrance gate was opened for those who wanted to trade to use.
All the entrances to the Games shop, which also shares the same building with Shoprite were equally heavily guarded.
When the state Police Public Relations Officer, Ebere Amaraizu, was contacted, on the telephone, he said that the security personnel in the complex were drafted to maintain law and order in all the businesses and property owned by South Africans in the state.
Reps suspend planned emergency session
Meanwhile, there were indications that the House of Representatives had suspended its plan to reconvene over the xenophobic attacks.
Instead, Onyeama is to brief the lawmakers “within the next few hours” on the measures being taken by the Federal Government on the matter.
The Chairman of the Committee on Foreign Affairs, Buba Yakub, while speaking with one of our correspondents on the telephone on Wednesday, said the Speaker of the House, Femi Gbajabiamila, had directed the committee to continue with their investigations into the matter.
Sue S’Africa, demand compensation for victims Falana tells FG
However, a human rights lawyer, Mr Femi Falana (SAN), asked the Federal Government to sue the South African Government to demand compensation for Nigerian victims of the xenophobic attacks.
Falana said in a statement that it was not enough for the South African Government to condemn “the shameful and cowardly attacks” and urged Nigeria to demand the Ramaphosa administration to fish out and prosecute the perpetrators of the attacks.
He asked the Federal Government to demand compensation for the Nigerian victims from the South African Government. He added that the foreign government “is not likely to accede to the demand for compensation.”
Burna Boy, Tiwa Savage, Basketmouth boycott S’African shows
But popular Nigerian Afrobeat singer, Burna Boy, has sworn never to set foot on South Africa till its government stops the persistent xenophobic attacks on foreign nationals, especially Nigerians, living in the country.
The singer, who was clearly displeased with the ongoing attacks on African immigrants and destruction of their properties, said this in a statement posted on Instagram on Wednesday.
He wrote, “Today, after watching the killing of my people in South Africa, the same way we have all watched it happen a few times in the past. I personally have had my own xenophobic experiences in the hands of South Africans and because of that I have not set my foot on South Africa since 2017.
“I will not ever go to South Africa again for any reason until the South African Government wakes up and really performs a miracle. I don’t know how they can possibly fix this.”
Earlier, another Nigerian singer, Tiwa Savage, announced on Twitter that she was pulling out of a concert scheduled to be held in South Africa in a few days, in reaction to the fresh wave of violence and looting targeted at foreigners in parts of South Africa.
She had tweeted, “I refuse to watch the barbaric butchering of my people in SA. This is SICK. For this reason I will NOT be performing at the upcoming DSTV delicious Festival in Johannesburg on the 21st of September. My prayers are with all the victims and families affected by this.”
Also reacting to the xenophobic attacks, standup comedian, Basketmouth, announced on Instagram that he would boycott an event scheduled for the coming weekend in South Africa.
“I am not sure how and when we got here. I won’t be attending the Comics Choice Awards this weekend in South Africa as scheduled. It might sound like a whisper, but together our voices and the right actions will hopefully make a true difference. And real change can begin,” he wrote.
Attacks on Nigerians beastly, reprehensible –NLC
Also, the Nigeria Labour Congress described as beastly and reprehensible the xenophobic attacks on Nigerians by South Africans.
The NLC however advised against “crude retaliatory measures including the burning down of perceived South African businesses in Nigeria as some of the businesses were owned by Nigerians.
The President of NLC, Ayuba Wabba, in a statement on Wednesday, appealed to Nigerians to leave the matter to the Federal Government.
But the Trade Union Congress of Nigeria called for stringent measures against South Africa.
TUC made this demand in a statement jointly signed by its President, Quadri Olaleye, and Secretary General, Musa-Lawal Ozigi.
Value of MTN’s shares down by N30.5bn on NSE
Meanwhile, the market capitalisation of shares belonging to MTN Nigeria on the Nigerian Stock Exchange dropped by N30.5bn at the end of trading on Wednesday.
The Cable reports that MTN’s shares, which opened at N140 per share, lost N1.50 to close at N138.50.
The telecommunications company, which is Nigeria’s largest, announced in a statement on Wednesday that all its offices and service centres would be closed till further notice to avoid reprisal on its facilities.
In total, the market capitalisation, which opened at N13.420tn, lost N130bn to close at N13.290tn.