By Chesa Chesa and Chika Otuchikere
South African President, Mr. Cyril Ramaphosa, has said that his government would not tolerate the killing of Nigerian citizens or other foreigners resident in the country on the basis of their race, their origin or the way they look.
Ramaphosa made the assertion on Wednesday at the opening ceremony of the 25th anniversary celebration and Annual General Meeting (AGM) of the African Export and Import Bank (Afreximbank) which held in Abuja.
He said that security institutions in his country were taking serious actions against people who resort to criminalities and take the lives of innocent citizens.
“We have been exposed to unsafe environment and criminality, and we have historically had a number of challenges to this regard. And we have also had a huge problem of unemployment and people had tended to react in a way where they want to safeguard their own interest and expressed their fears and concerns through xenophobic attacks on other people and our government has been very clear and strong on this.
“We will not support anyone who seeks to attack anybody on the basis of their race, their origin or the way they look and we are very clear on that. In terms of safety and security, security institutions are now taking serious actions against people who resort to criminalities. They are making good strides, they are catching the criminals, and we trying to turn South Africa into a safe environment,” he said during a question and answer session.
Ramaphosa who acknowledged the role of Nigeria for South Africa to get out of the grip of apartheid, affirmed that his country was willing to support the Nigerian government to develop country, stressing that both countries are inseparable like Siamese twins.
The Minister of Finance, Mrs. Kemi Adeosun, who represented President Muhammadu Buhari at the event, spoke on the proposed signing of African Continental Free Trade Agreement (CFTA) and said that Nigeria was still consulting on the CFTA and would definitely sign it when full consultations with all the stakeholders were concluded.
The President of Afreximbank, Dr. Benedict Oramah, who gave a welcome statement, said that the bank decided to celebrate its 25th anniversary in Nigeria, the country of its birth and founding member state, which hosted “our inaugural meeting in 1993.
Oramah disclosed that the bank had done more than $50 billion investment since inception and note that ” we will reflect on our achievements of 25 years of promoting trade in Africa and explore how we can shape the future of trade to transform Africa under the theme “Eximbanking for an Emergent Africa: The next 25 years.”
Buhari promises to sign AFCTA deal ‘soon’
When he visited President Buhari in Aso Rock, Ramaphosa blamed the persistent killing of Nigerians in his country on criminality, and not xenophobia.
Ramaphosa stated this in response to a journalist’s question during a joint press conference he held with Buhari after their closed-door meeting in Aso Rock Presidential Villa, Abuja.
The South African leader, who acknowledged Nigerians’ huge support towards the end of apartheid rule in his country, said that it was not right to think that crimes against Nigerians there were merely a result of xenophobia, as “South Africans cannot hate Nigerians.”
He also explained that the high level of unemployment in South Africa has resulted to crimes that involve and affect citizens and foreigners alike, although he assured Nigerians that his government was working hard to reduce crime rate in South Africa.
Ramaphosa, who assumed office last February, also disclosed that his presence in Nigeria was his first visit to any country outside the South African region, aside multilateral summits, and that this was deliberate because of his administration’s focus on Africa unity and development.
“In the form of country to country, we decided that the very first visit that I should pay as head of state of South Africa, should be to Nigeria. And that this should send a clear signal that our government intends to pursue Africa-focused foreign policy.
“But in pursuing that African focused foreign policy, we would like to deepen our relationship with Nigeria, seeing that Nigeria is the most populous country on the whole continent whose economy is the largest on our continent.
Responding to another question, Buhari explained that he had delayed in signing the Africa Continental Free Trade Agreement (AFCTA) because of his decision to thread carefully over deals with other countries, especially to protect Nigeria’s growing industries.
Buhari, who joked that he was a slow reader, stressed that having taken his time to pore through the agreement as presented to him by his aides, he would soon pen his signature to the agreement.