*As Anger, rage spreads to Abuja, Owerri
*MTN, Shoprite hurriedly shut offices, malls
*Lawan, Omo-Agege, Kalu, others express furry
By Chesa Chesa, Ignatius Okorocha, Myke Uzendu, Hassan Zagi, Daniel Tyokua (Abuja), and Angela Nkwo-Akpolu (Owerri)
The Federal Government yesterday took a tough diplomatic action against South Africa as it recalled the Nigerian Ambassador to South-Africa, Ambassador Kabiru Bala, and also pulled out of the World Economic Forum (WEF) on Africa, holding in the former Apartheid country.
This was as spontaneous reprisal actions over the killing and harassment of Nigerians in South Africa propelled by xenophobic tendencies spread to the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja, Ibadan, Oyo State and Owerri, Imo State.
In these cities, angry youths had swooped on Shoprite Malls vandalizing whatever they could lay hands on in some of the facilities.
In Abuja, they disrupted business at a Shoprite mall situated along the Airport Road, and burnt several used tyres in a display of anger.
Yet-to-be identified youths also set ablaze an MTN advert billboard mounted beside the Airport Road/Life Camp flyover junction. They also vandalized a telecommunications mast said to belong to the same company.
Also, some people suspected to be South Africans were reportedly attacked somewhere in Lagos. A trending video on the social media, showed angry mobs attacking the purported South Africans in retaliation to the continued attack on Nigerians in the country.
In Owerri, Imo State, angry youths who had attempted to vandalise a Shoprite, were on Wednesday swiftly stopped by operatives of the Nigerian Police.
However, the management of the mall shut down the business premises to forestall unforeseen circumstances. The youths were stopped at the main entrance to the mall by the police, but sources said they had destroyed an electric pole, after which they were contained and thereafter dispersed.
Meanwhile, the Police Public Relations Officer in the state, Orlando Ikeokwu, told The AUTHORITY that the police took the action in order to prevent a breakdown of law and order in the state.
Unlike in South Africa, where the police looked the other way or even molested Nigerians by themselves, the Nigerian Police acted to bring the riotous situations under control.
No less than 70 shops and businesses were reportedly looted in the Malvern area of Johannesburg on Monday evening alone. Several of such acts were being carried out almost daily since last year, with the South African government and police blaming takeover of job spaces in the country by foreigners, especially Nigerians.
Such lethargic and several other unwholesome activities yesterday forced the Federal Government to recall the Nigerian Ambassador to South Africa, Ambassador Bala.
Nigeria also pulled out of the World Economic Forum (WEF) currently holding in Cape Town.
Meanwhile, Shoprite management has announced the shutting down of its malls nationwide. It said it took the measure following spontaneous attacks on its facilities in three states.
There has been a flurry of unsuccessful diplomatic activities between the two countries since tension over xenophobic attacks on Nigerians resident in South Africa escalated, following report of fresh attacks last week Saturday.
On Tuesday, Nigeria’s Foreign Affairs Minister, Mr. Geoffrey Onyeama, summoned the South African High Commissioner to Nigeria, Bobby Moroe, over the attacks.
The Presidency also announced on Tuesday that President Muhammadu Buhari would be sending a Special Envoy to South Africa on the issue.
On Tuesday, Shoprite malls were attacked in parts of Lagos, Ibadan, Oyo State and then on Wednesday in Owerri, Imo State and Abuja, FCT.
Announcing the recall of the envoy, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Onyeama, told State House correspondents in Abuja on Wednesday, after a closed-door meeting with President Buhari, that Nigeria has drawn the red line against South Africa.
He however added that the Federal Government would explore better diplomatic options to protect her citizens in the country.
The Minister further said that the High Commissioner would return to Nigeria after the Special Envoy sent by President Buhari would have delivered his message to the South African President, Mr. Cyril Ramaphosa.
Onyeama added that Buhari had lamented the burning and looting of Nigerian businesses in South Africa, but pleaded with Nigerians to stop the retaliatory attacks, vandalism and aggression being meted on South Africa branded businesses in Nigeria.
According to him, the President believes that “we must take the moral high ground”, while reminding aggrieved citizens that many of these businesses are franchises, equally largely owned by Nigerians, who will unfortunately suffer losses too.
Insisting that Nigeria is taking appropriate measures to protect Nigerians in South Africa, the Minister said government was making strong demands for compensation of Nigerians affected by the latest attacks.
Besides, “Nigeria would take whatever measure necessary to ensure this would be the last time Nigerians would be son attacked in South Africa,” he said.
Meanwhile, Mr. Onyeama said that Nigeria has pulled out of the World Economic Forum (WEF) on Africa, holding in Capetown, South Africa, from yesterday to Friday, because of the xenophobic attacks.
Vice-President, Yemi Osinbajo was to represent Nigeria at the forum.
The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Rwanda and Malawi, had earlier pulled out of the event, with Presidents Paul Kagame (Rwanda), Felix Tshisekedi (DRC), and Peter Mutharika (Malawi) saying they would not attend as a result of the xenophobic attacks against their citizens.
*Senate President, Deputy express anger
Reacting to the development, the President of the Senate, Sen. Ahmed Lawan, expressed serious concern over the worsening Xenophobic attacks on foreign nationals, especially Nigerians in South Africa.
According to him, “Nigeria has had enough of its citizens being targets of these attacks and will no longer tolerate hate crimes in any form against its citizens who are doing legitimate businesses in that country.
“More disturbing, however, is that these attacks indicate the neglect of educating the younger generations on the sacrifices that Africans proudly made towards expunging the scourges of colonialism and apartheid from their continent.
“The enormous contributions of Nigeria to this historic struggle are underscored by its recognition as a frontline state in the prolonged confrontation against the powerful racist regime that had held generations of Southern Africans in bondage and subhuman conditions.
“It is therefore, an unacceptable irony that a section of South Africans would so soon, after now, choose other Africans in their country as the targets of mindless violent attacks over frustrations for which the innocent victims have no control.
“The South African parliament must act fast to put a stop to this menace”.
On his part, the Deputy President of the Senate, Sen. Ovie Omo-Agege, has described the latest attacks on Nigerians in South Africa as “callous, cowardly, inhumane and a dastard act” that should be condemned by all.
Omo-Agege, who said he was personally appalled by the glaring debasement of humanity with the gross bestiality displayed in some video clips of the attacks being circulated on the social media, said he is pleased that the Federal Government took a tougher stance on what seemed to have become a routine by some elements in South Africa who randomly inflict pain, anguish and death on foreigners, especially Nigerians.
*Sen. Kalu calls for retaliatory measures
Enraged by the attacks, the Senate Chief Whip, Sen. Orji Uzor Kalu, also condemned the attacks, urging Nigerians in that country to stand firm and retaliate, rather than waiting on an unwilling South African government to fish out the perpetrators.
He said: “The gruesome killings, looting, arson of properties belonging to Nigerians and attack of the Nigerian Embassy in South Africa is ill-conceived, disheartening and wicked.
“How can any sensible person attack and burn a fellow human being? Those mindless criminals who attacked and prevented law-abiding Nigerians to freely conduct their businesses must be made to pay for their crimes.
“If the South African government fails to do more to protect the lives of Nigerians, there should be no reason to allow them to operate freely in Nigeria.
“All their enterprises deserve to be closed, down including MTN, DSTV, Shoprite, among others. In the spirit of brotherhood, we have supported them. Our doors have always been opened, but it’s time we retaliate by shutting our doors”.