The government has appealed to Nigerians who are angered by the xenophobic attacks on their compatriots in South Africa not to engage in reprisal attacks.
It says such attacks hurt Nigerians more because of some business interests.
The Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed stated this at a Press Conference on Thursday in Abuja.
Wrong videos in circulation
According to Mr Mohammed, there are some wrong videos and disinformation that are being circulated on social media to inflame passion and distort the plight of Nigerians in South Africa.
“Nigerians should be wary of the purveyors of these wrong videos. We strongly warn hoodlums who may wish to hide under the peaceful protests by Nigerians to loot, maim and kill that the security agencies will apprehend and bring them to justice. And to opinion leaders, we ask that they be guarded in their comments,” the Minister stated.
Mr. Mohammed said that government was aware of the xenophobic attacks against Nigerians and of course other foreigners in South Africa, and the huge costs, in human and material terms, to Nigerians living in South Africa.
He further revealed that those attacks have escalated in recent times, with deadly consequence, especially with the new twist of reprisal attacks that have targeted South African businesses in Nigeria.
“The efforts of the Nigerian Government to decisively deal with the attacks have been well communicated to Nigerians. President Muhammadu Buhari has dispatched a Special Envoy to convey to his South African counterpart, Cyril Ramaphosa, his concerns and also interact with his South African counterpart on the situation. Also, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Geoffrey Onyeama, acting on the instruction of Mr. President, has summoned the South African High Commissioner to Nigeria to get a brief on the situation; express Nigeria’s displeasure over the treatment of her citizens; and secure assurance of the safety of their lives and property,” Mr. Mohammed stated.
The Minister also revealed that Nigeria has also recalled its High Commissioner to South Africa, in addition to boycotting the World Economic Forum on Africa being hosted by South Africa.
“Plans are on to evacuate Nigerians who are willing to return home from South Africa. Of course, a number of other measures are also being considered by the government to keep Nigerians in South Africa safe,” he stated.
Mr. Mohammed appealed to Nigerians not to resort to self-help by carrying out reprisal attacks against South African businesses in Nigeria and also to alert Nigerians to the fact that some unscrupulous people are engaging in disinformation to inflame passion by using fake news and videos of non-related attacks.
The Nigerian government has very strongly warned naysayers and hoodlums who might want to capitalise on the widespread disenchantment and anger of Nigerians over the attacks in South Africa to foment mayhem, and to appeal to the people, especially opinion leaders, not to allow raw emotions to guide their response to the attacks.
The Minister said ”that the offices of MTN nationwide have either been attacked or threatened. Other South African firms have either shut their doors or are open under heavy security. As we said in our intervention on Tuesday, Nigerians own and run the shops in the various Shoprite malls across the Country. Nigerians work there also.”
”MTN is listed on the Nigerian Stock Exchange and the investors in this company are Nigerians. The workers are mostly Nigerians. Same applies to other South African businesses in the country. By attacking them, we are hurting our own people. That is the blunt truth.
“Some hoodlums have also targeted foreigners under the guise of protesting against the xenophobic attacks in South Africa. This is saddening. If we are complaining that South Africans are attacking Nigerians in South Africa, how then can we tolerate Nigerians attacking Nigerians and foreigners right here in Nigeria? What purpose do such attacks serve, other than for Nigerians to lose their
Investments and jobs,” Mr. Mohammed explained.
The minister affirmed that the Nigerian Government has put in place adequate security measures to protect the lives and property of all. The security agencies have been put on high alert, and looters will be arrested and made to face justice.
He also alerted Nigerians to the video clips being circulated on the social media, purportedly Showing how Nigerians are being killed in South Africa. Three of such videos come to mind:
“One video shows a man who has been set ablaze trying to escape, and those circulating the video identified the man as Nigerian. This is not true. The video shows Mozambican Ernesto Alfabeto Nhamuave, a victim of xenophobic violence in South Africa in 2008, and it is not that of a Nigerian being attacked in 2019.
”Another video shows those said to be Nigerians jumping down from a multi-storey building that was purportedly set on fire by xenophobic attackers in South Africa. This is fake news as the video is that of a Suraj Coaching Centre in Gujarat State, India, that was gutted by fire on May 24, 2019, leaving about 18 people dead.
The third video, purportedly showing the bodies of Nigerians who were burnt in xenophobic attacks, is the raw footage of those who were killed in a Tanzanian fuel tanker explosion in Morogoro that left at least 60 dead on August 10, 2019 explained,”Mr. Mohammed explained.
The Minister said those who are circulating these videos should immediately desist from doing so. Apart from inflaming passion, the videos are also complicating the efforts of the government to calm frayed nerves at home in the wake of the xenophobic attacks in South Africa.
He added that; “We want to appeal to our opinion leaders and celebrities to be guarded in their utterances and comments on the xenophobic attacks and the reactions from Nigerians. Words have meaning, and wrong words are like poisoned darts. In the words of the Buddha, ”Better than a thousand hollowed words, is one word that brings peace.”
Nigerians have been victims of xenophobic attacks in South Africa lately and many have been killed and properties destroyed.