To ensure that Nigerians willing to leave South Africa are not unduly exposed to danger and xenophobic attacks, President Muhammadu Buhari has ordered their immediate evacuation from that country.
The president gave the directive yesterday in Abuja when he received the report of the special envoy and the director-general of the National Intelligence Agency (NIA), Ambassador Ahmed Rufai Abubakar, who he sent to South Africa in the wake of last week’s killing of Nigerians and other Africans.
Buhari sent Abubakar to Pretoria to convey his special message on the persistent xenophobic attacks on Nigerians and other foreigners to his South African counterpart, President Cyril Ramaphosa.
The special envoy, who was in Pretoria from last Thursday to Saturday presented his report yesterday to the Nigerian leader at the presidential villa, Abuja.
In a statement issued by the president’s spokesman, Mr. Femi Adesina, Buhari expressed his deep concern and other Nigerians about the intermittent violence against the citizens and their property/business interests in South Africa.
He said that Buhari stressed the need for the South African government to take visible measures to stop all forms of violence against the citizens of brotherly African counntries.
Adesina said that “President Buhari is worried that the recurring issue of xenophobia could negatively affect the image and standing of South Africa as one of the leading countries on the continent, if nothing is done to stop it.
“The special envoy conveyed the assurance of President Buhari that the Nigerian government is ready and willing to collaborate with the South African government to find a lasting solution to the involvement of a few Nigerians in criminal activities, and to protect the life and property of the larger groups of other law abiding Nigerians and indeed Africans in general, against all forms of attacks including xenophobia.
“President Buhari further assured that the Nigerian government will guarantee the safety of life property and business interests of South Africans in Nigeria,” he said.
On his part, Adesina said that President Ramaphosa agreed that the violence was most disconcerting and embarrassing, adding that his government completely rejects such acts, which undermine not only the country’s image but also its relations with brotherly African countries.
According to him, President Ramaphosa reaffirmed his stand against criminality and committed to do everything possible to protect the rights of every Nigerian and other foreign nationals in the country.
“The special envoy also interfaced with his South African counterpart where they reviewed the situation of foreign emigrants in general and Nigerians in particular. They agreed to work together to find a permanent solution to the root causes of the recurring attacks on Nigerians and their property.
“President Buhari has taken note of the report and instructed the Minister of Foreign Affairs to continue to engage with appropriate authorities on the concrete measure the South African government is expected to take.
The director-general of the Nigerian Diaspora Commission, Mrs. Abike Dabiri-Erewa stated that the 640 Nigerians voluntarily registered to come home, adding that they should be expected home in couple of days.
She said: “With the envoy’s briefing the president, we will be having everything in place. In the meantime, we continue to demand compensation for Nigerians that have been attacked in South Africa,” she said.
Dabiri-Erewa disclosed that arrangements were being made for Nigerians whose passports had expired to get emergency travel certificates to enable them join the homeward journey.
On the case involving South African policemen, she said that eight of them were charged to court for their involvement in previous extra judicial killing of Nigerians while the other four were charged for complicity in the recent attacks.
Dabiri-Erewa also said that it would be the first time South Africa would be charging its policemen to court over the attacks, adding that in the last ones, no life was lost but that property were destroyed.
She cautioned Nigerians intending to migrate to South Africa and other countries that the situation could be worse in the countries they are running to than what they face at home.
The federal government, she said, would continue to educate Nigerians on the stark realities, adding that the present administration was doing everything possible to make Nigeria a better place to live.