The Presidency says the planned visit by President Muhammadu Buhari’s to South Africa next month remains on course to reinforce “the strong bonds between the two countries” and jointly develop responses to problems affecting people and businesses in South Africa and Nigeria.
The statement on Saturday came as a surprise to many after the Federal Government cancelled participation in the World Economic Forum, following xenophobic attacks on foreigners, including Nigerians in that country recently.
Also, over 100 Nigerians have been killed in the former apartaparthEid enclave in the last three years.
The Foreign Minister of South Africa, Make do Pandor, drew the ire of Nigerians when she stereotyped them as criminals.
Her words, “Help us address the belief and the reality that our people have that there are many persons from Nigeria, who are dealing in drugs in our country, who are harming our young people by making drugs easily available to them.
“The belief that Nigerian nationals are involved in human trafficking and other abusive practices. This kind of assistance in ensuring that such people don’t come to our country would be of great assistance to our nation.”
But the emotions of Nigerians is a mixed grill.
An angry ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) has called for extreme measurges like nationalizing big Sith African business concerns in Nigeria.
However, the Nigerian Citizens Association in South Africa (NICASA), expressed optimism that the meeting between Nigerian and South African Presidents will bring lasting solutions to the recurrent xenophobia.
Recall that a report quoted the President of NICASA, Mr Ben Okoli, as telling the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in a telephone conversation that President Muhammadu Buhari and his South African counterpart Cyril Ramaphosa, were expected to meet in October to discuss modalities to address attacks on Nigerians living in that country.
“We are looking forward to the state visit by President Buhari and we believe his coming will help reduce the suffering Nigerians go through in South Africa.
“We will use the opportunity to lay our complaints to the president and highlight security of lives and properties of our members, as the area of concern that we want addressed.
“We will also be able to get assurance from our host country’s president towards securing lives and properties of Nigerians here.
“We hope the visit will comfort Nigerians here, because we expect our plight to be tabled before the host government, so they can provide adequate protection to ensure Nigerians feel safe,” he said.
He lamented the high handedness of Police operatives in South Africa on matters that concerned Nigerians, saying issues like brutality and killings should be brought to the fore at the meeting.
“We will list all potentials that could bring about economic benefits and growth to Nigerians through the anticipated state visit,” he said.
He said that Nigerians ha, without any fear of contradiction, contributed immensely to the growth of the South African economy.
“We urge the South African Government to ensure that the attacks do not reoccur. We appeal to them to device alternative strategies since previous efforts to stop xenophobia have not worked.
“We believe xenophobia can be stopped and therefore appeal to the South African government to provide succour to foreigners who have lost their source of livelihood, especially Nigerians.
He commended the Nigerian Consulate General to South Africa, Godwin Adama, for the pro-active steps he had so far taken to douse tension via the media in that country.
“The mission’s gate has never been shut against Nigerians; it has always kept its door open.
“What happened is that after the crisis in Pretoria where South African’s destroyed Nigerian businesses and property, those whose property were destroyed went to the mission out of frustration and anger.
“I understand the situation; it is not easy for somebody to lose his property and just be watching; but the mission gate was not shut against them,” he said.
He said they were invite in and received by an official of the consulate who went as far as organising food and drinks for them to make sure that they are comfortable.
“So they were attended to and nobody would say that the gate was shut against them.
“The mission allowed them in even though they came in by force and destroyed part of the entrance.
“They were encouraged to go and calculate their losses and bring back the report through the organisation. So, we are actually collaborating with people who have lost their property.
“We are taking inventory of what our people lost, which I will make available to the high commissioner in due time,” Okoli said.