The chairman of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), Adams Oshiomhole, yesterday urged the Federal Government and the citizens to take strong measures against telecommunications giant, MTN, and other firms owned by South Africans in Nigeria.
He told reporters at the end of a closed-door meeting of the National Working Committee (NWC) in Abuja that Nigerians should boycott MTN for 30 days as a signal to South African authorities that they are fed up with xenophobic attacks. “Happily, we have indigenous networks like GLO, Airtel and 9mobile,” he said.
“This occasion also offers us an opportunity to reflect on why we should continue to allow DSTV to repatriate millions of dollars to South Africa every year, arising from their activities in Nigeria. We have to review all of those things that give South African companies monopoly such that they make money with very little value addition.
“It will also be an appropriate message to the South African government that until they find satisfactory explanations and pay appropriate compensations to those innocent Nigerians whose property have been looted and those who have been killed, South African Airways should be stopped.
“Their landing right should be stopped. They should not have right to fly to any part of Nigeria until these issues are sorted out. Nigerians need to show that we are not cheap to be molested. The life of every Nigerian matters whether at home or abroad.”
He said further: “We need the government to recognise that Nigerians want more firm action because MTN cannot be carting away all that money; DSTV carting away so much money; Shoprite making so much money from their franchise and Stanbic Bank dealing with corporate Nigerians patronising the oil companies, making fabulous billions of dollars, yet South Africans are wasting away our young men and women who are struggling to manage small businesses.
“This is meant to give the government the support base it needs to proceed with further direct measures. Nigerians are united. We must protect Nigeria’s image and protect its citizens and businesses wherever they are. Any country that attacks our businesses, injury to one is injury all. That must be the philosophy. Nigeria first, and it must be Nigeria first at all times.”
Similarly, the National Association of Nigerian Students yesterday held a peaceful protest in Ado Ekiti, Ekiti State, where it called on Nigerians to stop patronising MTN, DSTV, Stanbic Bank IBTC and other investments owned by South Africans.
Contrary to speculations, the presidency yesterday clarified that it has not recalled the Nigerian High Commissioner to South Africa, Ambassador Kabiru Balla.
A senior aide to President Muhammadu Buhari explained: “When the minister of Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Onyeama, spoke yesterday (Wednesday), he made it clear that government may, if necessary, be inviting the Nigerian High Commissioner to brief the administration. It was not a recall. A recall at this time, even if not ruled out, would be a shortsighted move. Not having diplomatic contact is not a good development for now. Our envoy will remain at his post.
“What President Buhari did was to request the foreign minister to speak to his counterpart in South Africa to convey the seriousness of the concerns of the government and people of Nigeria. This, he has already done.
“A recall is an indication of extreme displeasure and disagreement; a sign of how grievously things have deteriorated between any two countries. It is the penultimate step before breaking off of diplomatic relationship. Nigeria does not seek escalation of the ongoing situation. We will work as brothers.”
This was as Onyeama told reporters at the State House yesterday that the Federal Government is not aware South Africa has shut its missions in Nigeria.
Naledi Pandor, South Africa’s foreign affairs minister, had earlier said that her country’s government temporarily closed its embassy.
“This followed the receipt of threats against mission staff as well as the property of South Africa. After extensive consultations with relevant stakeholders as well as a security assessment of threats, the mission and the department took the decision to close the offices,” she said in a statement.
In another development, Air Peace airline yesterday insisted its offer to evacuate Nigerians willing to leave South Africa on account of xenophobic attacks is free.
It made the clarification after it received reports that some unscrupulous persons were charging $1,000 for the flight.
The airline had on Wednesday written to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs indicating its willingness to fly Nigerians out of South Africa. Minister Geoffrey Onyeama had also announced thereafter that the exodus would begin today.
Air Peace Chairman Allen Onyema said: “We have not designated or recruited any agent in South Africa to collect money on behalf of Air Peace. So, nobody should pay money to anyone or group of persons posing as Air Peace agent or staff. Any Nigerian who has paid money for repatriation to Nigeria with Air Peace should request a refund and report to appropriate authorities.”
Describing the development as unfortunate, he said: “A Nigerian living in South Africa sent an email to the airline requesting to confirm whether the flight is free because some people were already collecting money for the flight.
“Part of the mail sent by a Nigerian resident in South Africa, Fred Okeke, reads: ‘We heard that you are donating the flight for free evacuation from South Africa to Nigeria. But, it is very unfortunate to hear that they are asking the affected victims to pay the sum of $1000 as registration to be eligible to benefit from the flight. So, I want to bring it to your notice.’”
Despite Nigeria’s withdrawal from the World Economic Forum on Africa (WEFA) holding in South Africa, Governor Nasir el-Rufai of Kaduna State and his Ekiti State counterpart, Kayode Fayemi, have continued their participation.
Onyeama yesterday confirmed the Federal Government’s knowledge of their governors’ attendance. He however said the two governors were already in South Africa before the government announced its decision to pull out of the summit.
But business mogul and banker, Jim Ovia, who was already in Cape Town for the meeting, reportedly withdrew his participation when it became clear that Nigeria would not be officially represented.
Later also, the spokesman for Fayemi, Yinka Oyebode, said in a statement that his principal did not attend the forum but was in that country for a different function.
The Lagos State House of Assembly, meanwhile, has criticised the Nigeria Police Force for opening fire on citizens who were protesting against xenophobic attacks in South Africa.
This came as the Inspector General of Police, Mohammed Adamu, during a security forum in Ado Ekiti, vowed that persons arrested during the protest would be prosecuted.