The Nigerian government has contradicted some media reports that Nigerians lost their lives in the recent xenophobic attack in South Africa.
Nigeria’s Minister of State Foreign Affairs, Khadija Abba-Ibrahim confirmed this on Wednesday, shortly after a second meeting with the High Commissioner of South Africa to Nigeria, Lulu Aaron-Mnguni, on the issue.
Abba-Ibrahim described reports that mentioned the killing of Nigerians in the xenophobic attacks as baseless and unfounded; adding that the ministry of foreign affairs is yet to record any death.
She said: “The ministry has not received the report of any death of Nigerian in the latest incidents of attacks against foreigners.
The Nigerian High Commission in Pretoria is in constant touch with the Nigerian Union of South Africa, the Department of International Relations and Cooperation (DIRCO) of South Africa, as well as the South African police.
All these agencies have confirmed that no Nigerian life was lost in the recent xenophobic violence.”
Local media outlet Dailypost.ng also reported that the Nigerian government disclosed to reporters that talks are ongoing with South Africa on how to protect Nigerian citizens.
Meanwhile, the South Africa High Commissioner to Nigeria Lulu Aaron-Mnguni said on Thursday that his ministry is working assiduously towards addressing the xenophobic violence.
Aaron-Mnguni said: “The Minister of Foreign Affairs of South Africa will hold a briefing with the diplomatic community on Friday to fashion out more ways to solve the problem.”
Similarly, minister Khadija Abba-Ibrahim called on the South African government to end the incessant anti-immigrant violence on Nigerians.
The Nigerian News Agency recently reported that Nigerian buildings, properties and places of worship worth millions of dollars were destroyed by South Africans on February 5 and 18.
On Tuesday, over 20 shops were looted in Atteridgeville, outside Pretoria, while residents in Rosettenville, south of Johannesburg, attacked at least 12 houses.
A protest against foreign nationals in the country is due to be held in Pretoria on Friday, raising fears of violence in the city center.
In the Nigerian capital Abuja, about 100 demonstrators gathered outside the offices of two South African companies — telecoms giant MTN and satellite TV provider DSTV — on Wednesday to protest against the violence.
The protest was organized by members of the National Youth Council of Nigeria, according to reports. The picketers were spotted carrying placards reading “South Africa we say stop killing our people”.
One of the picketers reportedly explained why they organized the peaceful march: “We are doing this because of the killings taking place in South Africa, we want to express our displeasure over that and urge them to take measures to address the situation.
“We presented a petition in which we want them to call their people to order. We have foreigners here and it will not be good if there are reprisal attacks that will not make the world a peaceful place to live.”
Meanwhile, the UN’s International Organization for Migration (IOM) has expressed very deep concern about the march on Friday.
The organization said: “We condemn the attacks, looting and burning of property owned by foreign nationals and call on citizens to refrain from… taking the law into their own hands.
There is no evidence that foreign nationals are responsible for the rise in crime and unemployment.”
Back home, the Right2Know civil action group and other campaigns have called for the march to be canceled.
The anti-immigrant violence flared in some parts of the country against a background of near-record unemployment, with foreigners being accused of taking jobs from citizens and getting involved in crimes like prostitution, drug trafficking and so forth.
Many human activists have cited comments made by Johannesburg’s mayor Herman Mashaba in December, as the cause of the rising tide of the xenophobic violence. Mashaba had equated immigrants living in the country to ‘criminals’.
Despite South Africa being beset by racial inequality and high unemployment, the country has long been a magnet for migrants from around Africa, and beyond, because of its progressive laws, porous borders, and advanced economy.
During the 2015 xenophobic violence that erupted in Durban and Johannesburg, at least seven people died while thousands were prompted to flee. Another outbreak of violence in 2008 left at least 67 people dead.