Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr Geoffrey Onyeama, has said Nigeria will not sever diplomatic ties with South Africa following the current xenophobic attacks on Nigerians.
Onyeama, who stated this on Friday when he appeared before Senate Committee on Diaspora, said taking such an action would not be in the interest of Nigerians and their investments in South Africa.
He said available statistics from the Nigeria High Commission in Pretoria indicated that over 800,000 Nigerians are legally living in the South African country.
Onyeama, who briefed journalists after a meeting with the Senate panel, led by Mr Bashir Ajibola, said, “We are not thinking of calling off diplomatic ties. There are various options, but we are not by any means at a stage where we are breaking diplomatic relations with South Africa.”
He said the leader of the President’s special envoy to South Africa should be back on Saturday (today), noting that the feedback would give the government the basis for further action.
He added, “We know for a fact that no Nigerian life has been lost, so we are extremely concerned with how to ensure that there will be adequate compensation for properties that have been damaged.
“Nigerian Government will be demanding that the victims be compensated and this is a very important issue because South African Government has been reported to say that nothing provides for them to legally provide compensation for these people.”
On his part, Ajibola said there was damage to property and there were ongoing efforts to assess the extent of damage with a view to making a clear demand to South African Government to compensate those whose properties had been damaged.
Your comment fuelling xenophobia, Onyeama tells S’African counterpart
Also on Friday, Nigeria’s Foreign Affairs Minister, Onyeama, said the like of comments made by his counterpart in South Africa, Naledi Pandor, had the tendency of fuelling the xenophobic attacks.
The South African minister had said in an interview with South African TV station, eNCA, that many Nigerians living in South Africa were involved in drug trafficking.
She said, “I would appreciate them (Nigeria) in helping us as well to address the belief our people have and the reality that there are many persons from Nigeria dealing in drugs in our country; a belief that Nigerian nationals are involved in human trafficking and other abusive practices.”
But, reacting via his Twitter handle, Onyeama, who tagged the video, wrote, “It is precisely this kind of outrageous stigmatisation of a people from senior government officials that fuels xenophobia and emboldens criminals.”