Nigerians living in South Africa aggrieved after being excluded from a meeting with their president which was supposed to talk compensation
President Muhammadu Buhari’s state visit to South Africa has left Nigerians living in the country with a bitter taste in their mouths, after the statesman’s decision not to demand reparations for victims of the recent xenophobic attacks.
Buhari’s three-day visit included bi-national talks between the South African and Nigerian governments and, on Friday, a meeting with Nigerian citizens.
In a “family” meeting held at the Sheraton Hotel in Pretoria on Friday, it was expected that he would address how the Nigerians would be compensated for their losses during the attacks, but this did not happen.
The chief whip of the All Progressive Congress SA (APC SA), Babatunde Agbeniga, represented a group which believed that this was the only way the matter could be solved.
Buhari is a member of the APC party.
“The violence and all that has been taking place over the past few weeks... nobody should be happy about that, lives have been lost in the process, some properties have been lost in the process, livelihoods have been lost in the process,” Agbeniga said.
The South African government should be able to compensate anyone who has lost something because that is not their fault
Babatunde Agbeniga, chief whip of the All Progressive Congress SA
“The South African government should be able to compensate anyone who has lost something because that is not their fault.
“We are going to take it up officially, that is part of what we are agitating for as APC SA at the moment because no one can just loot your things … ”
A statement released by the Nigerian presidency’s press office revealed that in the meeting, Buhari decided to focus on other issues relating to the violent attacks rather than on the demand for compensation.
During the meeting attended by students, traders, medical doctors, clerics and academics Buhari expressed shock at the outbreak of the violence and called it an “embarrassment to the continent”.
“Let me again use this medium to condole with the families of all those who lost their lives over the years in such tragic incidents. May their souls rest in peace.
“As a government, we are quite disturbed by these very unfortunate events and have taken actions and measures to address this issue and prevent their recurrence with the South African government,’’ Buhari said.
He again urged Nigerians to respect South African laws, to represent the country well and never to forget their roots.
Buhari also called for “the few that sometimes give us a bad name, to desist from such misdemeanours and be good ambassadors”.
“First, you are our ambassadors and the face of our country to the world wherever you are. The world is therefore, watching you and would make judgements on Nigeria based on your comportment and actions.
“Second, in whatever legitimate engagement you find yourself, you must strive to excel and be the best,” the president said.
“Third, while you are out in the Diaspora, do not forget home. You represent some of the best human assets that Nigeria has. With your education and exposure to the world, you are at the cutting edge of technology,” the statement said.
Gauteng was hit by a spate of xenophobic violence last month with areas around Johannesburg and Pretoria being the most affected.
The conflict also spread to Nigeria, where citizens targeted South African businesses in retaliation.
READ: Buhari and Ramaphosa vow to end xenophobic violence for good
At least 12 people were killed and hundreds of migrant Nigerians were repatriated to their country.
On Friday, what was frustrating for Nigerians was that members of the APC SA were excluded from the talks.
While discussions continued inside the hotel in Pretoria, Agbeniga and his colleagues waited outside.
“It’s appalling because we were all notified that there was a community meeting with the president this morning. We had to leave our workplaces to come here, so that we can voice our grievances to our president,” Agbeniga said.
However, the organisation would not be deterred by the exclusion as they would be taking further steps regarding the matter, he said.
The APC SA said it had a list with hundreds of names of Nigerians who should be compensated.
Accordingly, they are expecting the Nigerian embassy to take the matter up with the South African government.
“There are protocols, there are ways to handle things. The party is going to handle things officially. People have already handed in their names and the things they have lost in the process.
“So we expect South Africa to follow up on that,” said Agbeniga.
He distanced himself and the APC SA from the group of disgruntled Nigerians who protested outside the Union Buildings on Thursday.
The police fired tear gas to disperse the group and one person was arrested.
“We are not aware of it [the incident]. We do not know the grievances of those people,” said Agbeniga. He believed the protest was used by the Nigerian embassy to sideline them.
“What we were told initially – we are the representatives of the ruling party in South Africa – this is APC SA, so we should be given priority. I am not happy personally and my people are not happy.
“A lot of people are living in fear in South Africa because no one knows what is going to happen next,” he said.
The APC SA chief whip sent a stern message to the Nigerian president: “I want him [Buhari] to listen to the voice of the people.
“People are not happy about the situation in Nigeria, people are not happy about the situation here [in South Africa].”