The good neighbourliness that exists between public representatives from Nigeria and South Africa needs to trickle down to communities to ease hostility on the ground, according to visiting Nigerian House of Representatives leader Femi Gbajabiamila.
“There are no problems in terms of relationships among people at the top of the ladder. This good cordial relationship needs to trickle down to those people we represent,” he said at a joint media briefing at Parliament with deputy speaker of the National Assembly, Lechesa Tsenoli.
The briefing followed joint talks between delegations from the two legislatures following the recent outbreak of xenophobic-related violence in parts of Gauteng, which led to a number of homes being set alight.
Gbajabiamila warned that the systematic attacks on foreign nationals had led to anger and calls for retaliation, but what was required was a diplomatic response.
The two delegations agreed that the two legislatures would develop “parliamentary diplomacy” as elected representatives and to meet more frequently.
“What we have done today is a step in the right direction to heal the wounds that seem to persist in an otherwise healthy relationship between the two countries, which represent the two strongest economies in Africa,” said Gbajabiamila.
“We spoke some home truths. Both recognised the responsibility of disseminating information to our people to boost understanding of each other,” he said adding that this was the first time the two parliaments had engaged directly on the issue
The Nigerians had gained an understanding that the attacks were not country-specific. “They may be foreign-national specific, not country-specific. We need to educate our people about that,” said Gbajabiamila.
Tsenoli said there was an acknowledgement that relations needed to be nurtured to build good neighbourliness on the ground.
On Monday this week, the foreign ministers of Nigeria and South Africa agreed to set up an “early warning” monitor system to track and deter attacks against Nigerian nationals, according to News24. The new violence-busting forum will meet every three months and will be made up of representatives from both countries and include immigration officials, business associations and civil society groups.