By Chijioke Okoronkwo
In South Africa, the rate at which Nigerians are gruesomely killed and their property destroyed has reached an alarming crescendo.
These dastardly killings have been going on unabated for some years; it is now done with so much impunity, relish and braggado.
Available statistics show that more than 117 Nigerians have been killed while property worth millions of dollars had been damaged in South Africa since February, 2016.
The latest being the burning to death of Clement Nwaogu, a Nigerian in Rustenburg, South Africa, after his vehicle was set ablaze.
Nwaogu’s death came in quick succession to the killing of another Nigerian, ThankGod Okoro.
According to Wikipedia, Nigeria’s relationship with South Africa dates back to the apartheid era.
Nigeria was one of the foremost supporters of anti-apartheid movements, including the African National Congress; the Nigerian government issued more than 300 passports to South Africans seeking to travel abroad.
Sonny Okosun, a Nigerian musician, wrote the hit song “Fire in Soweto” in 1977 to commemorate the 1976 Soweto uprising against apartheid in South Africa.
For the benefit of hindsight, Nigeria provided 5 million pounds to the ANC and the Pan Africanist Congress (PAC) annually according to information available online.
In 1976, Nigeria set up the Southern Africa Relief Fund (SAFR) for the purpose of bringing relief materials to the victims of the apartheid and the military administration of General Obasanjo contributed 3.7 million dollars to the fund and Obasanjo personally donated 3,000 pounds to the fund.
More so, all Nigeria’s civil servants and public officers made a two per cent donation from their monthly salary to the SAFR.
It is on record also that Nigerian students skipped their lunch to make donations, which rose to 10.5 million dollars by June 1977.
Records also have it that between 1973 and 1978, Nigeria contributed 39,040 dollars to the UN Educational and Training Programme for South Africa.
Sadly also, it is worthy of recall that, Nigeria boycotted the 1976 Olympics and Commonwealth games in 1979 as part of its protest against apartheid in South Africa
Still counting, from 1960 to 1995, Nigeria spent over 61 billion dollars to support the end of apartheid, more than any other country in the world.
Nigeria refused to sell oil to South Africa in protest against the white minority rule.
Approximately, it is on record that Nigeria lost 41 billion dollars it ought to have made from oil sales.
Sequel to the end of apartheid in 1994, Nigerians alongside people from other parts of Africa immigrated to South Africa to assuage the labour demands.
Within years, Nigerians became enterprising in their various pursuits in South Africa amidst allegations of crime, drug business among others–this has led to envy and loss of goodwill form their hosts and its resultant killings.
From the foregoing, every well-meaning Nigerian may be forced to ask `even you South Africa? –et tu, South Africa?’
It surely beats ones’ imagination that a country that Nigeria contributed immense human and material resources to redeem now seems to be the most dangerous place to be a Nigerian.
Consistently, the Nigerian Union, South Africa (NUSA) has cried out to the relevant South African authorities to take a decisive action with a view to stopping the killings all to no avail.
The President of NUSA, Mr Adetola Olubajo, said the union was saddened by the reoccurring mayhem.
Olubajo urged Nigerian and South African Governments should protect the lives of Nigerians in that country.
“The union is not happy with the killings and we appeal to the Federal Government and South African Government to protect Nigerians here (South Africa).
“Something urgent must be done to stop this ugly trend,” he said.
Mrs Abike Dabiri – Erewa, the Senior Special Assistant to President Muhammadu Buhari on Diaspora Affairs, on her part, asked South African authorities to find a solution to the rampant murder of Nigerians in the country.
The presidential aide also asked Nigerians residing abroad to shun any criminal activities and be obedient to laws of their host countries.
Dabiri also stated that 14 Nigerians who were arrested for protesting the killing of a Nigerian were still being held in a South Africa prison.
“Just a few days ago, on April 17, the case came up in court. There was so much tension that even the Nigerian lawyers representing the Nigerians had to be escorted to court by Diplomatic police.
“The community has vowed to deal with anyone who plays a positive role in getting the accused Nigerians return to Rustenberg,”
“Four South African policemen are currently in court for allegedly killing and maltreating Nigerians with embassy officials constantly present in court for the hearings. This is the first time this will be happening,’’ she said.
On a similar sentiment, Nigerians in Diaspora Organisation (NIDO) worldwide has warned against further killings of Nigerians in the Republic of South Africa saying “these killings must stop and with immediate effect”.
The Nigerian diaspora interest organisation reminded South Africa of the sacrifices made by Nigeria to free the country from Apartheid, adding it is following with deep shock and concern, the continued unwarranted killings of Nigerians in the country
“NIDO is calling for the immediate cessation of such reckless attacks which are contrary to the constitutional principles of the Republic of South Africa, the African Union and the United Nations for the preservation of African freedom and unity.
“In pursuit of the African Union’s 2028 target for a fully integrated Africa, we hereby recommend an acceleration of the integration agenda towards eliminating xenophobic incidence like is presently happening in South Africa.”
NIDO called on South Africans to substitute violence with dialogue so as to facilitate peaceful co-existence and better integration.
The traditional institution is also lending its voice to the situation in South Africa as the Benin Monarch, Oba Ewuare II, has appealed to South African Government to take measures to end hostility against Nigerians.
“Nigerians should be allowed to reap what they sowed in other African countries.’’
He said that Nigeria contributed a lot in the struggle to free South Africa from Apartheid.
“We appeal to South African Government to do its best to stamp out hostility toward Nigerians as the country played a great role in the fight against apartheid, so that Nigerians can live in peace in their country.
“This will enable Nigerians to reap what they sowed in other African countries.’’
Nonetheless, a social commentator, Mrs Obum Okoye, said that bad leadership over the years had exposed Nigerians to maltreatment and ridicule across the world.
He said that it was regrettable that Nigerians escape poor economy and bad leadership to foreign lands; and most times, they engaged in various forms of crimes.
“Until, we have leaders who will promote the dignity of Nigerians and restore it to its rightful place in the comity of nations, these insults and maltreatment will continue.
“For instance, the whole world read the news of how herders kill Nigerians every day, how security agents kill unarmed citizens and other forms of human rights abuses; how then so we think other countries will value the lives of Nigerians?,’’ she queried.
Meanwhile, the South African Ambassador to Nigeria, Lulu Mngulu, said he preferred a diplomatic resolution of all the contending issues and forestall reoccurrences.
Speaking recently as a guest Arise TV Network, Mngulu said the South African police must arise to their responsibility and by protecting foreigners, arresting criminals and giving information on those attacked.
“As a country, our constitution is a democratic constitution and people have the right to air their views.
“But, for the sake of peace and for the sake of security, I will not support the xenophobic attacks.’’
Be it as it may, many Nigerians say that any Nigerian that commits a crime in South Africa should be prosecuted according to the laws instead of resorting to jungle justice.
They warn, however that the continuation of these attacks could trigger an agitation for the evocation of the principle of reciprocity.