The Minister of Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Onyeama, on Wednesday, confirmed Nigeria’s boycott of the World Economic Forum (WEF) scheduled for South Africa.
According to him, President Muhammadu Buhari agreed with Vice President Yemi Osinbajo not to go to South Africa under the climate of xenophobic attacks.
He briefed State House correspondents on Wednesday, stressing that red line has been drawn against South Africa.
On the alleged recall of Nigerian ambassador to South Africa, he said that it is one of the options the government is considering and that final decision will be taken after the report of the special envoy sent to South Africa is received and considered.
The Minister also said that the Nigerian government is insisting on full compensation for Nigerian victims of the xenophobic attacks.
He said “We have made it clear that what has happened in South Africa is totally unacceptable. We will not accept it and as I said earlier, enough is enough and we are not going to come back to this, we are going to address it once and for all.
“So this is the position of government that we are going to draw a redline here. Whatever measures needs to be taken to ensure the safety of Nigerians in South Africa, we will take.
“We have been in touch with the South African government at the very highest level with the President of South Africa as to what we want to achieve. The special envoy has very clear directives about the commitment and the guarantees that we expect from the South African government.
“Of course a lot of things have been circulating in social media which have not helped matters. Some of them have really distorted the situation and because of that have impacted our response.
“So, number one is that the information we have from the High Commission, from the Consul General in South Africa is that no Nigerian life has been lost during this crisis. And I think that is very important because on social media, there is a lot of stories going around of Nigerians being killed, jumping off buildings and being burnt. This is not the case. What we know is that premises, shops of Nigerians have been looted and property destroyed.”
On the boycott, he said “The Vice President as you know was scheduled to go to South Africa tomorrow to attend the World Economic Forum, clearly with this climate, he and Mr. President have agreed that he should not go to the World Economic Forum in Cape town and we are looking at other measures to take.”
He also pointed out that the President was particularly distraught at the act of vandalism that has taken place here in Nigeria, in retaliation of what is happening in South Africa.
The government, he said, believed that Nigerians have to take the moral high ground on the matter.
“We are victims here and have made that position clear to the international community and to the South African government. We here in Nigeria must not fall into the temptation of also resorting to the acts that we are condemning in others.”
Stressing that the President has pleaded with Nigerians, he said that President Buhari is likely to make a statement on this.
“Addressing the Nigerian people to please desist from acts of vandalism and aggression, destroying properties.
“Now, these businesses- Shoprite, MTN and others, yes they are South African but these are subsidiaries in Nigeria owned by Nigerians. So, as attacks are made against shoprite and other such institutions, it is actually the property owned by Nigerians within Nigeria and the people working there are Nigerians.
“So the people that will suffer from those acts of vandalism and aggression are not South Africans or anyone else but Nigerians. But morally, it is wrong not even because of who will suffer and not suffer.
“Mr. President is appealing to Nigerians, the government is acting, we cannot state everything in public domain with regards to what we are doing obviously, but we want to assure all Nigerians that this government is determined that the redline has been drawn and we will not give in on this occasion and that the South African government has to assumed its responsibilities and do the right thing, protect Nigerians and other Africans. I might say in South Africa and we have to hold them to count.”
On compensation, the Minister said “Full compensation has to be paid because as we have discovered from previous experience, a lot of these Nigerians lose their property and it is a long drawn out process and every often are not compensated for it.
“But on this occasion, the Nigerian government is going to fight for full compensation and hold the government of South Africa to count. And we are going to consider other options to ensure that the message gets across to the government of South Africa.
It is not a question of weakness or anything of the sort but we have to move decisively and that is precisely what the government is going to do.
“We have all the options on the table and on the return of the special envoy, we will all sit down and look at all the options and assess the report.