A retired Permanent Secretary, Amb. Bulus Lolo, has urged the South African Government to punish perpetrators of xenophobia attacks on foreign citizens in its country and compensate victims accordingly.
Lolo, a former Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, made the call in Abuja.
He described the attacks as unfortunate, saying, “the relations between Nigeria and South Africa ought to be at a level where there is mutual trust between both countries and mutual interaction between the citizens”.
Some Nigerian citizens have reportedly been victims of xenophobia attacks by South Africans who blamed the immigrants for increased joblessness and crimes.
Nigerian buildings, property and places of worship worth millions of dollars were destroyed by South Africans on Feb. 5 and 18.
The former permanent secretary also attributed recurrence of the attacks to the failure of the South African Government to adequately educate its citizens especially on the role countries played during the apartheid.
He said the government needed to address the root causes that led to attacks by its citizens.
Lolo said that Nigeria needed a sustained action to ensure that no more attacks took place and that this had to be derived from what South Africa was doing within and out.
“Within in the sense that the people who are rising against foreigners are venting their frustration against the failure of the government to meet their basic need.
“ So, more is needed in terms of providing the basic needs of the people.
“Coming then to what Nigeria and South Africa owe each other there are far too many instances of attacks taking place; where compensation has been paid or given, it has not been publicised.
“Where people have been punished, it has not been made known.
“My advocacy is that the time has come to make an example of those who take the laws in their hands, those who deliberately cause harm to innocent people,” he said.
Lolo, however, said that he did not see any appropriate organ of the African Union that could deal with the issues better than the structure on ground.
He urged both governments to take advantage of the Bi-National Commission between both countries to make and implement decisions that would effectively address the challenge.
He also urged Nigerians in South Africa and the Diaspora to be law-abiding.
“If a Nigerian goes to South Africa and his only business is to steal, peddle drugs or commit financial and other crimes, then, he is not a good ambassador because that is not what Nigeria is about.
“In such cases, Nigeria will say, treat such criminal in accordance with South African and international law,” he said.
Meanwhile, analysts have noted that after democratisation in 1994 the incidence of xenophobia increased; between 2000 and March 2008, at least 67 people died in what were identified as xenophobic attacks.
It was reported that in May 2008, a series of attacks left 62 people dead; although 21 of those killed were South African citizens, the attacks were apparently motivated by xenophobia.
In 2015, another nationwide spike in xenophobic attacks against immigrants in general prompted a number of foreign governments to begin repatriation of their citizens.