John Ameh and Ife Ogunfuwa
The House of Representatives is seeking the enactment of stringent hate crime laws by South Africa to stop the ongoing xenophobic attacks on foreigners, particularly Nigerians living in South Africa.
This would be one of the key demands of its six-member team, which would visit South Africa to engage the South African parliament on the attacks.
It would also demand compensation for the victims of the attacks, who reportedly lost property valued at over N84m.
The delegation, which is led by the Majority Leader of the House, Mr. Femi Gbajabiamila, is scheduled to travel to South Africa on March 13.
Speaking in Abuja on Tuesday, Gbajabiamila said this was the first time the Nigerian legislature would strongly get involved in the attacks on Nigerians in South Africa – to send the message that the parliament truly felt the pains of its people.
He added that this was important also for the two parliaments to understand that xenophobia or racism would be a costly venture for Nigeria and South Africa, should the former decide to retaliate.
“We are looking at genuine engagement by these two parliaments of the leading countries in South Africa.
“We will talk with our colleagues over there and really pass the message to them,” Gbajabiamila stated.
The Majority Leader gave details of what to expect, “We are hopeful that our engagement with the South African parliament and authorities will provide lasting solutions.
“We will attempt to meet with the South African parliament to discuss the possibility of both our countries enacting hate crime laws. This would cover crimes committed based on nationality.
“We intend to engage the South African parliament and other authorities on areas of mutual benefits and how much both countries could lose from xenophobia and possible retaliatory actions or severing of diplomatic ties.
“This delegation will seek to strengthen the Nigerian /South African Bilateral Commission, which only exists on paper for now.
“We hope to meet with Nigerians who reside in South Africa and assure them of government’s intervention.
“We will advance and hopefully get a commitment on the need for the payment of compensation for the victims of this last attack.”
On the reported deaths of Nigerians in the renewed attacks, Gbajabiamila clarified that no Nigerians had died.
However, he admitted that there were injuries and attacks on business premises owned by Nigerians, resulting in the loss of valuables.
“We have not received a report on anybody who has been killed in these recent attacks.
“Attacks on businesses, yes, and that is why, as a legislature, we have said this form of behaviour cannot continue. We must not wait until lives are lost before we begin this intervention.
“People have talked about retaliation or even recalling our ambassador to South Africa.
“These are easier options, but in diplomatic engagements, retaliation is not the first option,” Gbajabiamila said.
Over 100 Nigerians have been reportedly killed in South Africa in the last two years.
Most of the deaths resulted from violence against Nigerians by fellow black South Africans in neighbourhoods and city centres.
There were instances where the police clobbered defenceless Nigerians to death on suspicion of being involved in criminality.
In the past few days, xenophobic attacks have also focused on business premises and properties owned by Nigerians living in South Africa.
Meanwhile, the Nigerian-South Africa Chamber of Commerce has condemned the attack on Nigerians in the recent xenophobic attacks in South Africa. (Punchng.com)