On April 21, Nigerians woke up to hear the horrifying news of the murder of Clement Nwaogu in South Africa. Although Nwaogu was not the first Nigerian who had been killed by the xenophobic South Africans, the manner of his murder had people dashing to catch the vomiting bowl. According to horrified witnesses, Nwaogu was burnt alive by an angry mob. Incidentally, some South African policemen were said to have stood, watching as the mob made preparation and set Nwaogu on fire.
His screams of pains didn’t touch the frenzied crowd, let alone the policemen, who had sworn to protect lives and property as they received their commissions and police badges. The Publicity Secretary of the Nigeria Union in South Africa, Mr Habib Miller, told our correspondent on the phone that Nwaogu, from Anambra State, was attacked and killed by a mob in Rustenburg, North West Province. Miller said that the victim was murdered over his accent and habit, which the killers found offensive.
He added: “The mob descended on him with all sorts of dangerous weapons, as if he was a criminal, in the presence of South African police officers. Eyewitnesses said the victim beckoned for help from the police to intervene and help him, but they didn’t.
When Nwaogu could no longer persevere, he ran and the mob chased and caught him, poured petrol on him and set him ablaze.” Nwaogu was married to a South African and was blessed with two children; aged five and three.
Nwaogu’s murder followed the killing of ThankGod Okoro (30) by the South African Police Flying Squad. Okoro, from Enugu State, was shot dead at Hamburg, Florida West Rand, Johannesburg on April 9.
It appears that no month goes by without one Nigerian getting killed, attacked or tortured. Nigerians in South African were still mourning Nwaogu and Okoro when two more Nigerians were killed this month.
The murder of the two, Francis Ochuba and Chidi Ibebuike, brought the official number of those killed since February 2016 to 118. It is believed that many others had been murdered, which fellow Nigerians do not know about. They are Nigerians in South Africa, who had simply disappeared into thin air.
Till date, nobody knows their whereabouts. Ochuba, a property owner, was shot dead alongside his estate agent, a female South African on May 5. They were killed while visiting the tenant occupying Ochuba’s house to collect rent.
The incident occurred in Central Johannesburg. Ibebuike, on the other hand, was shot at the entrance to his house at Hazyview in Mpumalanga on May 13 and his car taken. In January, perturbed by the escalating cases of Nigerians being attacked and killed, some Nigerians in South Africa staged a peaceful protest.
South African police swooped on them. They have been in detention since then. Most times, when these killings are being carried out, the killers gleefully record them in video and later upload the videos to YouTube. Many reasons had been attributed to the continued murder of Nigerians in South Africa by the natives.
Nigerians have been accused of often being connected to drug trafficking, prostitution and human trafficking rings. Other absurd reasons are that Nigerians are picking the choice jobs, accommodation and women in South Africa.
But whatever the reasons, Nigerians living in South Africa are today calling for the end of the xenophobic attacks and threats. According to them, their wives and children are now living in fear, with their lives being daily threatened.
This was even as they alleged that the Nigerian government was not doing enough to ensure their protection. Miller said that a violent group in Rustenburg had earlier given Nigerians notice to vacate the area or get killed. According to him, since the order was issued, there have been numerous cases of Nigerians being kidnapped with ransom paid to their abductors.
Miller said that the 14 Nigerians in custody protested the murder of a Nigerian by policemen on December 17 after they failed to extort money from the deceased. Miller noted that the police officers had since been released on bail while those who protested the killing were still languishing in detention.
He added: “We’re worried that nothing has been done by the Nigerian government to stop the killings. We once again call on the Nigerian mission in South Africa to do the needful urgently because things are getting out of hand.”
There have been allegations that so many Nigerians are arrested and abandoned in South African prisons. Miller said: “We are not sure of the number of Nigerians incarcerated in South Africa but we have intentions of finding out.” Worried by the increasing killings, he said: “It’s important to note that a violent group in Rustenburg has given Nigerians in the North West Province a quit or be killed without notice. Since January that the threat was issued, there have been numerous cases of Nigerians kidnapped and ransom remitted to abductors before they were liberated.
Mr Desmond, from Niger Delta, whose loved ones couldn’t afford to pay the ransom requested by his abductors, was inhumanely killed. Furthermore, there have been reports of eight cars belonging to Nigerians burnt.
Houses occupied by Nigerians are often ransacked and Nigerians are molested and injured. Looting of Nigerian-owned businesses and a threat to lives of Nigerians are occurring on a daily basis. Nigerians in Rustenburg still live in fear.”
He said that most of the men killed were breadwinners of their families in South Africa and Nigeria. Miller added: “The untold anguish, hardship, pain and disorientation they suffered were unimaginable and it calls for deeper reflections.
“Our government officials, who are supposed to pressurise their South African counterparts on these killings, harassment and looting of Nigerian businesses, claimed it was as a result of the illegalities our nationals are involved in. It’s unfortunate that such stance is taken to probably cover the government’s helplessness. South Africa is not the only country with Nigerian immigrants, but why so many killings?
The Nigerian Union of South Africa does not condone crime in any form, but we ask that whoever a suspect should be charged and dealt with. Our advice to the Nigerian government representatives in South Africa is to channel their energy towards eradicating the major complexities Nigerians face in South Africa, which include untimely termination of lives, harassment and business looting.”
The Senior Special Assistant to the President on Foreign Affairs and Diaspora, Mrs Abike Dabiri-Erewa, said that the Nigerian government was aware of the arrest and incarceration of the 14 Nigerians and was doing something about it. She said: “The residents of that community have threatened that if the Nigerians on trial are released on bail and return to that community, they would burn all the houses linked to Nigerians there.
They accuse Nigerians of being involved in drugs and prostitution. Nigerians were also accused of taking houses that belong to low-income South Africans and using them for crime-related activities.” Dabiri-Erewa explained that during the last hearing of the case of the 14 Nigerians, which took place a few weeks ago, the lawyer representing the suspects had to be escorted by diplomatic police. The trial was witnessed by officials of the Nigerian High Commission and Consulate.
The lawyer was escorted because the residents have also threatened to deal with anyone who made it possible for the suspects to be released on bail. She said: “Recall that in fulfilment of that threat, a Nigerian found in that area was burnt alive, three days after the last court hearing.
“While we appeal to Nigerians to stay away from crime and violence, South Africans’ killing of Nigerians is not the solution. “The embassy and consulate have been in talks with South African authorities on this. Embassy and consulate officials are meeting with local police, local communities and Nigerians in several communities. They are being proactive now to cement relations with the host communities.”
There are several solutions to check rising cases of Nigerians being killed in South Africa. There has to be more sensitisation and awareness between Nigerians and South Africans, in particularly hostile communities. And most importantly, Nigerians must stop committing a crime. A source said: “It was also alleged that the recent killing of three Nigerians, was actually by Nigerians.
They were cult killings. A cult member killed another, and there was retaliation. It was getting messier.”Speaking on ways to curtail killings of Nigerians, Dabiri-Erewa said: “South Africa should make efforts to arrest the criminals who are giving Nigerians a bad name.” (New Telegraph)