It's been a long time coming and the embers of war seem to be sounding louder as two countries who have always competed for relevance, rather than unite to foster Africa's renaissance are at it again. This time around, it's the Nigerian students having a dig by closing down businesses owned by the rainbow nation.
Students under the umbrella body of the National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS) on Saturday shut down South Africa’s grocery chain, Shoprite at Ota in Ogun State, Southwest Nigeria. Diplomatic relations between the two countries has been tense in recent times and renewed xenophobic attacks on Nigerians have continued to create more tensions.
The students picketed the shopping mall to protest what they described as unrestrained xenophobic attacks on Nigerians in South Africa.
Scores of young Nigerians residing in South Africa have been brought home in body bags in recent years, having been killed in apparent xenophobic attacks in the former apartheid nation.
The Shoprite mall was shut down around 11:10 a.m. in the presence of police officers with shoppers hurriedly ordered out of the mall.
The students carried placards with inscriptions: “South Africans must go. Enough of the killing of our brothers, sisters and relatives in South Africa. You can’t continue to kill our people and still feed fat on us.’’
Speaking with reporters, the national public relations officer of NANS, Azeez Adeyemi, said that “NANS’ leadership under its president, Danielson Bamidele, have resolved to champion the struggle of putting sense back into lawless South Africans."
The senior special assistant to President Muhammadu Buhari on diaspora matters, Mrs Abike Dabiri-Erewa had issued warnings and had called on the government of South Africa to protect Nigerians. Despite her threats, which is evidently lacking in pragmatic actions especially from the federal government of Nigeria, the students hope closing all major South African business concerns can be a wake up call for both government to take decisive actions.
If both countries do not take proactive steps, there could be more casualties on both ends. The economic cost of course, will be devastating. MTN Plc, ShopRite and Multichoice are three most notable South African businesses in Nigeria. Their contributions to Nigeria's economy cannot be overlooked, with a collective total annual profit of $45b. South African government gets back huge monies from these companies as well.
If the call by these students that South Africans go back home should persist, how many more Nigerians are going to return back home in case of reciprocal actions? There are currently over 1.5 million Nigerians in South Africa. The need for justice must be the first step to set things in order. Perpetrators of xenophobic attacks must be brought to books and this must be demanded and executed without delay.
Header Image Credit: ShopRite