How to end killings in South Africa- Amb Keshi, Owoeye - The No.1 Infotainment blog


The No.1 Infotainment blog

The No.1 Infotainment blog

Sunday, 17 September 2017

How to end killings in South Africa- Amb Keshi, Owoeye

The continued decimation of the Nigerian population in South Africa, for whatever reasons through extra-judicial means in the past few years has become a serious issue in diplomatic and economic relations between both countries.
South Africa High Commissioner, Mr. Lulu Louis Mnguni early in the year said a total of 116 Nigerians have been killed in South Africa through extrajudicial means in the last two years. The latest additions have brought the figure to 118.
Since the beginning of the xenophobic attacks which were based on the inciting statement by the Zulu King, scores of shops have also been looted and several people killed. The latest victims are Uchenna Eloh, 39, from Ezeagu Local Government of Enugu State and Kingsley Ikeri, 27, an indigene of Mbaitoli in Imo State.
Adetola Olubajo, the General Secretary of the Nigerian Union in South Africa, said Uchenna Eloh was strangled to death by South African policemen on August 25 in the Western Cape Province while Kinsley Ikeri was killed at Vryheid Town in Kwazulu Natal Province of South Africa on August 30.
The union said that at about 11.00 a.m. South African time penultimate Wednesday, a Nigerian, Eloh, popularly known as ‘Monkey,’ was killed by South African police officers. “He was walking out of his house toward the bus station when a police van stopped to search him, suspecting that he might be in possession of illegal substance.
“Three policemen accosted Eloh, one of them, by name Williams, held him on the neck, suspecting that he swallowed a substance, while another police officer held him by the legs,” he said. The union official alleged that the policemen dragged Eloh on the ground until he started foaming and suffocated to death.
“This is not the first time such senseless killing of innocent Nigerians has been carried out by South African police officers. We have reported similar killings to the South African Government and Nigerian High Commission in South Africa, but nothing has been done to bring the culprits to book. We want the Nigerian Government to intervene to stop this brutality against innocent Nigerians and stop killing Nigerians out of hatred, racism or xenophobia,” the union said
A senior diplomat from the Nigerian Consulate in Johannesburg was said to have visited Vryheid on a fact-finding mission.
But condemnable as the attacks are, it has been said to a large extent, the crop of people who are attacked are people who get involved in some criminal activities, says Professor Theophilus Bamigbose, President of Nigerians in Diaspora, South Africa Branch. The crimes include prostitution and drug trafficking.
As if confirming that, Nigeria’s Interior Minister, Abdulrahman Dambazau, and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Geoffrey Onyeama, on the visit of Nigerian delegation to South Africa, said 400 Nigerians were serving jail terms for various offences in South Africa.
Dambazau and Onyeama, however, said these category of Nigerians involved in some criminal activities are “in the minority because equally we have Nigerian professionals who are contributing positively to development of the economy of South Africa.”
They said, however, that was not to say that Nigeria should fold her arms and not to do something. “We emphasise that due processes of the law should be taken in terms of the assumption of innocence, being proven guilty and in terms of fair hearing. I understand that there are about 400 Nigerians who are in their prisons for various offences.”
Stemming the tide
Regrettably, it seems both countries have been nibbling at the matter, an indication that their position on citizen’s diplomacy has not been very clear. “We have made suggestions on what can be done, but it is now clear to us that the endless talks cannot yield any positive result. We had to engage lawyers to take up the case against South African Police Service. But this kind of legal service should form part of consular services to provide legal services to victimised Nigerians,” Nigerian Union in South Africa said.
Speaking on the issues, a former Ambassador Joe Keshi, former Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said: “It is unfortunate these killings are increasing and it is high time Nigeria sat up to address the problem critically in an efforts to understand what is going on and address them.”
He said this was necessary because “there are Nigerian professionals in South Africa, and many Nigerians in corporate South Africa; in the South African university system, in the healthcare sector and many more that are not in any way victims of these killings.”
Keshi said those who are often affected are those you can be said to live on and out of the street and that now means that we need to find out why this is so, for many reason. He said there are South Africans who felt that some of these Nigerians have prospered by doing “less of legitimate business, opening shops, some being shop attendants, doing the other things but legitimate, and that may have affected
“When you look at what have happened in other parts of the continent, each time there is economic crunch in any country at all, the citizens of such countries begin to look at foreigners that have taken over their jobs, thereby making them victims of xenophobia,” he said.
Taking a historical look at that, he said: “Nigeria had a similar situation in the 80s when we had to expel many Africans. Inside America today, you have these peckers almost 900,000 people, who were brought into the country at tender age, but they have gone to very good schools and are now employed. But today there are people in America who feel that they are illegal immigrants and have taken over jobs that belong to Americans.
“So we have these problems translating into violence, especially when the people become frustrated with their government’s failure to provide for them. If the economy is not doing well, the first people that come under attack for government’s own failure are foreigners who are doing well in your country,” he explained.
“The second part of those who are on the streets are Nigerians who are said to be dealing in drugs, “Keshi, who was Nigeria’s Consul-General in the United States, said. “After the Ozubulu church massacre, there were allegations that it was actually a backlash of the drug war that had been going on among Nigerians from the South-East who live in South Africa in which a number of Nigerians have been killed.
“I’m surprised that up till now, we have not heard anything about the investigations, because, Nigerian government and police have the opportunity to liaise with Interpol and South Africa’s Drug Enforcement Agency to handle that. Nigerians are killing themselves in South Africa over drug business and have taken the battle home to Nigeria.
“So, it is in interest of the Nigerian government, especially the police, to begin to work with the South Africa to being to look at the drug connection, because if care is not taken, those guys trafficking in drug there can take it home into the country, where they can make a lot of money. That will worsen our case because already we have a lot of security issues in our hands,” he warned.
On the immediate consequence of the issues, Keshi said: “Right now, when you hold a Nigerian passport and you arrive in South Africa, they look at you with distrust. You are either seen as a fraudster or a drug dealer. Whether you are doing well on your own or not, you are smeared in the same brush. So before the problem gets out of hands, they have to be handled properly.
“There are two sides to the issue, the criminality which should be handled with the South African police, and the anger provoked by the economic downturn in South Africa. Now that it has degenerated into the level of suffocating and strangling people, the governments of both countries must find a way to address the issues. There is no way we can address the issues without working with the South African authorities,” he said.
On his part, Pro-Chancellor of Lead City University, Prof Jide Owoeye, said the provincial police who have been committing the killings were not under the control of the central government which handles foreign relations, because of the unitary system of government being practised there. Nonetheless, he said both governments should pay adequate attention to the problem.
Owoeye, who is a professor of Political Science and International Relations, added, however, that the police must have resorted to the extra-judicial killing because the country’s laws have no place for capital punishment for drug trafficking, unlike Thailand, Saudi Arabia and Malaysia, where people are killed for drug trafficking.
However, he said, the attacks are not general because thousands of Nigerians are in some universities and other professions who are not affected by the killings. “I know one of the universities in South Africa whose faculties are dominated by Nigerians. In fact, two of my former students, who are now professors, are Heads of Departments there. In one of the departments, scores of the lecturers are from Nigeria and they are not affected by the killings.”
The Senior Special Assistant to the President on Foreign Affairs and Diaspora, Abike Dabiri-Erewa, who had made a number of visits to South Africa over the issues, said these extrajudicial executions by governmental authorities without the sanction of any judicial proceeding or legal process are most worrisome and condemnable.
“The barbaric behavior of the perpetrators is not only unacceptable, but also calls for urgent attention by diplomatic authorities in Nigeria and South Africa,” she said, reiterating President Muhammadu Buhari’s calls to Nigerians to avoid crimes like drug peddling which attracts stiff penalties, sometimes death. She noted that the latest killing had increased the number of Nigerians killed in South Africa through extrajudicial means in the last one year.

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