National Association of Nigerian Students(NANS) and other group of furious youths demonstrated yesterday in Abuja against attacks on Nigerians in South Africa.
As reported by the nation,their protest raised the tension between the two countries over xenophobic attacks on Nigerians.
Many Nigerians have lost properties and others have been killed in the past.
The protesters stormed the office of mobile giant MTN.
MTN is the biggest South African company in Nigeria. They stole customers’ phones, vandalised equipment and attacked customers, a spokesman for MTN said.
Security officers cordoned off the building’s entrance.
“They forcibly entered the MTN office. Security men were around but unable to curtail the protesters, who forced the gates open and entered the office,” a witness said.
“Some protesters were touts. Some were students. In their midst were some criminals that took away some customers’ phones and other things,” he added, asking not to be named.
A South African government source described the attack as serious. “This wasn’t just some people on the street throwing stones. They broke into the building and stole things and broke things,” the source said.
The incident coincided with a visit by MTN chairman Phuthuma Nhleko to Abuja to see acting President Yemi Osinbajo.
This week, at least 20 shops believed to belong to immigrants were looted in South Africa’s capital. Police refused to say if the attackers were specifically targeting foreigners.
“Currently, in 2017, there are renewed incidents of violence against foreign national in Rosettenville and Pretoria West,” Gigaba told a media briefing.
“Unfortunately, xenophobic violence is not new in South Africa,” he said, recounting similar incidents in the past.
The minister said some residents in Pretoria have planned a march on Friday against immigrants, citing competition for jobs and allegations of criminal activity, such as prostitution and drug dealing in the poor township west of Pretoria.
The South African government is also driving against illegal foreign workers.
South African officials will inspect workplaces to see if firms are employing undocumented foreigners, the home affairs minister says.
A official, Malusi Gigaba, said more than 60 employees of retail chain Spar “without documentation” had been arrested.
Mr Gigaba warned that firms would be “penalised” if they breached the law, and said they should not fuel tensions by “playing locals against foreigners”.
Many unemployed South Africans accuse foreigners of taking their jobs.
South Africa’s foreign affairs department dismissed claims that Nigerian nationals were targets of xenophobic violence.
Spokesperson Clayson Monyela said the attacks were nothing more than sporadic criminal incidents. The government also said inflammatory social media statements by South Africans and foreign nationals against each other were unnecessary.
In his budget speech on Wednesday, South African Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan said that 35% of the labour force was unemployed or had given up looking for work.
The National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS) has given 48 hours ultimatum to all South African companies in Nigeria to relocate over the xenophobic attacks on Nigerians in South Africa.
The students gave the ultimatum at a peaceful demonstration at some South African companies in Abuja yesterday.
During the march the students carried a banner, which read: ‘’NANS Against Xenophobic Attacks on Nigerians.’’
While the students marched, security men stood and watched to ensure law and order.
The President of NANS, Mr Kadiri Aruna, said in an interview with News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) at DSTV office, a South African company, in Wuse 2, Abuja, that Nigerian students had resolved to condemn the attacks.
“We are saying that enough is enough as South Africans have openly attacked and bullied Nigerians.’’
Aruna said that the protest would also serve as a warning to other countries trying to underrate Nigerians.
He stressed that the poor treatment being meted out to Nigerians was particularly insulting, given the role Nigeria played in ending the apartheid regime in South Africa.
“Nigeria contributed 80 per cent of the freedom the South Africans are enjoying today because we saved them from the jaws of apartheid.
“Who is South Africa to humiliate Nigeria? So they forget things so soon, let them go back to history and records to see how much financial assistance and what the country did to save them,’’ he said.
The union president said that the situation was inhuman and for this reason all reasonable Nigerians must react.
“In science they say you use malaria to cure malaria, now you use madness to cure their madness, and that is why we are advising them to leave Nigerian soil before 48 hours.’’
He said that the Federal Government should not wait till the dying minute before evacuating Nigerians from South Africa.
Aruna said it was time for government not to only condemn the attacks but take a firm stand by summoning South Africa’s high commissioner and if possible cut diplomatic ties with that country.
“Government should take extra-diplomatic measures in dealing with the latest deadly assaults because if nothing drastic is done it will become a regular occurrence.
“This is the time to place South Africa where it belongs,’’ he said.
He said that the last time the xenophobic attack happened nothing was done, no action was taken and no arrest was made and that was why South Africans repeated the attacks.
Aruna said it was so unfortunate that during the attacks the South African Government refused to take up its responsibility of securing Nigerians and their properties.
“The government of South Africa is criminally quiet and they say silence is consent, and their police are folding their hands while they are killing Nigerians, this is conspiracy, enough is enough,’’ he said.
He said the peaceful rally would continue and spread across the country.