Foreign affairs minister Geoffrey Onyeama on Friday told federal lawmakers in Nigeria that the country was not thinking about breaking diplomatic relations with South Africa because it would not be in the interest of Nigerians living in the former apartheid country.
Concise News reports that Onyeama made this known when he appeared before the Senate Committee on Diaspora in Abuja, Nigeria’s capital.
There has been tension between the two countries over renewed xenophobic attacks on Nigerians and other Africans in South Africa.
Assets belonging to Nigerians in South Africa have been targeted, triggering retaliatory attacks against South Africa-linked businesses in parts of Lagos, Ibadan, and the capital – Abuja.
On Tuesday this week, Onyeama summoned the South African High Commissioner to Nigeria, Bobby Moroe, over the attacks, before President Muhammadu Buhari sent an envoy to the country over the issue.
But the Nigerian government has since cautioned its citizens to stop such attacks.
“We are not thinking to the stage of diplomatic ties called off. There are various options. We are not by any means at a stage where we are breaking diplomatic relations with South Africa,” Onyeama told newsmen on Friday after appearing before the Senate committee.
“We just met with the senate committee to review the situation with regards to South Africa and we looked at all the possible options we analysed the possible causes and agreed on a road map going forward.
“Part of that road map on the executive side Mr. President has dispatched a special envoy to South Africa who would be holding discussion with the South African government at the very highest level.
“He (head of the envoy) should be back tomorrow (Saturday), that will now give the government the basis for further action. In the mean time, the government is very much on top of the situation.”
The minister also dismissed reports that Nigerians have been killed in South Africa.
“We know for a fact that no Nigerian life has been lost so we are extremely concerned now to ensure that there will be adequate compensation for property that have been damaged,” he said.
“We know that a Nigerian Airline is putting a plane at the disposal of most Nigerians that wish to take the opportunity to leave South Africa, this is purely voluntary, but we are particularly determined to particularly make sure that this crisis does not re-occur.
“It has been happening for far too long, it’s becoming almost endemic, so with the distinguished senators, are helping with some of the options that we may have to ensure that this will be the last time we will ever be meeting to talk about Nigerians attacked in South Africa and to take definitive measures.
“To start doing that, we want to have all the facts available and then we will take the necessary measures.”
South African authorities say they are responding promptly to curb the violence. More than 70 persons have been reportedly taken into custody since Monday.
Nigerians have expressed outrage over the attacks, urging President Buhari to take decisive measures against the country.
On Wednesday, Nigeria recalled its Ambassador to South Africa, Kabiru Bala, and Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, who was also scheduled to attend the World Economic Summit in Cape Town, boycotted it.
Meanwhile, the government of Africa’s most populous country cautioned Nigerians against attacking South African companies operating in the country.
Speaking on behalf of the President Muhammadu Buhari administration, Nigeria’s Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, on Tuesday said targeting South African companies in Nigeria for attack was, for Nigerians, a classic case of “cutting off your nose to spite your face.”
South Africa Closes High Commission In Nigeria
South African High Commissioner to Nigeria, Bobby Monroe, on Thursday, ordered the closure of his country’s commission offices and consulate for fear of reprisal attack by Nigerian youths.
Concise News had reported that South Africans had on Sunday begun fresh attacks, looting and burning of businesses and property belonging to foreigners.