WITH over 800,000 Nigerians legally living in South Africa, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Onyeama, says Nigeria would not severe its diplomatic ties with the country as a result of the recent xenophobic attacks against Nigerians in the country.
Nigeria pulled out of the World Economic Forum (WEF) holding in South Africa and recalled its Ambassador to the country as protest against the xenophobic attacks by South Africans against its citizens.
But Onyeama noted that attempting to call off diplomatic ties with the former apartheid country would affect the Nigerians and their huge investments in the country.
The Minister stated this in Abuja on Friday when he appeared before the Senate Committee on Diaspora at the National Assembly.
He said there were various options to consider, beyond severing diplomatic ties, noting the meeting with the Senate Committee reviewed the situation with regards to South Africa and looked at all the possible options as well as 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 said.
The minister noted that the special envoy would return on Saturday, giving the government the basis for further action.
He maintained that the government, in the meantime, is very much on top of the situation.
Onyeama also hinted that no Nigerian life was lost, but he added the government was concerned that there were plans to ensure adequate compensation for properties damaged.
“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,” he said.
Recalled that domestic carrier Air Peace said it was willing to evacuate Nigerians to complement efforts of the Federal Government to check the death of Nigerians residing in South Africa.
Oluwatoyin Olajide, the Airline’s Chief Operating Officer, said it was a decision taken to facilitate the rescue of stranded Nigerians in South Africa.
In a letter addressed to Onyeama, on Wednesday, Olajide said, “We cannot fold our hands and watch our fellow Nigerians being killed by South Africans”.
“To this end, Air Peace is willing to support the Nigerian government‘s effort in this matter by deploying our B777 aircraft immediately to South Africa to evacuate Nigerians back home,” she said.
Earlier on Friday, the Speaker, House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila said the House would authorise the legal funding for Nigerian victims of recent xenophobic attacks in South Africa.
The speaker, during a press briefing, revealed that the House aligned with President Muhammadu Buhari on his decisions concerning the matter.
He called on Nigerians to avoid attacking South African businesses in Nigeria while demanding that the South African government conduct a detailed investigation and make their findings public.