The Chairman of Zenith Bank Plc, Jim Ovia,on Thursday, pulled out of the World Economic Forum (WEF) holding in South Africa as part of protest against xenophobic attacks on Nigerians and other foreign nationals in the country.
Both Ovia and Oby Ezekwezili, former Minister of Education and a presidential candidate in the last general elections were attending the Forum which the Nigerian government pulled out of on Wednesday to register its protest in solidarity against xenophobic attacks on its citizens in South Africa.
Their continued participation at the Forum as panelists came under criticisms from Nigerians on social media on Wednesday.
President Muhammadu Buhari’s Personal Assistant on New Media, Bashir Ahmad, had tweeted that Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo was to represent Nigeria at the WEF, but “he had called it off in reaction to these gruesome attacks on Nigerians.
However, the Cable reported that the Zenith Bank Chairman said he was withdrawing from the summit to lend voice to calls for the safeguard of foreigners in South Africa in a statement issued on Thursday.
‘’Following the hypersensitivity of the issues surrounding the lives and well-being of Nigerian citizens living in South Africa and to contribute his voice against the poor state of security regarding foreign nationals living in Africa, the Founder/Chairman of Zenith Bank Plc, Mr. Jim Ovia has withdrawn from further activities at the World Economic Forum Africa 2019, taking place in Cape Town, South Africa,’’ the statement read.
Before his exit from the Forum, Ovia also made a case for youth empowerment and better government policies as a strategy to curb incessant attacks on persons living within and outside Africa, to foster positive change in the continent.
In the growing list of persons that have exited from the summit is Felix Tshisekedi, President of the Democratic Republic of Congo, Paul Kagame, President of Rwanda and their Malawian counterpart, Peter Mutharika, had also pulled out of the event arising from the acts of violence against foreigners in South Africa.
Though, the World Economic Forum (WEF) Africa said it did not know why Rwandan President Paul Kagame and his Malawian counterpart Peter Mutharika were attending the conference.
Reports said the leaders, including Democratic Republic of Congo President Félix Tshisekedi, have snubbed the conference because of the ongoing xenophobic attacks.
WEF head of communications Oliver Cann was quoted as saying the presidents’ schedules change all the time.
“We were made aware on Saturday that President Kagame wasn’t going to join us and the president of Malawi notified us the previous week,” Cann said.
“If you have noticed we were not promoting their names or mentioning them in our press release from Monday.”
In the wake of the xenophobic attacks on Nigerians living in South Africa, retaliatory steps have been taken by members of the public which have led to the indefinite closure of some South African owned businesses in Nigeria.
However, Ezekwesili, is still a partaker at the Forum holding in Cape Town.