Buhari’s Visit and NUSA R4.6 million Xenophobic Compensation Claim.

Posted by Olaniyi Abodedele on Sunday, July 5, 2015

It is no more news that Nigeria Union South Africa (NUSA) with the backing of Nigeria Consul-General Mrs. Uche Ajulu-Okeke are seeking a R4.6million compensation they reportedly claim some Nigerians lost during the recent xenophobic attack on foreign nationals in Durban and Jeppes Street, Johannesburg.

NUSA had bombarded the Nigerian media space with stories of xenophobic attacks during the period of the xenophobic attack on foreign nationals. Some of the articles in the Nigerian dailies were misleading and had caused rancor between both countries as Nigerian government officials and Nigerians had a terrible notion that Nigerians in South Africa are specifically targeted and killed.
Some Nigerian nationals and ethnic associations in South Africa have been questioning how that amount was reached, thereby stating that the figures have been highly inflated to benefit some selected few.
During the xenophobic attack The Nigerian Voice Newspaper and the Nigeria High Commission did a comprehensive evaluation to determine what Nigerians had lost, and the amount reached was below the 4.6 million rands that is being requested by NUSA and the Nigeria Consulate.

However NUSA and the Consulate office took advantage of the visit of His Excellency President Muhammadu Buhari to the AU Summit which took place between the 7th – 15th June 2015 to ask the President Buhari to take up the matter with his South African counterpart President Jacob Zuma, hence that was the genesis of scheming, politics and intrigues that took place before and during President Buhari’s arrival in South Africa.

This was alleged by some of geo-political associations to be the reason why NUSA and the Consulate cut-off and sidelined some of the Nigerian associations and personalities that usually enjoy such privilege when any Nigerian president is visiting South Africa for fear of critical opposition they have been getting from the community with regards the xenophobic compensation request.

In the speech delivered by NUSA President, Ike Anyene, at the Nigerian Consulate when President Buhari met with selected members of the Nigerian community, he requested the Federal government of Nigeria to help facilitate the xenophobia compensation. “Not to be forgotten is the recent unfortunate incident of xenophobic attack on foreign nationals in South Africa. We are happy to inform you that the South African government eventually stopped the attacks. Nigeria Union South Africa humbly appeal to the federal government to facilitate the payment of compensation to Nigerians that were affected by the xenophobic attack”

Reacting to what played out during President Buhari’s visit; Mr. Festus Ogbeide, the All Progressive Congress South Africa chapter chairman, in an interview with The Nigerian Voice Newspaper on Thursday 18th June 2015, condemned the move for compensation by NUSA and the Consulate “Well, it is unfortunate that the embassy has a different quote and the Consular General have a different quote. That shows that there’s no sincerity in what they are trying to do”.

Mr. Ogbeide continued “there is the element of fraudulent attempt, because we have said that we are not going to allow that to happen. It cannot be that in our names people want to make money in a very fraudulent way that would end up affecting us as Nigerians. They might not realize the effect of the action they are taking now, but the long implication of it will work against Nigerians and even the brand Nigeria”.

“To imagine that the consulate is quoting 4.6 million as I have heard and the embassy is quoting something quite low, for me that’s a height of criminality. And we are going to demand that the matter be thoroughly investigated. And should anyone be found wanting, I think it is high time we confronted ourselves as Nigerians and take it upon ourselves to prosecute those that are trying to tarnish our names and images in this kind of manner”. Mr. Ogbeide concluded.

Mr. Abdurrahman Abubakar the President of Niger Delta Association in South Africa also registered his displeasure with regards the R4.6 million xenophobic compensation request and how President Buhari’s meeting with the Nigerian community was handled, Mr. Abubakar stated that “Well, as far as I am concerned president Buhari came for the AU summit. He attended the AU meeting but when it came to meeting with Nigerians, they manipulated the system. He met with a section of Nigerians not Nigerians. A particular ethnic group was the people Buhari met”.

Mr. Abubakar explained how things had been handled previously. “Normally, when a Nigerian president is coming to a country; let me use South Africa where we are as an example. Anytime the president is coming to South Africa the mission always write to the leaders of all the geo-political organizations and other interests groups informing them that Mr.  President is visiting on so-so day and will be meeting with Nigerian community. ‘Please, we want you to avail yourself and certain number of your group to be present there so that the President can meet and address Nigerians. Ohaneze will be there, Niger Delta will be there, Arewa will be there, NAYSDA- EgbeOmo Yoruba will be there and other groups”.

He continued, “But in this case, nothing like that happened. We never received any letter, no invitation. I only saw one message that came. I don’t know where it came from. They said we should write a letter to the consul-general indicating our interest to be part of the meeting. They should not tell people like me such things. They know who they tell cock and bull story. We are above that. We know what is supposed to be done. How the mission are supposed to work, not the way they working now”.

On the R4.6 million xenophobic compensation requests, Mr. Abubakar stated that “when the Consul-General came sometime last year, she cleverly studied the situation and realized what was going on. So, she capitalized on it to draw close to NUSA using a particular ethnic group to extort Nigerians, or extort our government. You see like the issue of xenophobia and what they came up with. They claimed 1.2 million nobody said anything. The next thing they said 4.6 million”.

Mr. Abubakar noted “that was when we decided to speak out. I even wrote against it. I challenged it and that was why they sent me a letter because they were not happy with my comment, they saw me as an obstacle. The truth must be told. We are not fighting anybody but we want the right thing to be done”.

Also Mr. Ibrahim Beatrice the coordinator of Arewa Association in Diaspora, South Africa (NAD) stated that they never got any invitation from the Consulate or any organization informing them that President Buhari will be meeting members of the community.  “Not at all! We were not invited and we did not invite ourselves because we believe in integrity, discipline and know that other people exist around them... because the consulate knows there is Arewa Association in South Africa and some of the staff at the consulate know we exist”, said Arewa Coordinator.

He said they have written letters to the Ambassador and copied the Consulate about the issues of the Arewa. “We did not receive any invitation to be there. We were not part of what happened there and we do not support anything there because they are not truthful to themselves”, the Arewa coordinator stated.

Speaking on the R4.6 million xenophobic compensation request, the Arewa Coordinator said; “We are not with them. Completely, we are not supporting what they are saying because it is fraudulent because the Nigerian that was involved in xenophobic attack was that Nigerian that owns a workshop in Jeppe town and some few others. The government of SA has identified him as the Nigerian who owns the workshop and the government is working on his case. I believe that they are on it. Apart from that, we don’t have any record of any Nigerian that I know that has suffered any loss in Durban.  I have a lot of northerners in Durban and it is my responsibility to look after them and know what happens to them. During the xenophobic attack in Durban city, all the foreigners came together to defend themselves. So, I don’t believe such story. It was just a scam. People are trying to use other people to make money”.

Dr. Sola Agbeniyi the spokesperson (PRO) of National Association of Yoruba Descendants Southern Africa (NAYDSA) said his position about compensation claim is very clear. “I had some interview with the Nigeria press. Top Radio in Ikeja interviewed me on the xenophobic attack. My response is very simple, as a PRO, as the  spokesperson of the Yoruba community in south Africa, on my table there is no Yoruba person  that actually came to me to say this is what I have lost. So, I don’t know what is actually going on here about people losing so much amount of money to the xenophobic disturbances. As far as we are concerned as NAYSDA, we don’t have any record of somebody losing anything to the xenophobic disturbances.  We know what is going on and what we are saying is this; we don’t have any record as an association to say that out of this 4.6 million or 10 million dollars or whatever you call it, this is what belongs to the Yoruba community. Nigerians in SA belong to different ethnic groups. And when there is an issue, there must be transparency. Nobody can come and tell me that we need 10 million rands, we need statistics. Where is the statistics? Let’s start from there”.

“Before the current Consul General, I had the privilege to be with the last consul general, His Excellency Okey Emuchay and I told him the same thing. Our president has a slogan: I am for all and I am for nobody. I think Nigerians in SA we are the same thing; we are brother and sisters. I wouldn’t say much about the current consul-general. I will only say that we have so many ethnic groups in SA. It is going to be completely unfair for a sitting consul-General. What is going on is a disaster. How can a presentation and invitation to meet a newly elected president of a country be tilted to a particular ethnic group? It doesn’t work like that anywhere in the world” Dr. Agbeniyi concluded.

The acting High Commissioner also shed light on the issue of some Nigerians seeking for compensation of R4.6 million for the damages they claim to have suffered during the last xenophobic incident in South Africa. Mr. Cobhams agreed that if one is hurt, one is aggrieved. He attested that some Nigerians suffered collateral damage on account of the mob action during the attacks. Therefore, the acting High Commissioner believed those Nigerians has a right to seek redress and compensation. Mr. Cobhams, however noted that, “it has been documented and there is a designated platform for the host country to consider, and that platform is the Bi-national Commission of Nigeria and South Africa”.

The acting High Commissioner revealed that the Nigerian High Commission is in support of Nigerians who suffered losses on the account of these occurrences and advised them to address their worries through the High Commission and the Consulate General and to the Bi-National Commission (BNC). He further noted that they will be called to a meeting so that they will work with the host country and find a way forward to compensate those Nigerians who suffered losses. “We all could be victims of destruction and of course we would like to be listened to and be given audience, the acting High Commissioner stated.

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