Posted by Olaniyi Abodedele on Sunday, July 6, 2014

It was like God listened and answered the cries of Nigerians in South Africa and brought a very active, efficient and dedicated Consul in-charge of Consular matter that has the true interest of Nigeria and Nigerians at heart.  The recent departure of some officials at the Nigerian High Commission in Pretoria after a meritorious service led to the arrival of some new diplomats. Among the new diplomats is Mr. A.K Balogun- the Senior Consul in charge of consular matter and education.

The Nigerian Voice Newspaper had an interview with the Consul in his Pretoria office on Monday 20th June 2014 discussing his busy activities since he arrived South Africa in February 2014. Mr. Balogun gave full details of on-going cases and issues involving Nigerians in South Africa in the exclusive interview.

Mr A.K Balogun was quick to point out that there is the need for Nigerians to engage in legal businesses in South Africa and also respect and obey the laws of the host country; because that is the only way they can be protected by the law. He attributed his quick success to the fact that he met with some people on ground who knew the situation of things “When I came I met with you (Publisher The Nigerian Voice Newspaper) and some other people and then we decided that there was a need to talk to ourselves, and we initiated a monthly community meeting. Since I came I think, we have met up to three times”. He continued and promised that honest Nigerians will be protected “Nobody who operates within the ambit of the law will be troubled, when we are through talking to ourselves- although this will be a continuous process- but we need to also educate ourselves on the need for Nigerians to actually sit down and weigh whether there is a need for some of us to be here, vis-à-vis comparing the situation you are in now and what you were when you were in your country. It would be very funny for somebody to leave a three-bedroom in his country and be sleeping in a hut in South Africa, as far as I am concerned that is not progress, such person should go back home”.

We sought Mr. Balogun’s view on the polarization of Nigerian associations in South Africa with no clear vision of what to do and have absolutely nothing to offer their members compared with some other nationals in South Africa. He made it clear that there is no problem with trust and confidence amongst those other nationals. But in the Nigerian community, given the nature of what some Nigerians are into, Mr. Balogun believes that “it is not every Nigerian that is responsible for the bad image and names, but the bad ones are giving Nigerians bad names. That is why the innocent ones are suffering. Those who need assistance when they approach people, they refuse to help them because they are Nigerians. He cited that as the problem and sees the need to solve that first.  “We need to solve the issues of lack of trust among us. And there is also need for us to believe that there is no shortcut into creating wealth. It is better a man grows steadily, because if you leave gaps between the stage, you will feel it, either now or later”.

Interestingly, the Consul in charge of Consular matters gave situation reports of cases that have been brought before him since his arrival in South Africa. He explained that when he arrived in February, he was baptized with an accident that happened in Western Cape that was on the 10th of March 2014 when a Nigerian was beaten and stripped naked by two metro policemen “We looked into the case and found that there was nothing warranting such a treatment on a Nigerian national. So, the issue was reported to Department of International Relations and Cooperation (DICO), and it was followed up. In a nutshell, let me tell you that the two officers are no longer ‘wearing their uniform” now, they are out of the service”, Mr. Balogun said.

Another case sorted by the consul was the attack on Nigerians on April 3rd. Mr. Balogun recalled the process taken with other Nigerian community leaders to resolve the case.  “Yourself (Nigeria Voice Publisher) accompanied us to the place at Brown Street and environs, the problem with this case was that Nigerians that were affected, I don’t know whether they are afraid to go to the police station- refused to open a case file, and if you do not open one, nobody can follow up the case. The only Nigerian that opened a case file could not be indentified on the street CCTV and the case was suspended temporarily as a result of that”.

He continued “after this incident, we heard of the news of stabbing to death of Miss Onaizi Evah at Vaal University of Technology.  Your humble self and the Union President accompanied me to the university where we met with the acting vice chancellor and from there we visited the police station where we registered our case. We made sure the IPO in charge of the case was removed and replaced. We complained that this action was not enough and the issue should be taken away from there. So, the matter has been taken away from there to Independent Police Investigative Directorate (IPID). We are waiting for them to complete the forensic test and we will take up from there”.

He also bared his mind about his impression of South Africa and South Africans. “South Africa as a country is a good place. It is equally a developing country that other developing countries in Africa can learn some things from in terms of structures and laying a proper foundation for the development of the country. However, he said when we take the issue of South Africans; the people need to do more, because there is no nation that is an Island in the world. Even the super powers cannot do it alone, they need other people to achieve whatever they set to achieve around the world”, noted the new consul.

Mr. Balogun also gave some candid advice to Nigerians in South Africa. “One, Nigerians should be law-abiding, they are not even the main people in the business they have been ‘labeled with’ and engage in legal businesses. Secondly; the idea of leaving ones country is to better your lot in the place you are going to. If you get to the place and you find out the life you left at home is better than the one you find in the new place, my brother, is it not advisable you return home “So, I am also advising that any Nigerian that has no business doing here and the present life he is living in this country is not better than the one he was leaving at home, such person should go back home because they are giving us bad names. We equally have good Nigerians who are gainfully engaged and contributing to the economy of this country. Those who have nothing doing are easy tools for criminal activities; they are giving the good ones bad names, many innocent Nigerians have suffered because of the bad ones. It has made the police to see all Nigerians as the same that those with genuine cases are not listened to”.

The third issue he advised on is that Nigerians should desist from giving incorrect information about their brothers, according to him his visit to Germiston recently exposed him to a lot of things “My visit confirmed what I was told that it is the business of some Nigerians here because they want to make money; they go about getting other Nigerians into trouble by false-fully accusing them to the police”.

The Consul also had a few advice for The Nigerian Voice Newspaper. Commending the efforts of the newspaper, Mr. Balogun said that, “it is a selfless service that needs everyone’s support.  I think that what you people are doing is a noble one and a right step in right direction. I will advise you people should continue with it. If you remember I asked when we were coming from somewhere. I said to you, one of these days we will think of something we can do to support you, because it is not fair to just collect without giving back. I want to use this opportunity to call well-meaning and well to do Nigerians in this country to support The Nigerian Voice, because it is the only newspaper in this country. We should support it with our resources. My advice to the editors, I want you guys to bring in an element of investigative journalism so that we too can learn about what we don’t know from your newspaper, he stated.

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