Posted by Olaniyi Abodedele on Saturday, May 10, 2014 Under: Our Headline Articles
Pretoria, South Africa: Nigerians in Pretoria on Thursday 3rd of April 2014 woke up to terror in the Central Business District (CBD), and Sunnyside area of Pretoria when some suspected taxi drivers and  hoodlums numbering “between” 50 to 70 armed with machetes, sticks, hammers, shovels and all sort of dangerous weapons unleashed terror on innocent Nigerians and their businesses.

More than 15 Nigerians were attacked, seriously injured and hospitalized at Steve Biko hospital Pretoria as many others ran for their lives and remained indoors. Also, about 25 Nigerian-owned businesses were looted and vandalized by the mob as confirmed by Hon Ikechukwu Anyene President of Nigeria Union South Africa in an interview with The Nigerian Voice Newspaper on the 26th of April 2014 in Pretoria.

Anyene stated that “from time to time there have been isolated attacks and murders here and there against Nigerians, most of them the suspects have not been found”.
Hon. Anyene continued “recently there were organized attacks against Nigerians especially in Johannesburg and Pretoria. The first one happened around the Southern suburb of Johannesburg. The attack was organized by the residence of the area, The information we got was that the attack will be against criminals in the area, and when they started, the attack ended up specifically on Nigerians; two flats inhabited by Nigerians were burnt”.

“At the end of the day we were able to organize a meeting with residence of the area, with African National Congress party (ANC) in the area, and the alliance partners- SANCO and others. In the meeting, we found out that some of the things they complained of were valid. Though not specifically Nigerians, but some of the things that led them to isolate Nigerians were perceptions, they do not know the difference between a Nigerian and other black foreigners. They regard almost every African that cannot speak the local language as a Nigerian, but we addressed some issues and worked with them and was able to avert further attacks so far”, stated the Union President.

On the attacks in Pretoria, the Union President confirmed that it happened over two weeks “Concerning the attacks in Pretoria, it happened over two weeks. And the first day, it happened I received a call when I was in Johannesburg that Nigerians are been attacked. I asked the police to be called, while I also placed a call to the police, and then I rushed back to Pretoria. By the time I got to Pretoria, the attackers had finished”.

“The attack was in two seasons in the morning and evening, but all the complaint I got from Nigerians and even from my office secretary who happened to be a South African is that they called the police. The police initially did not respond, by the time the police responded to their calls they did not do anything. They were just following the attackers while they were injuring people, a lot of Nigerians were injured”.

“The attack lasted between 10am and 4pm in the afternoon, with no single arrest made by the police, which confirm the allegation of the victims and eye witnesses that the police did not do anything to stop the mobs.

A pregnant woman who was one of the victims told The Nigerian Voice Newspaper, that they were all beaten and their money, phones and the equipment they work with were taken away in the presence of the police who did nothing to help them “My name is Victoria, around 10am in the morning, they just came into our shops holding sticks, knives, cutlass and everything saying Nigerians must go back to their country. We were all stranded here, we were calling for help, the police were there they didn’t do anything, they were looking at us, they saw them armed with cutlass”

Another victim who was injured claimed the police did not attend to them when they went to make a report at Sunnyside police station “My name is Ibitoye Opeyemi, I was surprised when I saw a lot of people from South Africa saying foreigners must go back to their countries”.

“They just come to our shop, beat us and took all our phones and everything. They were like 50 people fully armed with sticks, jigger, cutlass and many things. They beat me up, cut me on the head with cutlass and I was bleeding. The police were around, they didn’t do anything, they were just looking at them, we went to the police station to report, they didn’t do anything, and they didn’t attend to us”.

In a swift reaction based on the phone calls and pictures of injured Nigerians received, The Nigerian Voice Newspaper, phoned and reported the matter to Mr. A.K Balogun, Senior Counselor in charge of Consular matters, at the Nigeria High Commission.  He confirmed that the  High Commission had also received similar phone reports, and the Commission had invited the Police Commander to the high commission demanding full explanation of the incident.

On Friday 4th of April 2014, at around 10am about 100 Nigerians matched to the High Commission in Pretoria to demand that the Nigerian Government through the High Commission intervene in the matter. In reaction to the demand made by the protesting Nigerians, the High Commission senior officers led by the High Commissioner; Ambassador Sunday Yusuf went into a meeting with Nigerian Community leaders, and resolved to visit the affected Nigerians, the police station and see the extent of damage made to the businesses of Nigerians.

The delegation was led by Mr. Kayode Oguntuase, the Minister in Charge of Trade and industry, Mr A.K Balogun, the Senior Counselor in charge of Consular Matters. Others were Mr. Ike Anyene, President, Nigeria Union South Africa, Mr. Olaniyi Abodedele Publisher/CEO the Nigerian Voice Newspaper, some of the affected Nigerians and two members from the Headquarters of the South African Police force. 

During the visit to the Pretoria Central Police Station, the High Commission envoy complained  about the lack of swift response on the part of the police, and the victims’ allegation that some of the police officers were in support of the mob. The Police commander denied these to be true. The Nigerian envoy demanded that police officers should be deployed and stationed in the troubled areas. The envoy also insisted that the injured Nigerians be allowed to officially make a report at the police station.
Reacting on the attack against Nigerians through an email dated 21st April 2014 sent to The Nigerian Voice Newspaper, Hon. Abike Dabiri Erewa, the Chairperson Diaspora Committee Federal House of Representatives, Abuja, condemned the attacks on Nigerians.

She stated that “the attack on Nigerians is distasteful, annoying and outright insulting. While we urge Nigerians to be of good behavior and any Nigerian who commits a crime should pay the penalty, wanton and indiscriminate attack on Nigerians is unacceptable. While we were still trying to get over the shock of the Nigerian stripped naked and beaten by South African police, the wanton and unprovoked attack on Nigerians just a few weeks later was most baffling”.

Hon. Abike Dabiri Erewa warned that everything possible should be done to stop un-dignifying treatment meted out to innocent Nigerians in South Africa and went on to thank the Nigerian Embassy in Pretoria for their prompt action “we hope everything possible would be done to stop un-dignifying treatment meted out to innocent Nigerians in South Africa”.

“We commend the Nigerian Embassy in Pretoria for their prompt action, and ensuring the act was curtailed. We hope such “Naijaphobic” attacks, as a Nigerian there described it, would not be a norm in South Africa.

“A retaliatory move by Nigerians here against South Africans in Nigeria, as some are threatening, would not augur well for the relationship between both countries” Hon. Abike stated.

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