- Says FG making arrangement for Nigerians willing to return home.
- Calms for calm and lamented against the influx of fake news on social media.
The Minister of Information, Lai Mohammed has called on Nigerians to stop attacking Shoprite outlets, MTN and other businesses belonging to South African owners in the country.
The minister who made the call at a press conference today lamented said that the renewed attack on Nigerians and other foreign nationals have led to the loss in human and material terms.
“Those attacks have escalated in recent times, with deadly consequences. You are also aware of the reprisal attacks that have targetted South African businesses in Nigeria.
While speaking on the effort of the Federal Government ion the incident, the minister said the ruling government has decisively dealt with the attacks and the moves made have been well communicated to Nigerians.
“For the purpose of this press conference, however, let me quickly remind us that President Muhammadu Buhari has dispatched a Special Envoy to convey to his South African counterpart, Cyril Ramaphosa, his concerns and also interact with his South African counterpart on the situation.
“Also, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Geoffrey Onyeama, acting on the instruction of Mr. President, has summoned the South African High Commissioner to Nigeria to get a brief on the situation; express Nigeria’s displeasure over the treatment of her citizens; and secure assurance of the safety of their lives and property. Nigeria is recalling its High Commissioner to South Africa, in addition to boycotting the World Economic Forum on Africa being hosted by South Africa. And plans are on to evacuate Nigerians who are willing to return home from South Africa. Of course, a number of other measures are also being considered by the government to keep Nigerians in South Africa safe,” he added.
While appealing to Nigerians, whom he said are justifiably angered by the attacks on their compatriots in South Africa, not to resort to self-help by carrying out reprisal attacks against South African businesses in Nigeria.
He also stated that there are facts that some unscrupulous people are engaging in disinformation to inflame passion by using fake news and videos of non-related attacks.
He, therefore, warned the naysayers and hoodlums who might want to capitalise on the widespread disenchantment and anger of Nigerians over the attacks in South Africa to foment mayhem to desist from such and appealed to Nigerians, especially opinion leaders, not to allow raw emotions to guide their response to the attacks.
“A Nigerian lady whose shop was looted at the Novare Mall in Lagos said she lost millions of naira to the hoodlums who looted her shop. The offices of the MTN nationwide have either been attacked or threatened. Other South African firms have either shut their doors or are open under heavy security.
“As we said in our intervention on Tuesday, Nigerians own and run the shops in the various Shoprite malls across the country. Nigerians work there also. MTN is listed on the Nigerian Stock Exchange and the investors in this company are Nigerians. The workers are mostly Nigerians. Same applies to other South African businesses in the country. By attacking them, we are hurting our own people. That is the blunt truth.
“Some hoodlums have also targetted foreigners under the guise of protesting against the xenophobic attacks in South Africa. This is saddening. If we are complaining that South Africans are attacking Nigerians in South Africa, how then can we tolerate Nigerians attacking Nigerians and foreigners right here in Nigeria? What purpose do such attacks serve, other than for Nigerians to lose their investments and jobs? Must we cut our nose to spite our face?,” he queried.
He also assured all Nigerians, and indeed foreigners living in Nigeria, that the Federal Government has put in place adequate security measures to protect the lives and property of all.
“The security agencies have been put on high alert, and looters will be arrested and made to face justice,” he said
He further alerted Nigerians to the video clips being circulated on the social media, purportedly showing how Nigerians are being killed in South Africa, noting that three of such videos come to mind.
” One video shows a man who has been set ablaze trying to escape, and those circulating the video identified the man as Nigerian. This is not true. The video shows Mozambican Ernesto Alfabeto Nhamuave, a victim of xenophobic violence in South Africa in 2008, and it is not that of a Nigerian being attacked in 2019.
” Another video shows those said to be Nigerians jumping down from a multi-story building that was purportedly set on fire by xenophobic attackers in South Africa. This is fake news as the video is that of a Suraj Coaching Centre in Gujarat State, India, that was gutted by fire on May 24, 2019, leaving about 18 people dead.
“The third video, purportedly showing the bodies of Nigerians who were burnt in xenophobic attacks, is the raw footage of those who were killed in a Tanzanian fuel tanker explosion in Morogoro that left at least 60 dead on Aug. 10 2019.”
He, therefore, urged those circulating these videos to immediately desist from doing so, adding that apart from inflaming passion, the videos are also complicating the efforts of the government to calm frayed nerves at home in the wake of the xenophobic attacks in South Africa.
“Recall, gentlemen, that we alerted Nigerians to the dangers posed by fake news and disinformation when we launched our National Campaign Against Fake News on July 11 2019. That campaign is more urgent now than ever, and I implore the media, in particular, to give it a renewed play. Fake news and disinformation represent a clear and present danger to every society,” he said.
He also appealed opinion leaders and celebrities to be guarded in their utterances and comments on the xenophobic attacks and the reactions from Nigerians.
“Words have meaning, and wrong words are like poisoned darts. In the words of the Buddha, ”Better than a thousand hollowed words, is one word that brings peace.”
He reiterated that the Federal Government will leave no stone unturned to protect Nigerian citizens anywhere around the world, including South Africa where they have been subjected to repeated xenophobic attacks, with terrible consequences that include loss of lives and property.
“We appeal to Nigerians who are angered by the xenophobic attacks on their compatriots in South Africa not to engage in reprisal attacks because such attacks hurt our own people more. We also want Nigerians to know that wrong videos and disinformation are being circulated on social media to inflame passion and distort the plight of Nigerians in South Africa. Nigerians should be wary of the purveyors of these wrong videos. We strongly warn hoodlums who may wish to hide under the peaceful protests by Nigerians to loot, maim and kill that the security agencies will apprehend and bring them to justice. And to opinion leaders, we ask that they be guarded in their comments.”