Nigerian protesters vandalised the head office of South African mobile phone company, MTN in Abuja on Thursday in apparent retaliation for anti-Nigerian violence in South Africa, a witness and an MTN spokesman said.
Students on Thursday stormed some South African companies in Abuja to protest the xenophobic attacks on Nigerians in that country.
Protesters stormed the regional head office of MTN – the biggest South African company active in Nigeria – and stole customers’ phones, vandalised equipment and attacked customers, a spokesman for MTN said.
A Reuters reporter arriving at the scene after the storming could see no obvious damage at the building in the centre of Nigeria’s capital Abuja. Security officers had cordoned off the entrance.
“They forcefully entered the MTN office. Security men were around but unable to curtail the protesters, who forced the gates open and entered the office,” a witness said.
“Some protesters were touts. Some were students. In the midst were some criminals that took away some customers’ phones and other things,” he added, asking not to be named.
The protests were organized by the National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS).
NANS gave 48 hours ultimatum to all South African companies in Nigeria to relocate over the attacks on Nigerians in South Africa.
During the march the students carried a banner, which read: ‘’NANS Against Xenophobic Attacks on Nigerians.’’
While the students marched, the security men stood and watched to ensure law and order.
The President of NANS, Mr Kadiri Aruna, told the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) at DSTV office, a South African company, in Wuse 2, Abuja, that Nigerian students had resolved to condemn the attacks.
“We are saying that enough is enough as South Africans have openly attacked and bullied Nigerians.’’
Aruna said that the protest would also serve as a warning to other countries trying to underrate Nigerians.
He said that after 48 hours, if nothing was done, messages would be sent to students in all university campuses to bring down MTN masts all over the country.
Aruna said that DSTV and Shoprite would also be affected as the union had put adequate strategies in place to make the action effective.
“All the South African business empires in Nigeria and their collaborators in Nigeria will be affected.
“I don’t want to say we will be barbaric but we will not be lawful in our actions, we will do it and face the consequences, enough of this rubbish,’’ he said.
Aruna stressed that the poor treatment being meted out to Nigerians was particularly insulting given the role Nigeria played in ending the apartheid regime in South Africa.
“Nigeria contributed 80 per cent of the freedom the South Africans are enjoying today because we saved them from the jaws of apartheid.
“Who is South Africa to humiliate Nigeria? So they forget things so soon, let them go back to history and records to see how much financial assistance and what the country did to save them,’’ he said.
The union president said that the situation was inhuman and for this reason all reasonable Nigerians must react.
“In science they say you use malaria to cure malaria, now you use madness to cure their madness, and that is why we are advising them to leave Nigerian soil before 48 hours.’’
He said that the Federal Government should not wait till the dying minute before evacuating Nigerians from South Africa.
Aruna said it was time for government not to only condemn the attacks but take a firm stand by summoning South Africa’s high commissioner and if possible cut diplomatic ties with that country.
“Government should take extra-diplomatic measures in dealing with the latest deadly assaults because if nothing drastic is done it will become a regular occurrence.
“This is the time to place South Africa where it belongs,’’ he said.
He said that the last time the xenophobic attack happened nothing was done, no action was taken and no arrest was made and that was why South Africans repeated the attacks.
Aruna said it was so unfortunate that during the attacks the South African Government refused to take up its responsibility of securing Nigerians and their properties.
“The government of South Africa is criminally quiet and they say silence is consent, and their police are folding their hands while they are killing Nigerians, this is conspiracy, enough is enough,’’ he said.
He said the peaceful rally would continue and spread across the country.
Over 50 police and, DSS operatives surrounded the DSTV premises and along the street making it impossible for NAN to contact any DSTV officials for comments.
Meanwhile, Amb. Lulu Mnguni, High Commissioner of South Africa to Nigeria said that the attacks on Nigerians negated all the values that that country symbolises, especially the respect for human life, human rights and human dignity standing firmly against racism, xenophobia and sexism.
In an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Abuja, Mnguni condemned the recent attacks on Nigerians saying they were a poor representation of South Africa’s values.
He also said that the South African government had taken measures to ensure that these attacks perceived as hate crimes against Nigerians and other foreign nationals were stopped.
“We are deeply saddened by these acts of violence that have taken place against the foreign nationals, especially the Nigerians affected in these communities.
“The South African Government is sorry for the destruction and wishes the injured a speedy recovery.
“We reiterate our view that South Africans are generally not xenophobic.
“If they were, we would not have such a high number of foreign nationals who have successfully integrated into communities all over the country.
“No amount of anger or frustration can justify the attacks on foreign nationals and the looting of their shops.
“We have dispatched a Ministerial delegation to the affected communities in Johannesburg and Pretoria which is being led by the Minister of Home Affairs, Malusi Gigaba, to address the issues in the area.
“The South African government is specifically interested in addressing the alleged claims of illegal activities of undocumented migrants which have been raised by communities
“The police have been directed to work round the clock to protect both foreign nationals and citizens and to arrest looters and those committing these acts of violence.
“The security cluster has been instructed to ensure that these matters are resolved to the satisfaction of South Africans and foreign nationals in the communities bringing about better policing between communities and authorities.
“We urge communities to assist the police by providing information on the incidents that have taken place so that the perpetrators could be brought to justice.
“Our government is doing everything possible to sensitise all South Africans that the country is an integral part of Africa and our success or failures cannot be isolated from that of Africa as a whole.
“We expect any issues of concern to South African citizens and residents to be resolved through peaceful dialogue,’’ he said.
Mnguni added that the complaints made by some South Africans about some undocumented foreigners was not enough to attack all foreign nationals especially Nigerians.
“The underlining cause is the fact that we have had complaints about undocumented and illegal immigrants in the country committing crimes or using small shops and business places to carry out criminal acts.
“However, while some foreign nationals, documented and undocumented, have been arrested in relation to these claims, it is wrong to regard all foreigners as being involved with crime in the country.
“Also, not all foreign nationals in the country are there illegally as many have come to South Africa legally and have contributed to our economy immensely with development skills that we might lack.
“Even those who came as refugees escaping conflict in their home countries have also contributed to the social development of the country.
“As South Africans are expected to respect the rights and freedom of anyone on our shores, we also expect foreign nationals on our shore to abide by the laws and freedoms of South Africa.
“Our government is also emphasising on the need for responsible public comments to be made by all leaders, representatives and public figures so as to prevent situations like these from happening.
“We don’t want these incidents to discourage foreigners from coming to South Africa because we need them to develop a cosmopolitan atmosphere.
“We also want an increase in tourism figures from countries within and outside the continent and to promote sustainable economic development in Africa through business opportunities.
“So many countries helped us in our fight against apartheid so it would be wrong to fight against these same nationals in our country.
“We can’t afford to forget where we are coming from so we are promoting this unity so that we can develop our respective countries and Africa as a whole.’’