Mrs. Abike Dabiri-Erewa, Senior Special Adviser (Foreign Affairs) to the President, has described as insensitive the suggestion by Mr. Malusi Gigaba, South African Home Affairs Minister, that diplomacy is the solution to attacks on Nigerians in his country. Mrs. Dabiri-Erewa also declared that the Federal Government will no longer tolerate such violence against Nigerians.
In a personally signed statement issued on Sunday, Mrs. Dabiri-Erewa said Mr. Gigaba's statement that "such issues were better discussed at diplomatic levels" ignores the enormity of the xenophobic attacks, which have claimed over 116 Nigerian lives in South Africa.
The attacks have provoked a anger in Nigeria, notably with an attack on the office of the South African-owned telecoms company, MTN.
"Mr. Gigaba’s response to the mayhem that a segment of the South African people perpetrated on law-abiding Nigerians in South Africa smirks of insensitivity, and it’s therefore very reprehensible, if not unacceptable.
"In view of this unfortunate statement, I am therefore restating my earlier call on the African Union (AU) to take up the South Africa's xenophobic issue as a matter of urgency.
"The days that the Nigerian government will fold its arms while its citizens are maltreated to the point that some of them have lost their lives for no just cause are long gone," she said.
Mrs. Dabiri-Erewa said it seems that Mr. Gigaba prefers to make light of the plight of Nigerians in his country at a time when it is worse than any time in recent history.
"His response to the xenophobic attacks, which have now become a recurring decimal on Africans, most especially Nigerians living peacefully in their host country of South Africa, was indeed unfortunate," said the presidential aide.
She noted that law-abiding Nigerians in South Africa are most often the targets of anti-foreigner violence, adding that Mr. Gigaba's claim that his country is trying to get rid of criminals at the time when Nigerians are being attacked is very suspicious.
"Even if this unguarded statement must be taken in its face value, we wonder if wanton destruction and indiscriminate killing of their African brothers is the most sensible excuse to give. The Home Affairs minister should have been more guarded and introspective in his statements so as not to further fan the embers of xenophobia that may get out control if care is not taken," she counselled.
Nigeria and South Africa, she noted, have a long-standing diplomatic relationship typified by Nigeria's pivotal in role in ending Apartheid.
She wondered if the indiscriminate killing of 116 Nigerians is how Nigeria should be paid back for her support to South Africa. Xenophobia, she said, is a debilitating social disease, based mostly on ignorance.
Mrs. Dabiri-Erewa urged Mr. Gigaba to come up with a way of educating citizens of his country about the ruinous effects of xenophobia.