*Explains govs presence at WEF
*Denies recalling High Commissioner
*Insists victims be compensated
*We won’t compensate Nigerians -SA
*Police arraign 83 over Shoprite looting
By Lawrence Olaoye Abuja and Idowu Abdullahi, Lagos
The Federal Government yesterday issued a stern warning to all trouble makers cashing in on the recent xenophobic attacks on foreign nationals in South Africa to perpetrate criminal acts in Nigeria.
The government also called on opinion leaders to guard against inflammatory comments that are injurious to public peace and order.
This is also as the federal government has explained why governors and other notable Nigerians attended the ongoing World Economic Forum (WEF) meeting in Cape Town, South Africa despite its decision to withdrew from the event.
Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed gave these positions at a press conference in Abuja yesterday.
“The security agencies have been put on high alert, and looters will be arrested and made to face justice,” he said.
He reiterated federal government appeal to Nigerians not to take the law into their hands by attempting to retaliate and attack South African businesses in Nigeria, despite that they are genuinely aggrieved.
Such attacks, he said, will hurt our own people more than the South Africans.
The Information Minister also alerted Nigerians that some unscrupulous people are using fake news and videos of non-related attacks to cause social tension in Nigeria.
He said the government “very strongly warns 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, and to appeal to Nigerians, especially opinion leaders, not to allow raw emotions to guide their response to the attacks.”
The minister also gave indication that some hoodlums have targeted foreigners under the guise of protesting against the xenophobic attacks in South Africa.
The government had on Wednesday resolved to shun the WEF Summit to protest xenophobic attacks on Nigerians and some other African countries’ nationals but some governors and other individuals attended the event.
Minister of Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Onyeama, who briefed newsmen at the Presidential Villa yesterday debunked reports that the government had ordered the withdrawal of the nation’s High Commissioner to South Africa, Kabiru Bala.
The government also insisted that South Africa must pay compensation to the victims of attacks.
But the South African Foreign Affairs Minister, Naledi Pandor, who announced the temporary closure of her country’s embassy in Nigeria, also said her country had no provision to pay compensation to anyone.
Asked whether he was aware that the South African government has recalled their envoy, Onyeama said he was not aware.
Fielding questions from journalists on whether the participation of some Nigerians including the governors was not an affront on the position of the Federal Government, the Minister explained that the governors may have arrived South Africa before the decision was taken.
Besides, he said that the WEF was not a South African event, rather a global forum but taking place in South Africa.
He said, “The World Economic Forum process has started a number of days ago and the governors who are there had gone there ahead even before this whole issue materialized, they were already engaged in that.
“The first thing you have to realize is that the World Economic Forum is not a South African government initiative. It is a Swiss based mechanism and it takes place in different places
“It is not a question of disobedience because they were actually there already before this decision was taken.”
On the alleged withdrawal of Nigerian High Commissioner in South Africa, Onyeama said, “Yesterday (Wednesday) I did make the comment that we have not taken a decision to withdraw or recall our High Commissioner in South Africa, what I pointed out yesterday is this, Mr. President has sent Special Envoy to South Africa.
On compensation, which the South African Foreign Affairs Minister, Naledi Pandor had said that the country had no provision for such in its laws, the Minister said Nigeria government would do everything possible to ensure that the victims were compensated.
Meanwhile, eighty-three persons suspected to have allegedly participated in the free for all looting of South African business interest in Lagos on Tuesday, were yesterday arraigned by the Lagos State Police Command.
The attack and looting of Shoprite mall in Lagos by the suspects was on the pretence of protesting the xenophobic attacks on foreign nationals, including Nigerians in South Africa, Police said.
However, the police on Thursday arraigned the defendants before the Lagos State Magistrates’ Court at Yaba.
They were arraigned on six counts bordering on conspiracy, riotous assembly, arson, stealing, malicious damage, unlawful destruction of property and conduct likely to cause breach of peace.
According to the police, the defendants in the twin attacks carried out on Shoprite Malls at Surulere and Sangotedo-Ajah area of the state, allegedly stole and damaged properties estimated at N500m.
The offences, the police said, contravened sections 50, 287 of the Criminal Law of Lagos State, 2015 and were liable to be punished under sections 339 (1) (2), 168 (d) and 411 of the same Act.
However, the defendants pleaded not guilty to the offences.
The Magistrate, Mr P.A. Ojo, admitted each of the 83 defendants to bail in the sum of N500,000 with two sureties in like sum.
The case was adjourned till October 9, 2019.
This is just as South Africa’s President Cyril Ramaphosa on Thursday said that at least 10 persons have been killed, two of them foreigners, in a wave of riots and attacks.
The president said this in a televised address in Johannesburg.
“Over the past few days, our country has been deeply traumatised and troubled by acts of violence and criminality directed against foreign nationals and our own citizens,” Mr Ramaphosa said.
“People have lost their lives, families have been traumatised … We know that at least 10 people have been killed in the violence. Two of whom were foreign nationals.”