Mr. Ademola Olubajo, President of Nigerian Union South Africa (NUSA) spoke about xenophobic attacks against Nigerians in South Africa, how both countries should handle the matter, and more. Excerpts:
Daily Trust: As President, Nigeria Union in South Africa, how do you view the attacks on Nigerians over there?
Ademola Olubajo: The most serious problem is the lack of responsiveness of our government officials. In most cases, when these things happen, they don’t do what they ought to, what their other African counterparts and diplomatic representatives in the country do. Others come out in full force, and not just condemning in press releases. We need to take some steps to show that the lives of our citizens matter.
Secondly, there are misleading reports from our government officials, who most times send inaccurate information that cannot be defended. For instance, the Consul General in Johannesburg, at every point where a Nigerian is killed, tries to water it down by saying those Nigerians were criminals and dealing in drugs without concluding investigation. So, how do you sit in your office, or sometimes visit a scene, and come back to your office and write such?
That brings apathy on the side of the South African police. If a government official can say this, then they feel there is no need for them to go into full investigation. So, in most cases, until when they are pushed, through the instrument of media, that is when you see them come out to say what they want to do.
Some Nigerians have been killed after Mrs. Ndubuisi-Chukwu, the latest being on June 20, but because of the pressure given by the media and the family, that is why it is gaining momentum and we are hearing about it. If she wasn’t a high-profile person and we didn’t sustain the pressure, this wouldn’t have happened.
Other reasons that lead to such attacks are the activities of Nigerians. Our people are noisy and loud in their lifestyle. Also, some few engage in nefarious businesses like drug trafficking, prostitution, human trafficking and cybercrime. Another factor is the high level of jealousy as a result of the flourishing of Nigerians.
The reason why these attacks and killings continue unabated is because there is no deterrent or consequence for the perpetrators. We have some cases where it has been alleged by the Consul General that Nigerians are the ones killing each other. He even gave statistics that about 55 percent of those killed are by Nigerians. But besides talking about it, we want evidence. That means he has the names of those Nigerians in his possession. If he is talking about who kills, whether a Nigerian or South African, or any other national, such people need to be prosecuted. That is the only way we can curb these senseless and outrageous killings.
DT: So, how do you think the Nigerian government should approach the issues?
Olubajo: They should sustain pressure on the South African government to ensure protection of lives and property of our people. We should make use of every diplomatic instrument available to us, as a member of the United Nations and as a signatory to the Vienna Convention that established diplomatic missions all over the world. We need to put pressure on the South African Government to do what they are supposed to do. If not, they will relax, because they are battling with the issue of crime in the country.
What we are calling for as a welfare community organization is, if a Nigerian is being maltreated, attacked, or killed there should be an investigation prosecution to serve as a deterrent. We should also avoid all sorts of misleading reports whereby when one is killed we say he is a drug dealer or criminal. If Mrs. Chukwu had been a market woman, the case wouldn’t have been heard like this. It was concluded that she died as a result of cardiac arrest until an autopsy report revealed otherwise.
I would like to commend the efforts of some government officials in Nigeria, such as the Senate President and Mrs. Abike Dabiri-Erewa who did not back down.
DT: Any update on Mrs. Chukwu’s case?
Olubajo: From what we have gathered, the police have been able to get the CCTV footage and they are studying it. There is also pressure on the part of our government for South Africa to be accountable for the death of Mrs. Chukwu, and others. If we get this right, it will be very difficult for any case to go down without investigation and prosecution. If this momentum is not sustained, it will just be statistics like 130 other people who have been killed.
DT: Presently, how would you describe life in South Africa as a Nigerian?
Olubajo: I will describe it in two ways. It is not very easy because of the stereotype and perception that an average Nigerian comes to take their jobs, businesses and their wives. This stereotype has gone to the professional circles, where there is systemic xenophobia, in the sense that when you are treated a certain way, you know it is because of where you come from.
But on the other hand, life in South Africa is not that bad; it is better than the one in Nigeria because there are social amenities and opportunities for expansion. If we can be able to live in peace as brothers and sisters, Nigeria and South Africa have a lot to give each other in order to make the continent better.