S’Africa must be on alert to check violence

President Muhammadu Buhari has challenged South African authorities to be proactive in responding to early signals of violence between competitors.

The President was speaking while responding to questions during his visit to South Africa over the recent xenophobic attacks on Nigerians living in that country.

Buhari, in a statement by his Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, said: “Authorities should be more proactive in detecting early signals of violence between competitors, while migrants and companies should adhere to the local laws of countries.

“Police must be on alert not to allow violence to escalate,’’ he said.

The President called for more tolerance, vigilance and heightened security in countries to ensure safety of citizens, noting that competition heralded by globalization, especially with ease in migration, will only get more intense for businesses.

He said: “The business world had turned out more dynamic over the years, with foreigners competing with locals in businesses that were initially considered low. He said the panacea would only be for security agencies to show more interest in market operations, players and likely areas of tensions.

The President likened the situation of Nigerians in South Africa to Ghana where competition at low levels of the economy breeds intense competition, noting that it will keep growing with population explosion.

Buhari told Nigerians living in various parts of the world, especially in South Africa, to adhere with the laws of the country they reside, and ensure compliance with market laws.

“Like it is said, ‘when you are in Rome, behave like the Romans’. Always be law abiding,’’ he said.

Earlier in his remark, the President condemned attacks on Nigerians and the burning of their properties in South Africa, describing it as “unacceptable’’, while assuring the South African government that their citizens  and businesses in Nigeria will always be protected from harm. He also condemned the reprisal attacks in Nigeria.

“In my discussions with President Ramaphosa and the Bi-National Commission meeting, we reviewed wide range of issues at national, regional, continental and global levels,’’ he added.

He said some of the issues were on trade, investment, mining, security, police affairs and environment.

“Our two countries have also agreed to unequivocally address the challenges in our relations, including the recent people-to-people challenges that saw attacks against foreign nationals, including Nigerians, and their properties, which we strongly condemned.’’

In his remarks, President Ramaphosa said the attacks on foreigners in South Africa, including Nigerians, were regrettable, assuring that his government will work hard to see an end to such attacks. He also condemned reprisal attacks in Nigeria.

He said President Buhari is the first president to embark on a state visit in South Africa since they came into power.

“We will work together to promote cohesion and best values. What happened did not reflect our values. We both condemn the attacks and the reprisal in strongest terms. We will set up mechanisms for early signals,’’ he said.

President Ramaphosa said his country will also create a more enabling environment for Nigerian businesses to thrive in South Africa, acknowledging that more South African companies operate in Nigeria, while Nigerians were mostly in Small and Medium Scale sectors in his country.

“We have large corporations operating in Nigeria while you have small and medium enterprises from Nigeria here in South Africa.”

He promised to deepen the reforms in his country to open the space for more Nigerian businesses to “address the imbalance”.

“The rule of law must be obeyed by all citizens. Nigerians in South Africa must obey the rule of law, while South Africans in Nigeria must obey the rule of law,’’ he said.

Nigerian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Onyeama and South African Minister of International Relations and Cooperation, Dr Naledi Pandor, signed agreements on the minutes of the 9th session of Bi-National Commission.

Buhari had, at the meeting, challenged the South African government to take deliberate steps that would open up the country’s economy for more Nigerian businesses.

Buhari, who said the South African government should do this while guaranteeing the safety of Nigerians living in the country, stressed the need for reciprocity in promoting trade and investments between both countries.

Buhari said South African companies had enjoyed unfettered access to Nigerian market and protection with enabling laws, urging the government to design policies that favour investments from Nigeria.

The President had co-chaired the inaugural meeting of the Bi-National Commission at the level of heads of state.

In a statement by Shehu, the Preisdent noted that: “We are pleased to inform you that our government has made doing business in Nigeria easier through the Ease of Doing Business Initiative to open up more opportunities for investors in Nigeria.

“We call on the government of South Africa to also take steps to ease the doing of business in the country, and open up its market space for Nigerian businessmen and women.

“In this context, we are gratified that a Nigeria-South Africa Business Forum has been organized in the framework of this State visit,’’ the President said.

Buhari said Nigeria would continue to value its relationship with South Africa, which is the second largest economy in Africa, noting that 32 agreements and MoUs had been signed between both countries.

“We, in Nigeria, value the warm fraternal relations binding our two countries and cherish our Special Relationship. We consider South Africa an ally and a strategic partner.

“We need to implement those that have come into force, as well as to expedite necessary action to ratify the seven outstanding agreements that have not yet been brought into force.

“I welcome the robust Defence Cooperation between Nigeria and South Africa, and call for more support and solidarity with us in our fight against terrorism and violent extremism. We also welcome the increased collaboration against arms and drug trafficking, money laundering and human trafficking,’’ he added.

President Buhari “condemned in the strongest terms, attacks against Nigerians and other African nationals living in South Africa, the looting of their shops and businesses and burning of their properties’’.

“We call for the strengthening and implementation of all the necessary measures to prevent the re-occurrence of such action which threatens to undermine, not only our strong bilateral relations, but also what we stand for in the context of our vision for a strong and prosperous Africa we want.’’

The President also condemned the “very few incidents of retaliatory attacks on South African businesses in Nigeria”. “I am happy to report that we took strong and decisive measures to stop the attacks and prevent any recurrence.’’

In his remarks, the President of South Africa congratulated President Buhari for winning the 2019 Presidential elections, and starting a second term.

“We will always be grateful to Nigeria for the support we received during the dark days of apartheid,’’ he added.

“We shall never forget the role you played to ensure that our people get the freedom we are enjoying today.’’   

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