The Speaker of the House of Representatives, Rt. Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila has expressed dismay at the refusal of the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Jeffery Onyema to appear before the House to brief the Members on the issues bordering on efforts of the Federal Government over the xenophobic attacks unleashed on Nigerians and other African nationals in South Africa. Recall that the leadership House had to abridge their recess for an emergency session over the xenophobic attacks which mostly affected Nigerian investments in South Africa. Consequently, a resolution was passed inviting the Nigerian Foreign Affairs Minister to appear before the House at plenary for an update on the matter.
Following a motion which came under matters of urgent public importance, on the need to investigate the remote and immediate causes of xenophobic attacks and extra judicial killings of Nigerians by South Africans, moved by Hon. Bachung Musa Bagos, the House resolved to invite the Managing Director, Airpeace Nigeria, Mr. Ibechuckwu Onyema as guest to the Chamber for him to be honoured and recommended for national award.
A minute of silence was observed in honor of Nigerians who were killed in foreign countries.
In a debate which lasted over two hours, the Chamber deliberated on the motion, and unanimously condemned the treatment meted to Nigerians by South Africans, said apology is not enough, insist on commensurate compensation. Starting from the mover of the motion, Hon. Bagos, who informed that it is on record that between 2008 and 2018, well over 67 Nigerians have died from xenophobic attacks in South Africa.
He is concerned that the death toll has continued to rise. The lawmaker informed that the statistics of Nigerians living in South Africa is put over 1,000. He stated that as at August 29, 2019, new trend of attacks continued unabated, even under the watch of the South African security operatives. He cautioned that if nothing is urgently done to protect Nigerians in diaspora, soon, no Nigerian would be safe anywhere in the world.
Other lawmakers contributed to the debate, bearing their thoughts on what they described as inhuman treatment against Nigerians by their black brothers. Hon. Olawale Oke charged the Nigerian authorities to explore the options of approaching international courts to demand for sanctions and compensations for its citizens who were victims of xenophobic attacks in South Africa. Hon. Benjamin Kalu believes that what is mainly fueling these attacks is ignorance on the part of the attackers.
He informed that a close comparative analysis of investments of the two countries will reveal that South Africa has more investments in Nigeria than sum total of investments of Nigerians in South Africa.
In a related opinion, Hon. Ugonna Ozurigbo stated that Black foreigners merely contribute less than 1% of South African GDP, adding that the White majority controls 85% of the country’s economy. The lawmakers stated that it is worrisome that the South African Authorities have not taken any cogent steps towards arresting the situation or the perpetrators of these xenophobic attacks.
In their views, Hon. Khadijah Bukka Abba and Babatunde Osoba believe Nigerians are taken for granted by the South African President, Cyril Ramaphosa for sending an envoy to convey his apology to the President of Nigeria.
In other shades of opinion, Hon. Onoifiok Luke implored the leadership of the House to liaise with their South Africa counterparts in the parliament to compliment the efforts of the Government towards finding lasting solutions to end xenophobic attacks in South Africa as well as rebuild the stifled relationship between the two countries; adding that the Nigerian government should create an enabling environment for the returnees from South Africa.
Hon. Bamidele Salam urged that the Federal Government should design policies, programs and measures that would restore hope to young Nigerians.
Hon. M.T. Mongonu added his voice by calling for review of the country’s foreign policy, said it should be more citizens-centred. However, Hon. Akin Alabi cautioned on the using fake news to stir and incite members of the public unnecessarily. He informed fake news on the social media were largely responsible for most of the reactions on xenophobic attacks, adding that people should endeavor to investigate and verify the source and authenticity of stories on the social media before reacting.
Earlier, the Speaker, Rt. Hon. Gbajabiamila in his welcome address charged the returning lawmakers to hit the ground running because there is much work to be done. He directed all ad hoc Committees to wind up and handover to standing committees before September 31, 2019. He stated that before the Chamber proceeded on its annual recess, it began legislative action on 13 Bills and 8 Motions. He hinted that the House will revisit the Petroleum Industry Bill and the Education bank Bill.
The Speaker informed that the Ad hoc Committees on Legislative agenda and closure of the Eastern ports have all concluded their assignments and their reports are now ready to be presented on the floor of the House. He further said the House is looking forward to receiving the 2020 Budget proposal from the President soon. However, the onus is on the legislature to ensure that recovered public assets are well accounted for and properly utilized.