The Senate on Tuesday resolved to send a parliamentary delegation to meet with the Parliament of South Africa over unabating xenophobic attacks targeting Nigerians in that country.
In taking this position, the Senate rejected a move to ask the Government to severe diplomatic ties with South Africa over the matter.
Senator Rose Oko (PDP, Cross River); Lanre Olarenwaju (APC, Ogun); Ibrahim Kurfi and Obinna Ogba (PDP, Ebonyi) had asked the Senate in a motion titled ‘resurgence of xenophobic attacks and extra-judicial killings of Nigerians in South Africa’, to compel the Federal Government to reconsider Nigeria’s diplomatic ties with South Africa if the attacks of Nigerians do not stop.
When the motion was subjected to a voice vote, lawmakers rejected the plea and voted instead, to send a delegation made up of Senators to the South African parliament to make a formal position on behalf of the Nigerian Government.
President of the Senate, Senator Bukola Saraki who presided over plenary, noted why concluding the debate on the motion that the Nigerian Government could no longer fold its hands and allow its citizens to be killed.
He said going forward, Nigerian ambassadors posted to foreign missions would be given specific assignments to defend the dignity and rights of Nigerians living in the countries of their assignment.
He said: “I want to thank the mover of the motion and those that have contributed. This attack has become one too many. We must put a stop to these attacks. We must take the bull by the horn. That is why we have resolved to meet with the South African parliament.
“We must be seen to be defending the dignity of Nigerians abroad. We need to screen the ambassadorial nominees to ensure that they protect Nigerians abroad. Some foreign missions are poorly funded. On our own part, we must show commitments. I want to commend Nigerians who have shown restraints.”
In his remarks, Deputy President of the Senate, Senator Ike Ekweremadu blamed the Federal Government for not doing enough to protect Nigerians living in South Africa.
He said: “It appears that our brothers and sisters in South Africa have forgotten where they are coming from. South Africa suffered Apartheid for many years. It took the intervention of Nigeria for them to get out of that.
“There was a time Nigerians did not need a visa to travel to the United Kingdom (UK). They started issuing visas to Nigerians when we imposed sanctions on UK, following the Apartheid regime in South Africa. Till this day, we still need visas to go to the UK. This happened because of what we did for South Africa.
“I think Nigeria needs to take a position. Enough is enough. There was a time Nigerians accommodated South Africans in Nigeria and they only returned to their country when the Apartheid regime ended. As a country, we gave them money and rendered other forms of assistance.
“I suggest that we send a strong delegation to the South African parliament to table our position. We cannot allow them to continue to attack our people and their businesses.”
The intervention of Senate committee chairman on Foreign Affairs, Senator Monsurat Sunmonu (APC, Oyo) who told the Senate that the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr Geoffrey Onyeama has already been summoned by the joint committee of both chambers, saved the minister from being invited by the whole chamber.
Senator Sunmonu told her colleagues that the outcome of their meeting with the Minister will be communicated to the entire Senate next week.
In his contribution, Senate Chief Whip, Olusola Adeyeye, who recalled the pivotal role played by the Nigerian Government during the apartheid regime, berated South Africans for maltreating Nigerians, despite the nation’s sacrifice.
He said: “South Africans must be reminded that it was Nigeria that came to their rescue in their hour of need. We played a role in liberating South Africans. It breaks my heart to see that having done so much for South Africa, they have turned around to be the one fighting Nigerians,” he said.