The SIFA Human Rights Offices has advised the Nigerian Government on four concrete steps it can take to address the xenophobic attacks of Nigerians in South Africa.
In a statement signed by Bright Ogbonna Esq (International affairs Consultant) for the organization, it outlined steps which Nigeria, as an affected nation may take to correct the inordinate complacency of the South African government in this matter or make them pay for the huge losses occasioned.
XENOPHOBIA: WHAT THE NIGERIAN GOVERNMENT MUST DO
The attack by South Africans targeted at black non- nationals has left in its wake, death, loss of property and livelihood, reprisals and fears of counter reprisals with accompanying social, political and economic bi-lateral relations between South Africa and other black countries like Nigeria, on the brink of extinction.
Every spectator of this unfolding international event, especially the countries whose nationals are affected, are unanimous in the agreement that the South African Government has been inept in assuaging, let alone put an end to this carnage for reasons not immediately available, which thought has made many wonder if the government is not complicit in the xenophobia agenda. The classification of victims of xenophobia as criminals by the South African Government and its ostensible lack of will to take a concrete action in this regard has certainly fuelled this point of view.
Our concern is not the factors responsible for the failure of the South African Government to take a decisive step to bring this situation under control, but affirmative steps which Nigeria, as an affected nation may take to correct the inordinate complacency of the South African government in this matter or make them pay for the huge losses occasioned therein. We have suggested four concrete courses of action in this regard.
Complaint to the African Commission on the Human and Peoples’ Rights
Under the African Charter for Human and Peoples’ Right, an accord to which both Nigeria and South Africa became signatories on June 22, 1983 and July 9, 1996 respectively and have domesticated, the right to life (Article 4), right to freedom from discrimination (Article 2 and 18(3)), right to property (Article14) right to freedom from cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment (Article 5) are protected, provided that the laws of the land are adhered. Specifically, Article 12(5) of the Charter, prohibits the mass expulsion of non-nationals from any member state. The above protected rights of Nigerian nationals have been flagrantly violated by South Africans who have killed, injured and carted away properties belonging to black non-nationals while threatening to visit them with further violence if they do not leave South Africa.
The African Commission on the Human and Peoples’ Rights is the quasi- judicial arm created by the Article 30 of the African Charter on Human and People’s Right with the responsibility of receiving and investigating reports of human rights abuses and reporting to the African Heads of Government for necessary dialogue where necessary, and the imposition of appropriate deterrent or compensatory sanctions. It is submitted that since the victims of these killings and violence are nationals of many African nations, a report from the Committee to the Heads of African Government would elicit the needed dialogue and or sanctions as may be appropriate to force the South African government to take decisive steps to end the spate of violence and human rights infraction.
Application to the United Nations Security Council for the establishment of a Sanctions Committee
The United Nations Security Council has, inter alia, its objective as the maintenance of international peace and security in accordance with the principles and purposes of the United Nations, to investigate any dispute or situation which might lead to international friction, to determine the existence of a threat to the peace or act of aggression and to recommend what action should be taken and to call on members to apply economic sanction and other measures not involving the use of force to prevent or stop aggression. Undoubtedly, the conflict occasioned by the violence against non-nationals in South Africa is on all fours with the above objectives of the Security Council. This is moreso, considering that black non-nationals include non-Africans like Jamaicans, Haitians and Barbadians who are susceptible to the violent attacks. Of particular interest here is the objective of the Committee to investigate conflict situations to prevent international friction. It is unnecessary to state that the South Africa situation has international dimensions capable of snowballing into bigger conflict.
By applying to the Security Council for an investigation by the Nigerian Government alongside other affected nations, the attention of member states of the Council would be drawn to the situation, with a view to setting up a sanctions committee as it had done in the past. The United States President, Mr. Donald Trump, as leader of one of the permanent members of the Security Council has already indicated the possibility of an economic sanction on the government of South Africa in the wake of the xenophobic killings. A formal report by the Nigerian Government outlining the ostensible indifference of the South African Government over the unprovoked killings perpetrated by its citizens, brought before the UN Security Council, will engender an awakening among other seemingly docile member states on the need for possible sanction on South Africa where it fails to address the xenophobia exhibited by its nationals.
Severance of economic bi-lateral relations between Nigeria and South Africa
Nigeria and South Africa, considered as emerging economic giants in Africa have experienced an improved economic relationship since the restoration of democracy in Nigeria in 1999. Prior to that, the collaborations between the two countries led to the establishment of the New Partnership for African Development (NEPAD) initiative which made significant impact in Africa. With the bi-lateral agreements signed in 1999, the trade relations between them received a boost. This led to the establishment of a number of South African companies in Nigeria including MTN, the largest cellular network in Nigeria, Tomvest, a big player in Nigerian Tourism and DSTV. Further, the South –Africa- Nigeria Bi-national Commission established in 1999 has enabled South African companies to establish hitch free in Nigeria, milking the abundant Nigerian market and carting away millions of dollars in revenue yearly.
The Nigerian government ought to back out of the trade deals on the grounds of the failure of the South African government to guarantee safety of the lives and properties of Nigerian nationals who do business in South Africa. In the present state, it has become impossible for Nigeria to benefit from the trade relations. Further, the Nigerian government ought to disband the South-Africa –Nigeria Bi-national Commission. This would make it difficult for any South African company to access the leeway offered by the good diplomatic relations between Nigeria and South Africa in facilitating access to operational licences, expatriate quota, visa etc.
Finally, it is strongly suggested that the Nigerian government issue a strongly worded ultimatum that all existing companies in Nigeria with South African investment would be nationalized should the South African government continue to refrain from taking a decisive action to curb violence on Nigerian citizens in South Africa.
Institution of Claims for Compensation in South African Courts
The Nigerian government ought to institute an action in a South African Court against the South African Government for compensation for the lives and property lost in the xenophobic attack. This claim ought to elucidate among other things that the government stood by while Nigerian nationals lost their lives and property.
Further, individual Nigerians resident in South Africa may also institute actions for the enforcement of their fundamental rights to life, liberty, dignity and property against identified South African nationals and other authorities, claiming heavy exemplary damages. This action is made possible in the light of South Africa having domesticated the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights.
It is believed that an implementation of any of or all the above suggestions would curb the menace of xenophobia as it affects the Nigerian government and people.
Bright Ogbonna Esq.
International affairs Consultant
SIFA Human Rights Office