Muhammadu Buhari
Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari (Courtesy of the U.S. State Department)

Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari’s state visit to South Africa has left Nigerians living in the country with a bitter taste in their mouths, after the statesman’s decision not to demand reparations for victims of the recent xenophobic attacks.

Buhari’s three-day visit included bi-national talks between the South African and Nigerian governments and, on Friday, a meeting with Nigerian citizens, the Johannesburg-based City Press reported.

In a “family” meeting held Friday at the Sheraton Hotel in Pretoria, it was expected that he would address how the Nigerians would be compensated for their losses during the attacks, but this did not happen.

Babatunde Agbeniga, chief whip of the All Progressive Congress SA (APC SA), represented a group which believed that this was the only way the matter could be solved.

Buhari is a member of the APC party.

“The violence and all that has been taking place over the past few weeks … nobody should be happy about that, lives have been lost in the process, some properties have been lost in the process, livelihoods have been lost in the process,” Agbeniga said. “The South African government should be able to compensate anyone who has lost something because that is not their fault. We are going to take it up officially, that is part of what we are agitating for as APC SA at the moment because no one can just loot your things.”

A statement released by the Nigerian presidency’s press office said that in the meeting, Buhari decided to focus on other issues relating to the violent attacks rather than on the demand for compensation.

During the meeting attended by students, traders, medical doctors, clerics and academics Buhari expressed shock at the outbreak of the violence and called it an “embarrassment to the continent.”

“Let me again use this medium to condole with the families of all those who lost their lives over the years in such tragic incidents. May their souls rest in peace,” Buhari said. “As a government, we are quite disturbed by these very unfortunate events and have taken actions and measures to address this issue and prevent their recurrence with the South African government.”

He again urged Nigerians to respect South African laws, to represent the country well and never to forget their roots.

Buhari also called for “the few that sometimes give us a bad name to desist from such misdemeanors and be good ambassadors.”

“First, you are our ambassadors and the face of our country to the world wherever you are,” the Nigerian president said. “The world is therefore, watching you and would make judgements on Nigeria based on your comportment and actions. Second, in whatever legitimate engagement you find yourself, you must strive to excel and be the best.

“Third, while you are out in the Diaspora, do not forget home,” the statement said. “You represent some of the best human assets that Nigeria has. With your education and exposure to the world, you are at the cutting edge of technology.”

Gauteng was hit by a spate of xenophobic violence last month with areas around Johannesburg and Pretoria affected the most. The conflict also spread to Nigeria, where citizens targeted South African businesses in retaliation.

At least 12 people were killed and hundreds of migrant Nigerians were repatriated to their country.

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WI Guest Author

This correspondent is a guest contributor to The Washington Informer.

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