South Africa rejects Nigeria’s compensation demand for victims of xenophobia

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The South African government has ruled out any possibility of paying compensation to Nigerians whose businesses were destroyed or looted in the latest round of xenophobic attacks that erupted last Sunday.

The demand for compensation of Nigerians who suffered in the latest waves of xenophobic attacks is one of two demands the Nigerian government made earlier in the week. Nigeria also said South Africa must guarantee the safety of her citizens in the country.

However, South African Foreign Affairs Minister Naledi Pandor on Thursday told Reuters that there was no provision in South African law for compensation for damages caused in the attacks.

The Nigerian government made the demand for compensation payment for Nigerian business attacked and looted during the attack and also a security mechanism for Nigerians living in the country; after recalling its High Commissioner in Pretoria.

However, ostensibly in response to the reprisal attacks on South African businesses in Nigeria, South Africa on Thursday closed its diplomatic missions in Lagos and Abuja.

Pandor said on Thursday that the embassy was closed temporarily after threats led to fears for staff safety. “There is Afrophobia we are sensing that exists, there is resentment and we need to address that,” Pandor told Reuters news agency.

The announcement signals worsening diplomatic relations between Abuja and Pretoria as the Nigerian foreign ministry said Air Peace, a commercial airline, had offered to send an aircraft on Friday to evacuate nationals who were willing to return, “free of charge”.

“The general public is hereby advised to inform their relatives in South Africa to take advantage of this laudable gesture,” Nigerian foreign ministry spokesman Ferdinand Nwonye said on Wednesday.

“Interested Nigerians are therefore advised to liaise with the High Commission of Nigeria in Pretoria and the Consulate General of Nigeria in Johannesburg for further necessary arrangement.”

Nigeria also recalled its High Commissioner to South Africa, Ambassador Kabiru Bala and also pulled out of an African economic summit in South Africa.

Although, Nigerian security operatives had been strengthened around South African businesses in Nigeria, some South African affiliated businesses were attacked already.

The Nigerian division of South African telecom giant, MTN announced on Wednesday it was shutting all stores and service centers in Nigeria until further notice after its facilities in three cities were attacked.

Rioting in South Africa has killed at least five people in South Africa in the last few days. South African police said it has arrested almost 300 persons.