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Counting Economic Losses Of Xenophobic Attacks

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There were series of retaliatory attacks on businesses with South African interest spread across major Nigerian cities recently. In this piece, ANTHONY AWUNOR, BUKOLA IDOWU, SAMUEL ABULUDE, SHOLA BELLO, KEHINDE SALLAH look at the economic implications of such attacks.

Violence against immigrants broke out in South Africa on the 1st September, 2019 which later sparked angry reactions across the continent, particularly in Nigeria.

The anti-foreigner attacks in Johannesburg equally triggered violence and widespread looting of South African-owned brands in Nigeria.

Protesters set fire to many entrances leading into a busy mall housing South African retail store Shoprite and looted groceries and toiletries from the supermarket in Lagos.

Consequently, MTN in Nigeria shut down its offices and service centres across the country after its office in FCT, Oyo, Lagos, Akwa Ibom, Ibadan and Uyo were vandalized and burnt down by angry protesters. Shoprite on its part also shut down its outlets in Ikeja and some other parts following the mass looting of their branches in Jakande Estate Lekki, Sangotedo, Osapa Mall and Surulere. Many other stores owned by Nigerians were also plundered in the raids.

MTN, Shoprite As Major Targets.

MTN Nigeria which recently listed on the Nigerian Stock Exchange after operating in the country for close to 20 years in Nigeria has so far suffered the most in the outlast by irate youths against South African businesses.

Not less than four of its offices across different states in Nigeria had been razed while two of its mast infrastructure had been set ablaze. The telecoms company had in the attacks lost properties worth billions of Naira and had been forced to close all its offices nationwide despite its condemnation of the attacks on Nigerians in South Africa, deployment of security agents and pleas by the Nigerian Government against violence.

As at the end of the trading on Wednesday this week, the market capitalisation of shares belonging to MTN Nigeria on the Nigerian Stock Exchange dropped by N30.5 billion due to the crises.

MTN’s shares, which opened at N140 per share, lost N1.50 to close at N138.50.

In total, the market capitalisation which opened at N13.420 trillion lost N130 billion to close at N13.290 trillion.

Asides the millions worth of properties that were destroyed, and the millions worth of goods that were either destroyed or carted away, Shoprite is also losing millions in sales as its shops remain closed till further notice. Shoprite had made a R35.3 billion gross profit in the first half of the year about N861 billion. Nigeria and Zambia hold its major stores outside of SA.

The violence on Shoprite also spread to PEP a retail low cost clothing outlet as its outlets were plundered by raging youths. The several outlets of the clothing store has likewise remained closed for business as it suffers sale loss for the period it remained under lock and key.

Also, Nigerian businesses close to Shoprite and PEP or have similar names as South African businesses had been partakers of the violence as shop owners at the Lekki mall as well as Surulere had their store vandalised. Properties and wares worth billions of Naira had been lost to the reprisal attacks.

Whilst the South African investments in the financial industry seemed to have escaped the attacks, an offsite ATM of Stanbic IBTC had been vandalised on Wednesday night prompting increased deployment of police officers. Standard Chartered Bank, Rand Merchant Bank had likewise remained cautious, keeping some of their branches cited in volatile areas closed for business.

Commenting on the violent reprisals, Head of Tax and Corporate Advisory Services at PwC Nigeria, Taiwo Oyedele noted that “it is in our enlightened self-interest to protect all legitimate businesses within our shores. It is barbaric, criminal and completely senseless to attack innocent people for a crime committed by others. We are one people created by God”.

Nigerians React

Reacting to the xenophobic attacks against Nigerians in South Africa, the national president of the Nigerian Association of Chambers of Commerce Industry, Mines and Agriculture (NACCIMA) Hajiya Saratu  Aliyu has called on President Muhammadu Buhari and the Minister of Foreign Affairs to urgently take decisive action to end the ongoing xenophobic attack on Nigerians in South Africa.

She was of the view that current acts of vandalism against Nigerians and other foreign Nationals, their properties and businesses in South Africa were unjustified, unacceptable and should stop with immediate effect.

She called on South African Authorities to ensure full protection of Nigerians and all persons being targeted.  Compensation, she said, should also be paid to those whose properties have been looted or destroyed.

The NACCIMA president drew attention to the potential damage of these attacks on Nigeria-South Africa Bilateral Economic Relations and advised that the forthcoming Bi-national Commission between Nigeria and South Africa, in October, presents an opportunity for a more strategic action for enduring peaceful ties. This is to ensure the realisation of the full potentials of trade and economic relations.

She stressed that so much rests on our two countries for inclusive economic growth and development of the African continent and peoples, especially against the background of Agenda 2063; The Africa We Want, as envisioned by the African Union.

In his reaction, a businessman, Ademola Akanji, who spoke to LEADERSHIP Weekend, condemned the attacks, describing it as a very bad and poor occurrence for Africans.

Akanji stated that the South African citizens need reorientation about how things work with foreigners because Nigerians there are paying their dues and running legal businesses. He, however, frowned at the reprisal here in Nigeria stating that “it a shameful act because the properties being looted and destroyed are also for fellow Nigerians and it will only affect Nigerians. Moreover touts have even hijacked the process to disturb the peace of the country, if you stop one of these looters and ask about xenophobia I am sure you might not get a tangible response.”

Akanji further called on the Nigerian government to take prompt actions and calm people down as they haven’t done enough and this is making the country appear weak.

Also speaking to LEADERSHIP Weekend, Idris Bakare stated that, he was in support of the stand of some Nigerians especially on shutting down of various South African-owned companies in Nigeria, saying, “I won’t support burning down those companies. Although, it is not far from evident that South Africans detest Nigerians because they believe we are criminals, are too loud and our men steal their women. Nigerians on the other hand believe that South Africans are simply jealous of our self-confidence and our ability to thrive and outshine.

“Nigerians have nothing to gain by being lured into the xenophobia so I wouldn’t support xenophobia for xenophobia, war for war, but I support shutting down those companies for some time, till they reach a reasonable conclusion. While the intentions of Nigerians might be noble, ignorantly we did not consider the thousands of Nigerians employed by MTN, Shoprite, MultiChoice, PEP and the many other South African companies that are household names in Nigeria.

“Security is very important and the value of economy can never be underestimated. Paying evil with evil will not be the best approach to this situation it is like kicking the dead body of a wicked man which would only make you also a wicked man. If we as Nigerians detest xenophobia, then we shouldn’t make xenophobia the best approach to the appalling situation on ground.

“Forcing these businesses to leave, or crippling their operations, would only worsen Nigeria’s already grim unemployment statistics and the loss of the valuable services they provide would leave a vacuum. To this end, I would encourage Nigerians not to burn down those companies instead to exercise restraint while awaiting the outcome of diplomatic interventions.”

Similarly, Sodiq Iyanda is also of the same opinion; to him the xenophobic attacks on foreigners especially Nigerians is barbaric, baseless and totally dehumanizing. It is a feeling of inferiority complex on the part of South Africans.

“Whatever the reasons for this outplay of hostility towards Nigeria and other foreigners by South Africans, I think killing is not even close to one of the solutions. I don’t appreciate the lawless behaviour of vandalizing and looting of South African-owned companies and properties but I can’t blame them out rightly. When a government is unresponsive, such a thing should be expected.

“There are ways strong definitive messages or warnings can be sent to the government of South Africa immediately, but nothing was done. The strong definitive warnings of what Goodluck Jonathan did is still fresh in our memories, the president should do something immediately to avoid further oppression and killing.” Iyanda advised.

Another person who gave his name simply as Eromosele expressed his displeasure on the ongoing attacks stating that we as Africans should be our brother’s keeper, Nigerians are not their problem they should hold their government to account where they have failed.  It can be stopped through continuous education and sensitization. The SA government should do more to address the inequality in their country.  The government should urgently put plans in place to address unemployment and crime in South Africa.”

Eromosele added that, “Authorities in Nigeria should be alive to their responsibilities as regards Nigerians abroad. They contribute a lot through remittances hence the need to let other countries know that they can retaliate economically if Nigerian citizens are deliberately targeted.

“It is a direct consequence of the ugly scenes on video on social media.  While the attacks on South African businesses and condemnable, this is the time for authorities in South Africa to realize that action needed to be taken now as there will always be consequence when people feel the South African government is not doing enough to prevent her citizens from taking laws into their hand. I condemn the attack on South Africa businesses in Nigeria because Nigerians work in those organizations and support their families from there.

Impact On Tourism, Showbiz

There are indications that South African Tourism will also suffer as a result of the crises. Already tour operators are said to be worried with the development.

For instance, travel agents in the country and outbound tourism operators are threatening to stop selling tickets and travel services to South Africa until they do the needful.

One of the tour operators who spoke under the condition of anonymity said “I have written a letter to withdraw all my clients passports from South African Embassy. All the tour operators should stop selling to South African.”

The xenophobic attacks have also affected the showbiz industry as the crises affected scheduled shows of some of the notable artistes billed to perform in South Africa. For instance, Tiwa Savage was said to have cancelled her performance in South Africa.

Savage who boycotted the performance said “I refuse to watch the barbaric butchering of my people in South Africa. This is sick. For this reason, I will not be performing at the upcoming DSTV Delicious Festival in Johannesburg on the 21st of September. My prayers are with all the victims and families.”

In the same vein, Bright Okpocha popularly known as Basketmouth equally cancelled his appearance at the upcoming Comic Choice Awards in South Africa. Damini Ogulu known as Burma Boy has also cancelled his show scheduled to take place at his year’s AfroPunk Festival in Johannesburg on December 30 and 31. But after watching the killing of my people in South Africa the same way we have watched it happen a few times in the past. I will never go to South Africa again for any reason until the South African government wakes up.

Lamenting the situation, another entertainer, Toke Makinwa said “We are all Africans, this is such a huge blow, it’s like we take 10 steps forward and 50 back. We have come so far from the dark ages yet we kill each other, just hearing about the xenophobic attack in South Africa and my heart is broken, I cannot even begin to watch the gruesome videos, why? Why so much hate in the world? Why do we compete so much it becomes less healthy and eviler, what exactly is the point to all the killing? I love the people of South Africa, I know so many hardworking South Africans and you all have shown me love and so I implore you all to stand up for what is right.

“We all cannot continue in silence if hate lingers nobody wins. Our doors have been nothing but welcoming to you all, we have so many South Africans living and working here, we make music together, promote our fashion to the rest of the world explore both cultures. Now let’s come together to fight this evil in our midst. We are all Africans, a win for us is for us to the world. United. This is so sad, so disturbing and painful” she said.

To Genevieve Nnaji, it is a time Nigerians start believing in themselves. “A life with us isn’t the worse thing. They need to see one without us. They have shown us countless times who they are. Let’s believe them. It’s time to show them who we are. But most importantly it is time to believe in ourselves. They see our potential, our greatness and we need to see it too”.

Air Peace Airline To The Rescue

Worried by the high spate of violence and attacks meted to Nigerians in South Africa, Air Peace has offered to evacuate Nigerians from the troubled country as a sign of solidarity with the government of President Muhammadu Buhari administration.

The chairman of the airline, Allen Onyema, made the announcement recently while sympathising with the Nigerian victims who lost their lives and properties in the attacks.

According to him, the airline decided to bring back Nigerian in support of the action already taken by the federal government.

In a letter addressed to the minister of Foreign Affairs, Geoffery Onyeama on September 4, 2019, Air Peace expressed readiness to evacuate Nigerians who are willing to leave the country and said that the airline would dispatch its flights to Johannesburg once the arrangement has been completed by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

“The xenophobic attacks on Nigerians in South Africa is an unfortunate incident and we cannot fold our hands and watch our fellow Nigerians be killed by South Africans.

“To this end, Air Peace is willing to support the Nigerian government’s effort in this matter by deploying our B777aircraft immediately to South Africa to bring Nigerians back home.

“We humbly plead with the Federal Government to please inform the Nigerian embassy and the South African government to rescue the stranded Nigerians by transporting them to the airport to allow Air Peace evacuate them back to Nigeria,” the airline said.

Reacting to the proposal, the minister of Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Onyeama, welcomed the offer and said it would be a relief to government and Nigerians in South Africa who might be stranded.

Catalogue of attacks

February 3 2019: 2019 xenophobic killings started with the picture of an unknown Nigerian who is in his mid-20s being shared with claims the SAPS killed him.

A twitter user Ndugozie, who tweeted with his handle @NduChiogie, gave more information about the killings.

He tweeted, “This Nigerian guy travelled to South Africa on 14 January 2019 and was killed on February 3.

March 15 2019: Another unidentified Nigerian was killed in a drive-by shooting in the in Troye Street, Sunnyside, Pretoria.

The victim, 44, according to eyewitness, was attacked after he had dropped off his brother. SAPS said a case of murder was being investigated.

April 5 2019: Goziem Akpenyi was stabbed to death at Bellville Stadium parking lot in Cape Town at about 1 pm. He was stabbed by three unidentified coloured South African men after an argument and he died on the spot.

April 6 2019: Mr Bonny Iwuoha, 48, from Ihitte/Uboma in Imo State, was also stabbed to death at about 11:45 pm in Johannesburg.

It was gathered that he was trailed from 152 Hay Street Turffontein, and thereafter, stabbed and killed him in front of his gate at Turf Road, Turffontein.

April 27 2019: 34-year-old Nigerian, Samuel Nkennaya, was killed by some South Africans. His attackers claimed to have thought he kidnapped a six-year-old girl he was holding. Nkennaya was mobbed together with his friend Chinonso Nwudo when they came out of a supermarket. Nkennaya died at the scene of the mob while Nwudo was left in critical condition.

April 28 2019: Ebuka Udugbo was allegedly killed by South African Police. Udugbo was said to have had a quarrel with his girlfriend on the morning of April 28. His girlfriend reportedly called the police after he had left the house but the police went after him and arrested him.

Reacting to the killing, the President of the Nigerian Citizens Association South Africa (NICASA), Ben Okoli, said, “The police took his car keys, left the car by the way and drove with him back to his house in the police car along with the girlfriend.

May 3, 2019: Okechukwu Henry from Nigeria’s Imo State was stabbed to death by unidentified robbers in Mpumalanga. Henry, a car dealer who specialised in used cars, lived in Middleburg Mpumalanga Province. Earlier before his death, some two local guys had indicated interest to buy his car – a white VW Polo. After negotiation, they requested to take the car for a test ride. Henry accepted and drove along with them. As they drove out, he suddenly realised that they were robbers as they demanded the key of the car.

They stabbed him several times, took the keys but could not manage to drive away from the car. Their action attracted the attention of people around and they ran away with the keys without the car.

June 13 2019: Obianuju Ndubuisi-Chukwu, a Nigerian insurance chief, was killed in her hotel room.

She was found dead in her room at Emperor Palace Hotel after attending a meeting of the African Insurance Organisation in the South African commercial capital. Her death sparked outrage both in Nigeria and South Africa with the Nigerian senate urging President Muhammadu Buhari to issue a travel alert on South Africa.

June 14 2019: Maxwell Ikechukwu Okoye was reportedly killed by South African police officers at about 01:00 hours on Friday, June 14. The police invaded his house in Ladysmith in Kwazulu Natal Province. By morning, the police reported him dead claiming he was foaming when they broke into his house.

July 20 2019: The latest of the killings of Nigerians in South Africa was the death of a 17-year-old Chinonso Obiaju who was killed in Johannesburg.

It was reported that he went to buy an item from a shop with his friend when someone chased and opened fire on them, killing him.

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