Xenophobia: Nigeria, South Africa to hold Bi-National conference next month

South Africa/Nigeria flags

The next session of the Nigeria-South Africa Bi-National Commission (BNC) would hold in Pretoria in October to evolve documented solutions to xenophobic attacks on Nigerians in that country, Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Mustapha Suleiman, has said.

Suleiman told the Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs on Thursday in Abuja that the BNC, which would be attended by Nigerian and South African officials, was part of government’s efforts at ending attacks of Nigerian nationals in South Africa.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the Nigeria-South Africa Bi-National Commission (BNC) was established in 1999 to promote trade and investment as well as enhance people-to-people cooperation and institution building between the two countries.

According to its statute, the BNC, which was being headed by vice presidents of both countries, was “borne out of a commitment by Nigeria and South Africa to effectively structure bilateral relations through the establishment of a Bi-National Commission”.

The annual meeting of the Nigeria-South Africa Bi-National Commission, which was being hosted by rotation between both countries, was last held in 2009.

Suleiman said that the meeting would result in the signing of agreements and memorandum of understanding (MoU) between both countries on how best to remedy issues of Xenophobia now and in the future.

“Essentially, now we are trying to make sure that we have subsisting agreements that will address these issues now and in the future .

“We are looking at other issues we feel should be part of the definition of the relationship between Nigeria and South Africa.

“The essence of this is that it will help to determine our actions, if such issue happens, which I think in the last few years we had not had such agreements.

“Because xenophobic attacks had been happening over time but, this is the climax and it has come to fore that South African government must protect Nigerian citizens.

“And it requires some kind of documentation, some kind of understanding between the two countries as to how it can be remedied,’’ the permanent secretary said.

He said President Muhammadu Buhari had directed the ministry to use the conference to bring up all the issues that are challenging and irritating Nigeria’s relationship with South Africa.

He said the Minster of Foreign Affairs, Geoffery Onyema, had also convened an inter-ministerial meeting with various ministries in Nigeria to get inputs on other issues to be brought for discussion at the conference.

“And we have defined all the perimeters, we now have our draft MoUs and draft agreements that will be tabled for discussion, when the bilateral commission is conveyed on the first week of October.

“We look forward to the conference, we look forward to signing agreements and MoUs in specific terms, when such issues happens to Nigerian citizens.

“What kind of remedies can we put in place, so we are defining such parameters, we are seeking to establish them as agreements, so we can refer to it to solve these issues when they come up in the future,” he said.

Chairman of the Committee, Sen. Mohammed Bulkachuwa, said the committee invited the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to brief it on what the ministry had done over the attacks.

Bulkachuwa commended the Chairman of Air Peace, Allen Onyema, for helping to evacuate Nigerians who volunteered to come back.

He said the call for a national honour for Onyema deserved consideration, noting that his actions would inspire other Nigerians to help alleviate challenges of Nigerian nationals in need of assistance.