Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 18 September 2019

Heavy security to protect South African businesses in Nigeria

The reprisal attacks follow xenophobic violence in South Africa

A police officer removes burning tires from the road, as protesters set up fires to block traffic along Airport Road in Abuja, Nigeria September 4, 2019. Reuters
A police officer removes burning tires from the road, as protesters set up fires to block traffic along Airport Road in Abuja, Nigeria September 4, 2019. Reuters

Security was ramped up around South African businesses across Nigeria on Wednesday following a wave of reprisal attacks in response to violence against foreign-owned shops in South Africa, police said.

The move came a day after stores operated by the major supermarket chain, Shoprite, the telecoms giant MTN and other South African firms suffered looting and vandalism in several Nigerian cities, they said.

"We have stepped up security around MTN, Shoprite and other South African businesses across Nigeria," national police spokesman Frank Mba told AFP.

South Africa has huge investments in Nigeria, with Shoprite, MTN, digital pay-television Multichoice and other companies jostling for a share of the continent's biggest market.

AFP reporters saw a heavy security presence on Wednesday at Shoprite's office at the Jabi Lake Mall in Abuja, the Nigerian capital, where MTN also has a branch.

All gates leading into the mall were closed and customers were screened before they were allowed to enter.

"We are in full operations, what we have done is however to intensify security," said a manager for the mall, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

"Our action is based on what has happened across the country in reaction to the xenophobic attacks in South Africa. Every customer coming in from today will be screened properly before he or she is allowed in," he said.

On Monday and Tuesday, mobs descended on business hubs and townships in various parts of South Africa, looting dozens of shops and torching trucks driven by foreigners in an outburst of anti-migrant anger.

Foreigners are accused of taking jobs away from South Africans – nearly one South African worker in three is unemployed.

The country is a major destination for economic migrants from neighbouring Lesotho, Mozambique and Zimbabwe. But others come from much farther away, including South Asia and Nigeria.

The information commissioner for Lagos state, Gbenga Omotosho, said the Shoprite complexes at Jakande and Sangotedo Area in Ajah had been attacked "by some unidentified people claiming to be acting in retaliation against the attacks on Nigerians in South Africa."

"These attacks are condemned, as they are against the Nigerian spirit of accommodation and benevolence," he said in a statement.

Information Minister Lai Mohammed also warned in a statement that "targeting South African companies in Nigeria for attack was akin to cutting off ones nose to spite the face."

"The investors in such companies, especially MTN and Shoprite, are Nigerians," he pointed out

Nigeria on Tuesday summoned the South African ambassador for talks and said President Muhammadu Buhari was sending an envoy to convey his displeasure to President Cyril Ramaphosa.

Updated: September 5, 2019 02:43 PM

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