400 Nigerians jailed in South Africa

Saturday March 18 2017

Nigerian Foreign Affairs minister Geoffrey

Nigerian Foreign Affairs minister Geoffrey Jideofor Kwusike Onyeama (left) and South African minister for International Relations Maite Nkoana-Mashabane (right) give a press briefing after a bilateral meeting on March 13, 2017 in Pretoria, South Africa. PHOTO | GIANLUIGI GUERCIA | AFP 

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Nigeria’s bid to protect its nationals against xenophobic attacks, has led to the discovery of 400 of its citizens in South African prisons.

Interior and Foreign Affairs ministries high level committee on xenophobic attacks in South Africa confirmed the find, describing it as worrisome.

Interior minister Abdulrahman Dambazau and his Foreign Affairs counterpart Geoffrey Onyeama said at a meeting in Abuja on Friday night that they had visited South Africa in the wake of the recent attacks on foreigners.

The Nigerians in the south African jails were convicted for various offences, including prostitution and drug and human trafficking.

They will complete their jail terms in South Africa because there was no prisoner exchange arrangement between Nigeria and South Africa.

The two minister said they also discussed Nigerians' involvement in some criminal activities abroad.

Mr Dambazau noted that besides the bad elements: "We have Nigerian professionals who are contributing positively to development of the economy of South Africa.’’

“However, that is not to say that they should fold their arms and not to do something about somebody involved in criminality.

“But in doing that, we emphasised that due process of the law should be taken in terms of the assumption of innocence, being proven guilty and in terms of fair hearing."

The minister promised to pursue a prisoners' exchange arrangement in due course.

“When we met with the Nigerian community, we also emphasised that those who are involved in criminal behaviour should not be allowed to spoil the good name of Nigeria.

“So they have that moral responsibility to report where necessary,” he said.

The South African government denied that the attacks were targeted at Nigerians alone, though security operatives alleged that many Nigerians were involved in numerous criminal acts.