Phillips: Xenophobic Attacks a Fallout of  Poor Diplomacy

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Dike Onwuamaeze

The Chairman of Nigeria-South Africa Chamber of Commerce (NSACC), Mr. Folunso Phillips, has attributed the recent xenophobic attacks on Nigerians in South Africa and the subsequent reprisals in Nigeria to the failure of both countries to work seriously on the diplomatic relationships.

Phillips, who is also the Founder and Executive Chairman of Phillips Consulting Limited, said the failure accounted for the inability of the two countries to renew their agreement, which disallowed the nationalisation of each other’s assets and commitment to pay compensation on assets damaged during uprisings in any of the countries by the government of the host country.

He disclosed to THISDAY that this agreement expired in 2010, and had not been renewed.

The agreement, which was signed by Alhaji Atiku Abubakar and Jacob Zuma, when they were vice presidents of Nigeria and South Africa respectively, would have provided the right instrument in deterring or compensating victims of recent attacks on Nigerian and South Africans’ assets in the respective countries. “I think that a lot more could have been done by both Nigeria and South Africa governments, which should accept the responsibility of abandoning diplomacy. I saw a document signed by Atiku and Zuma when they were vice presidents of Nigeria and South Africa respectively, in which they declared commitment to encourage and protect investments in the countries.  The document stated that if as a result of any uprising or action of that nature, the countries will compensate each other for the losses incurred. But this commitment expired in 2010, and from 2010 till date, nothing has happened to get it renewed,” Phillips said.

He also stated that South Africa would suffer significantly at the pan-African level if it failed to put a stop on the xenophobic attacks on African citizens.  “We are observing how things are beginning to evolve as President Paul Kagame of Rwanda has walked out of the World Economic Forum hosted in South Africa, and some others have said they would not attend. These are expressions saying ‘how can we be talking about World Economic Forum for Africa and this kind of things are going on in the country that is hosting the forum?’ It is a bit of contradiction for that to happen,” he said

Phillips, however, warned Nigeria not to nationalise South Africans investments in Nigeria to avoid sending out a strong negative signal to the international investing community.

According to him, “I think that is a very dangerous way to go because it is not just about South Africa. We will be telling others that if they come here and invest and have problems with us, the Nigerian government would nationalise their investments. It is not a responsible statement to make if you are a country looking for foreign investors because everyone is watching. So, I think the whole idea of nationalising South African assets is not the way to go. It is very wrong and dangerous. It is a strong negative signal to the investing community.”

He also advised the federal government against cutting off its diplomatic ties with South Africa.