Adetutu Folasade-Koyi, Abuja
The Federal Government has said looters of MTN, Shoprite and other South African-allied companies in Nigeria would be prosecuted.
Besides, government dismissed viral videos of Nigerians being attacked in South Africa as fake.
Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, disclosed these at a press conference in Abuja, yesterday.
The Federal Government pleaded with Nigerians to stop attacking South African-allied firms as they were owned by Nigerians and not foreigners as perceived.
He said: “…Some unscrupulous people are engaging in disinformation, to inflame passion by using fake news and videos of unrelated attacks; to very strongly warn the naysayers and hoodlums who might want to capitalise on the widespread disenchantment and anger of Nigerians over the attacks in South Africa to foment mayhem, and to appeal to Nigerians, especially opinion leaders, not to allow raw emotions to guide their response to the attacks…
“…Obviously, hoodlums have hijacked the peaceful protests by some Nigerians to loot shops at Shoprite and other Malls in some locations across the country.
“A Nigerian lady whose shop was looted at the Novare Mall in Lagos said she lost millions of naira to the hoodlums who looted her shop. The offices of the MTN nationwide have either been attacked or threatened. Other South African firms have either shut their doors or are open under heavy security.
“As we said in our intervention on Tuesday, Nigerians own and run the shops in the various Shoprite malls across the country. Nigerians work there also. MTN is listed on the Nigerian Stock Exchange and the investors in this company are Nigerians. The workers are mostly Nigerians.
“Same applies to other South African businesses in the country. By attacking them, we are hurting our own people. That is the blunt truth.
“Some hoodlums have also targeted foreigners under the guise of protesting against the xenophobic attacks in South Africa.
“This is saddening. If we are complaining that South Africans are attacking Nigerians in South Africa, how, then, can we tolerate Nigerians attacking Nigerians and foreigners right here in Nigeria? What purpose do such attacks serve, other that for Nigerians to lose their investments and jobs?
“Must we cut our nose to spite our face? It is in this light that I want to assure all Nigerians, and indeed foreigners living in Nigeria, that the federal government has put in place adequate security measures to protect the lives and property of all.
“The security agencies have been put on high alert, and looters will be arrested and made to face justice.
“I also want to alert Nigerians to the video clips being circulated on the social media, purportedly showing how Nigerians are being killed in South Africa.
“Three of such videos come to mind: One video shows a man who has been set ablaze trying to escape, and those circulating the video identified the man as Nigerian.
This is not true. The video shows Mozambican Ernesto Alfabeto Nhamuave, a victim of xenophobic violence in South Africa in 2008, and it is not that of a Nigerian being attacked in 2019.
“Another video shows those said to be Nigerians jumping down from a multi-storey building that was purportedly set on fire by xenophobic attackers in South Africa.
This is fake news as the video is that of a Suraj Coaching Centre in Gujarat State, India, that was gutted by fire on May 24, 2019, leaving about 18 people dead.
“The third video, purportedly showing the bodies of Nigerians who were burnt in xenophobic attacks, is the raw footage of those who were killed in a Tanzanian fuel tanker explosion in Morogoro that left at least 60 dead on August 10, 2019.
“Those who are circulating these videos should immediately desist from doing so. Apart from inflaming passion, the videos are also complicating the efforts of the government to calm frayed nerves at home in the wake of the xenophobic attacks in South Africa.”
Government also appealed to celebrities and opinion leaders to be moderate in their utterances.
“We want to appeal to our opinion leaders and celebrities to be guarded in their utterances and comments on the xenophobic attacks and the reactions from Nigerians. Words have meaning, and wrong words are like poisoned darts. In the words of the Buddha, ‘’Better than a thousand hollowed words, is one word that brings peace,’” the minister added.