THE RUSTENBURG 12

THE RUSTENBURG 12

THE RUSTENBURG 12.

The Spat Between The Nigerian Consulate And The Nigerian Union in South Africa, featuring Abike Dabiri-Erewa, The Special Adviser to the President of Nigeria on Diaspora affairs.

Barrister Austin Okeke Writes From South Africa.

June 23, 2018

The spate of xenophobia and attacks on Nigerians in South Africa has taken a dramatic turn.

The Nigerian Consulate and The Nigerian Union in South Africa, before attacking each other in the public space using both the print and electronic media, were working together to secure the release from detention, 12 Nigerians still in a holding cell in Rustenburg South African; now known as “The Rustenburg 12”

The Rustenburg 12 are a group of Nigerians living in Rustenburg South African; Some are married with children to South African women and have businesses they run so to make ends meet.

They were arrested in December 2017 for public violence. Their crime is that they went on a legal protest against the killing of fellow Nigerians during a xenophobic attack by disgruntled South Africans who see as targets, fellow black Africans as a way to vent their frustrations for poor or no service delivery.

Black Africans living in South Africa are not the South African government; why go loot their shops and kill them for the sins of the South African government.

The Nigerian Consulate and the Nigerian Union in South Africa had been collaborating in their efforts to secure the release of the Rustenburg 12. Somehow something went wrong because, as it now appears, their efforts weren’t concerted in the first place.

The Rustenburg 12 were 14 in number on the fateful day they were arrested. Two of them were subsequently released whilst the 12 have remained in detention for over six months for an offence whose penalty is a fine of less than 20 US dollars.

The South African citizens have threatened to lynch them should they be released.

No consideration whatsoever for their wives and children, none whatsoever for their constitutional rights.

The South African government too has not even considered, for the interest of safety and security, not mentioning their constitutional rights, to have them transferred from the city of Rustenburg to a different city for a court hearing and to have them released there. It is not rocket science.

The Nigerian Consulate officials together with officials of the Nigerian Union have been sighted at court during one of the court hearings. This is a clear evidence that they indeed had collaborated in the recent past.

All hell broke lose after the recent visit of Mrs Abike Dabiri -Erewa to South Africa in April, and her subsequent report on the matter. Abike Dabiri, who didn’t travel to South Africa specifically for this matter but was only passing through from Australia, reported that the Rustenburg 12 are criminals and drug dealers, reason they are still being detained for over six months.

This negative reporting didn’t go down well with the officials of the Nigerian Union. It was viewed as sabotage.

As disheartening as it is, the same officials of the Nigerian Union are the ones that always feed Abike Dabiri with reports on Diaspora affairs in South Africa; Abike Dabiri is sitting in Abuja, and had relied on reports from people in South Africa. Same report Abike Dabiri would submit to the Nigerian government for filing.

How come now has she decided to stab the Nigerian Union in the back. Something surely is amiss.

This prompted the President of the Nigerian Union; Mr Adetola Adebajo to go to Channels TV on 23rd April 2018 to spill the beans on the Nigerian Consulate General in Johannesburg South Africa and the High Commission in Pretoria South Africa.

Adetola alleged that the Nigerian missions in South Africa are inept and would only purport to be actively working for the interest of Nigerians only if there would be financial benefits emanating therefrom.

In response, the Nigerian Consulate sent out a media release to condemn the utterances of Adetola and gave the Nigerian Union an ultimatum to disassociate itself from the comments of its President, tender a written apology and go back to Channels TV to retract and recant the comments of its President, failing which, there will be consequences.

The Nigerian Union is a Non Governmental Organization registered in terms of the laws of South Africa, what in the first place is it doing in bed with the Nigerian Consulate.

Again, what right does the Nigerian Consulate have when it issued out an ultimatum to the Nigerian Union. It could simply have gone to the same Channels TV to contradict the assertions made by the President of the Nigerian Union South Africa.

Seeing that the Nigerian Union didn’t respond or comply with its demands, the Nigerian Consulate then connived with other Nigerian citizens and some disgruntled members of the Nigerian Union to form a rival Nigerian association called Nigeria Citizens Association South Africa “NICASA”

NICASA, supposedly a Non Governmental Organization, was hurriedly set up and elections held at the Nigerian Consulate, blessed few days later by the Nigerian Ambassador.

Divide and rule system practised in Nigeria has now been exported to South Africa. What a shame on us all.

This was without proper representation of the Federal Character principles of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. Anyway that is not an offence these days looking, at the Buhari Cabinet Ministers and Service Chiefs.

When a fish rots, it starts from the head. Of course the Nigerian Consulate will borrow from its boss and Head of State, Buhari.

The Nigerian Union which hitherto had been enjoying the financial benefits of having Online Integrated Service “OIS ” process Visas and Passports applications, some wives of the Nigerian Union officials employed by OIS, is now on a revenge mission to have OIS scrapped; only now alleging that it makes it more expensive to go through a third party to apply for visas and passports.

OIS is practically a courier service that collects visas and passports applications for a fee. This then makes Nigerian visas and passports exorbitant to obtain.

This is seen as a reprisal attack on the Nigerian Consulate for having established a rival Nigerian association so to spite the Nigerian Union and to deny it of any benefit it was previously enjoying when it was in bed with the Nigerian Consulate.

Lets go back to Abike Dabiri.

Abike Dabiri in 2017 as the Special Adviser to the President on Diaspora affairs, went on Nigerian TV to instigate protest against South Africa and South African companies in Nigeria. University students went on rampage in Nigeria to protest against the same South African companies that would receive their job applications after graduation.

The report on which Abike Dabiri based her findings on the 2017 xenophobic attack on Nigerians in South Africa was prepared by the same Nigerian Union that she has now connived against.

By all standard, no person would act upon a hearsay, just like Abike Dabiri did last year on the Nigerian TV when she instigated the Nigerian student union to go on rampage. It didn’t stop there, her actions brought about unwarranted panic to so many families in Nigeria whose children and relations are living in South Africa.

Thank goodness i was in Nigeria at the time, and was invited to talk about same matter on Radio Nigeria, and Power FM in Enugu. I immediately set the record straight. Families thatphoned in to the live program with questions and answers were very relieved to know the true state of affairs.

Talk about the policy of expediency, talk about inefficiency and denialism in the Nigerian government, I will tell you to go look at the face of public servants like Abike Dabiri. What arrant nonsense in these days of internet and social media where knowledge and information abound.

Now Abike Dabiri and the Nigerian government have opened a flood gate of what they can never imagine.

Today it is NICASA, tomorrow it will be another rival Nigerian association in South Africa, all in the face of obvious and evergreen hostilities against Nigerians in South Africa.

Meanwhile the interest of the Rustenburg 12 has been swept under the carpet until a winner emerges out of this melodrama.

When elephants fight the grass suffers.

No victor no vanquished is a phrase Nigerians are familiar with. What a mess.

Now, well meaning Nigerians in South Africa are now calling on me to step in to calm the storm. I concern is to reconcile our people; united we stand, and divided we fall

We must not encourage the polarization of the very vulnerable Nigerians living in South Africa.

I was the De Facto Ambassador of Nigeria to South Africa at the time Nigeria was under series of sanctions, I am the first leader of the Nigerian community in South Africa, and I also doubled as a Pro Democracy leader using the South Africa Nigeria Democratic Support Group as a platform. This was established by the ANC government of the late President Nelson Mandela to campaign for sanctions against the late Abacha military regime and also to reinstate democracy in Nigeria.

I thank you.

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Austin Okeke
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Barrister Austin Okeke Writes From South Africa

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