EMEKA OKONKWO AND MTHULISI SIBANDA
THE alleged killing of a Nigerian man by South African police, which is turning out to be untrue, had indicated the recurrent diplomatic fallout between the two countries but startling revelations have emerged that could leave Nigeria with an egg on its face.
At the end of August, police in Vryheid in the northern KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) province allegedly tortured Kingsley Ikeri, a native of Mbaitolu in the south-eastern Imo State of Nigeria over alleged possession of drugs.
The Nigeria Union in South Africa, which said Ikeri was a businessman, alleged police arrested the deceased and a friend on suspicion of possession of drugs.
It is further alleged while interrogating the deceased, police used plastic to cover his face to extract information.
Ikeri was declared dead upon arrival in hospital.
The Nigerian union reported Ikeri, aged 27, was one of second Imo indigenes to be killed over the last few weeks, according to Bartholomew Eziagulu, provincial chairman of the union.
The recent development, coming months after a tiff involving the two governments after some properties of Nigerians in the Southern African country were torched during protests against drug peddling and sex slavery, has sparked an outburst from the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari.
Indications are the outburst is misplaced.
Abike Dabiri-Erewa, Buhari’s straight-talking senior special assistant on foreign affairs and diaspora, is again leading her country’s charge following the alleged incident in KZN.
She condemned the “incessant extra judicial killings of Nigerians living in South Africa.”
“This is one death too many,” said Dabiri-Erewa.
“The barbaric behaviour of the perpetrators is not only unacceptable but also calls for urgent attention by diplomatic authorities in Nigeria and South Africa.”
Dabiri-Erewa said in spite of all diplomatic talks between Nigeria and the government of President Jacob Zuma to address the issue, “it doesn’t seem to be working.”
Reports from South Africa indicated a senior diplomat from the Nigerian consulate in Johannesburg had visited Vryheid on a “fact-finding mission.”
The presidential aide urged the South African government to ensure that justice prevails by carrying out investigations and bringing the culprit/s to book.
Dabiri-Erewa had in February during a meeting in Abuja with South Africa High Commissioner, Lulu Mnguni said a total of 116 Nigerians had been killed in South Africa through extrajudicial means in the last two years.
It is alleged police carried out seven in ten of the killings, an allegation Naidoo denied.
Last week, the foreign affairs ministry, summoned South African Acting High Commissioner to Nigeria, Kenneth Pedro, to protest the alleged killing.
However the controversy in Vryheid has taken a new twist with CAJ News having in it good authority the suspect may have been liable for his own death while trying to conceal evidence.
South African police alleged the suspect might have ingested the exhibit alleged to be drugs in order to avoid detection.
Police spokesman, Brig. Vishnu Naidoo, confirmed the police’s version.
“As police were conducting a search in the house where the suspect was, he swallowed some powder suspected to be drugs, fell dizzy and was declared dead upon arrival at the local hospital,” Naidoo said.
The Independent Police Investigative Directorate (IPID), an agency responsible for investigating complaints against South African Police Service (SAPS), exonerated the law enforcers.
IPID spokesman, Moses Dlamini, said a post-mortem indicated the presence of a “substance” in the stomach of the deceased, thought to be drugs.
A toxicology report is pending to ascertain the “substance.”
“There were no injuries or anything visible to suggest the suspect was assaulted, tortured or suffocated,” Dlamini said.
Following the skirmishes that left properties belonging to Nigerians burnt in Gauteng in February, Dabiri- Erewa summoned South Africa High Commissioner, Lulu Mnguni, where she again expressed the country’s outrage.
This diplomatic row sparked reprisal attacks in Nigeria.
MTN, the South African-headquartered network operator whose largest entity is in Nigeria was the worst hit after its Abuja office was vandalised and property worth millions of Naira looted.
Nigerian youths demanded the South African companies in the West African country to vacate.
Sentiment among Nigerians indicates an outbreak of skirmishes cannot be ruled out if Nigerians suspect foul play.
This week, political analyst, Ita Offiong, said, “Nigerians in South Africa have continued to be at the mercies of their hosts’ vagaries of temperamental disposition for sometimes now.”
Offiong added, “At the slightest provocation, Nigerians easily become preys to the unprovoked gods of the xenophobic denizens of this once domicile of apartheid regimes.”
The analyst claimed Nigeria would tolerate few attacks on her citizens in other countries with a philosophical rationalization but “certainly not South Africa” which Nigeria stood by during the fight against racial segregation.
“The Nigerian embassy in South Africa should continue to drum into the hearing of their belligerent hosts about the role played by Nigeria in liberating them from the nearly five decades of those repressive regimes of apartheid. They should also be reminded that no country has monopoly of violence as many South African businesses and nationals thrive un-molested in Nigeria.”
Contacted for comment, Clayson Monyela, the spokesman of the department of foreign international relations and cooperation, alleged media were creating non-existent tensions between the two countries.
“The relations remain cordial,” he said. – CAJ News