Members of the National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS) on Thursday disrupted operations at the Kaduna and Benue offices of South African telecommunication giant MTN.
They were protesting xenophobic attacks and killing of 118 Nigerians in the last two years in South Africa.
NANS’ Director, Travels and Exchange Dominic Philip explained in Kaduna that the step was necessary to curb further attacks, looting, destruction and mindless killing of African nationalities, particularly Nigerians in South Africa.
Philip recalled that Nigeria had contributed morally, financially, diplomatically and logistically to the agitations that eventually led to the emancipation of South Africans from white’s domination.
The NANS official also said that African countries led by Nigeria, helped in the institutionalisation of black majority rule in South Africa in 1994.
He equally said that Nigeria played a big brotherly role by opening economic opportunities for South African citizens to invest in the Nigerian market, the biggest market in Africa.
Philip, however, noted with dismay, that instead of reciprocating the gesture, South Africa had allowed Nigerians to suffer all forms of discrimination, including murders and looting of their businesses.
According to him, NANS will no longer align with the diplomatic approach being applied by the Federal Government.
The government has been promoting cosmopolitan and reconciliatory solution to the killing of Nigerians in South Africa.
He said: “Available record has shown that the levels of attacks on Nigerians is on astronomical rise, with the recent killing of Nigerian by South Africans, on July 20 increasing the number to 118 in the last two years.
“Out of this number, 13 were reportedly killed by South African Police in an extra-Judicial manner.
“It appears that the South African government is incapable of bringing their citizens to order and stop the killings, leaving us with no option than to picket South African businesses in Nigeria until the killing is stopped.
“We, therefore, want the South African government to investigate and provide accurate number of Nigerians so far killed and prosecute perpetrators of xenophobic attacks to ensure justice for the victims.
“We equally want the government to generate data of all Nigerians, whose properties were bunt or looted for immediate compensation.”
In Makurdi, the Benue State capital, the protesting NANS’ members crippled business and commercial activities.
The protesting students shut down DSTV and MTN offices in Makurdi.
The protesters match through majors streets of Makurdi and sang solidarity sons before they went to the DSTV and MTN offices to shut them down.
NANS Deputy Zonal Coordinator (Zone C) Abah Owoicho, who led the protest, presented a strong-worded letter of protest to the organisations.
In the letter, titled: “Position of NANS on Xenophobic Attack on Nigerians in South Africa’’, Owiocho said the protest was a condemnation of the years of barbaric killings of Nigerians in South Africa.
He said: “Since Nigerians living in South Africa cannot enjoy the same peace and support that South African businesses are enjoying here, it is only reasonable to shut down those businesses and their interests until further notice.’’
The student leader frowned at the recent killing of a Nigerian student, Dennis Obiaju, describing it as “barbaric’’.
He said: “It has become necessary for NANS to rise to the occasion and speak against the killings that have continued with no visible attempt by the South African Government to curb the menace.
“Our pain is deeply rooted in the peace and patronages your organisations and other South African businesses enjoy in our country while the safety of our citizens and their businesses cannot be guaranteed in South Africa.’’
A source at the MTN said the protests and demonstrations were against xenophobic attacks and therefore had nothing to do with the company.
The source told The Nation: “It is against xenophobia and MTN has taken steps to inscribe its aversion to the practice in its work places.”
Appealing for calm, the source said that resorting to service disruptions of the telco is going to be counter-productive.
According to the source, about 99 per cent of employees in the local arm of the firm are Nigerians, stressing that closing down its businesses and operations could only aggravate youth unemployment in the country.