The Nigerian federal government could be asking South Africa to pay more than R5 million in compensation to its nationals in the country following a spate of xenophobic attacks.
This has emerged even as a South African government official told City Press the diplomatic spat between the two countries had ended and they considered the matter closed.
But national president of the Nigerian Union SA (Nusa) Ike Anyene said the compensation matter would be raised at the next meeting of the SA-Nigeria Binational Commission, which is periodically convened by the deputy presidents of the two countries. The last meeting appeared to have been in 2012.
It is unclear when the next meeting will be.
“What our government wants to do is request from the South African government to compensate what the Nigerians lost. Some of these shops that were looted were not insured and cannot claim from insurance,” Anyene said.
As far as has been established, Nigerians were not among those who died or were seriously injured in the xenophobic attacks.
But there seems to be a disagreement between Nigerians about the claimed amount.
Nusa, which is based in Johannesburg at the Nigerian Consulate, originally estimated the damage at R1.2 million, and later R4.6 million. Nigerian newspapers such as The Vanguard, however, this week reported N84 million, or just more than R5 million, would be claimed.
The publisher of a local Nigerian community newspaper, Olaniyi Abodedele, who is based in Pretoria and is close to diplomats in the Nigerian high commission is, however, claiming the victims may have inflated their claims.
He accused Nusa of “unprofessionalism” and exploiting the xenophobia issue for “self-enrichment” while “not minding to cause a divide between two sister countries”.
He added that Nusa represented only about 10% of Nigerians in South Africa.
Abodedele said he wanted to know how the figure presented to the Nigerian government for the estimated damages shot up to R4.6 million and whether outside assessors had been consulted.
He said he had done “an extensive fact-finding analysis” with the high commission to determine what the Nigerians lost, and the people in Jeppestown put the damage at “far below” R4.6 million.
Abodedele also questioned why claims that Nigerian shops were looted in Durban surfaced only recently.
“We found out that some Nigerians were going to beg some of the Somalis whose shops were looted to allow them take photographs of their looted shops, so as to present the pictures as ‘evidence’ of their looted shops,” Abodedele said.
Anyene, however, hit back at Abodedele’s claims.
He said the final figure was arrived at after all the information was collected. “One of the mechanic workshops was burnt down in Jeppestown, and it had eight cars and equipment. That particular one was R1 million alone,” he said.
He claimed those contesting these claims did not do information gathering on the ground in the same way Nusa did and he said they could not come up with alternative figures.
Anyene also said Abodedele and others who were questioning Nusa’s claims were making claims because they were disgruntled about not being elected into the Nusa leadership.
Nigeria’s acting high commissioner, Martin Cobham, and the consul-general, Uche Ajulu-Okeke, are expected to return from Nigeria this week.
The diplomatic spat was resolved soon after they met with authorities in Abuja, after which outgoing President Goodluck Jonathan and President Jacob Zuma had a telephonic conversation.
A government official said Jonathan had called President Zuma to “apologise” for the misunderstanding that Nigeria had recalled its ambassador when it was only for “consultations”.
South Africa’s department of international relations issued a sharply worded statement after the apparent recall last Saturday, but Minister in the Presidency Jeff Radebe early in the week distanced the interministerial task team on xenophobia from the statement.