Nigeria sends guards to foreign-owned firms, property

Saturday September 7 2019

MTN offices.

A local security staff member places a notice on the wall after anti-South African protesters attacked the MTN office in Abuja, Nigeria on February 23, 2017. Angry youth took to the streets in major Nigerian cities in the first week of September 2019 to attack South African businesses in retaliation for xenophobic attacks in South Africa. FILE PHOTO | REUTERS 

MOHAMMED MOMOH
By MOHAMMED MOMOH
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As angry youths took to the streets in major Nigerian cities to attack South African businesses in retaliation for the xenophobic attacks, authorities deployed security personnel to protect people and property.

Hundreds of Nigerian youths trooped out in Lagos, Abuja, Uyo and Ibadan to attack the offices of telecom giant MTN and Shoprite. However, the federal government warned against reprisals calling them counterproductive.

Before the deployment of security, the Shoprite supermarket in Lekki, Lagos was hit by hoodlums who wanted to loot, but were stopped by the police.

Activities in the MTN offices in Ibadan and Uyo were temporarily halted but the intervention of police stalled the planned disruption of operations. But, the Uyo MTN office had its doors and windows shattered, while attempts by protesters to burn down one of their offices in Lagos was foiled. Businesses at Shoprite outlets in Osapa London, Lekki, Sangotedo in Ajah, Alausa, Ikeja were grounded as protesters ordered customers to get out.

Police spokesman in Lagos Bala Elkana said they had to send reinforcements to prevent a mob from destroying the Shoprite facility.

“I can tell you that those youths were not protesters. They were out to burn down shopping malls and cause problems. The police had to quickly move in to prevent that,” he said.

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The government said it had deployed special envoys to demand special compensation to citizens who were victims of attacks in South Africa.

Lai Mohammed, Nigeria's Information and Culture Minister, told Nigerians to stop attacking South African businesses. He said targeting South African firms was akin to cutting off one’s nose to spite the face because the investors in such companies, especially MTN and Shoprite, are Nigerians.

Majority of the workers in the South African companies operating in Nigeria were Nigerian meaning they would be the hardest hit if the companies were forced to shut down, Mr Mohammed added.

“We will take all necessary action for the protection of our citizens everywhere in the world. We are currently in consultation with the South African government on the urgent need to put in place measures to end these acts of violence against our people,” said Vice President Yemi Osinbajo.

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