Below is the full text of the speech delivered by Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, in response to xenophobic attacks in South Africa.
Addressing his colleagues, Femi Gbajabiamila said now is the time to take action in regards the situation that has left properties belonging to Nigerians destroyed.
He said: “Nigerians have long travelled far and wide in search of knowledge, of experience and prosperity. As we have travelled, we have opened also our borders to those who will seek their greener pastures here. In Africa, we have demonstrated our commitment to the brotherhood of nations, sacrificing life, labour and wealth to achieve peace and restore freedom from Sierra Leone to Liberia, Sao Tome to South Africa. We have sought nothing in return, we have made no claims to the land and resources of our brothers. Our commitment has always has been to the advancement of Africa, to freedom in all our lands and prosperity for all our peoples.
“Yet today and too many a time, we are called to stand as pallbearers, bringing home to burial the bodies of our brothers and sisters, fathers and mothers, our children, savaged and decimated. What is their offence? That they dared to dream of glory and profit beyond our borders, and having dreamt, they endeavoured to make real the visions of their heart. We did not provoke, nor do we deserve the violence that has been visited on our people in South Africa. We reject entirely the obvious attempt to change the true narrative of events by casting the recently organised acts of violence as merely internecine conflict between gangs fighting for turf. Unless it is the position of South African government that all Nigerians living in South Africa are gangsters and criminals, we demand that they reject these claims without equivocation. The vile images of violent devastation and death randomly visited on innocent people seeking their way in the world, strikes at our heart, causing pain that words alone cannot express. Let no one add insult to our grief.
“To every citizen of Nigeria in every city and every state who has watched recent events with rising anger and pain, we in the House of Representatives, are with you. To those who are sorely tempted to respond to these latest incidents with violence on our streets and destruction in our communities, I call on you to resist all such temptation. Your anger is justified, your pain is rightly felt but we cannot honour the memory of our fallen citizens by setting our streets aflame and our houses asunder. We will achieve nothing by destroying businesses that employ our people and provide a living for our families. We will honour the lives of our fallen brothers by making sure that never again will our citizens’ inalienable right to life and liberty be so wantonly denied here at home or anywhere else in the world. We will honour the sacrifice of the fallen by devoting ourselves once more to a covenant of service to one another, certain in the knowledge that our greatest protection against such harms, is peace, progress and prosperity in the homeland.
“The Leadership of the House commends the actions thus far taken by the President, Muhammadu Buhari, GCFR through the Honourable Minister of Foreign Affairs in communicating the government’s extreme displeasure at what has occurred and taking action to see to the return of those of our citizens who are willing to come home at this time. We will further ask that the President direct the Ministry of Health to assist the families of the bereaved in expediting the return of loved ones who have lost their lives in these unfortunate events.
“The leadership of the House of Representatives will also shortly invite the Honourable Minister of Foreign Affairs, the Nigerian Ambassador to the Republic of South Africa, the Chairman of the Nigerian Diaspora Commission and other stakeholders to jointly consider the causes of these latest incidents of organised mass violence and murder of our people. We intend not only to determine the causes of these latest events but also to assess and account for the losses in life and property that have occurred. This will allow the government to more accurately demand reparations to compensate our citizens who suffered in this recent orgy of violence. The House of Representatives is ready to authorise legal funding for those citizens who wish to take legal action against identified perpetrators of the violence as well as those who sponsored them or permitted their actions to occur and to continue.
“We recognise that there are many places in the world right now where internal crises and conflicts have made the terrain unsafe for our citizens there. The House of Representatives will work with all the stakeholders within and outside government to evolve and implement a plan to evacuate our people from these places and as much as possible keep them out of harm’s way. We must accept that there are at this moment in time several forces converging in different parts of the world, creating seismic events over which we have limited control yet may not entirely escape the worst consequences of. We ought no longer to wait until our people are caught in the foulest manifestations of these events before we take necessary action to protect them.
“There have been reports that state actors may have participated in the worst acts of violence; sometimes actively, at other times by standing and doing nothing whilst murder and mayhem was unleashed. We expect that the Government of the Republic of South Africa will conduct a thorough investigation into these allegations and make public their findings whatever they may be. Where any of these claims are determined to be true, we expect also that the individuals responsible will be held accountable to the highest degree allowed by law.
“Ladies and Gentlemen, my fellow Nigerians, it is unusual for the full compliment of the house leadership to come out and stand together for a joint conference, however this moment calls for unusual things. We stand before you as one body, across party lines, representatives of the entire house in our joint task towards nation building.
“The House of Representatives is united and determined in its resolve to meet our people at the point of their grievance and to channel grievance into constructive action. Let no one be left in any doubt, we will seek, and we will obtain by whatever means available, due restoration and recompense for all that has been lost in this latest conflagration and all the ones that have come before. We are committed to a sustained and special effort to see that the ends of justice are met for all our people who have suffered. We have heard the cries of our citizens, and we have witnessed their devastation. We will mourn for the dead, and cry for the lost, but we will not stop there.
“God bless you all, and God bless the people and government of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.”