Nigerians living, working and schooling in South Africa appears to have been abandoned to their fate by the Nigerian Government as the impact of the Coronavirus pandemic bites harder in the former apartheid colony and other parts of the world.
On Wednesday for example, President Cyril Ramaphosa of South Africa deployed more than 70,000 troops to enforce the lockdown order put in place to stop the spread of Coronavirus across the country, which is expected to last until June.
For Nigerians living in that society, who have also been forced to remain indoors, the situation has worsened their sufferings in South Africa – a country where xenophobic attacks have claimed the lives of many of their compatriots over the years and also destroyed their sources of livelihoods.
A handful of Nigerians living in South Africa, who interacted with SaharaReporters on Thursday, disclosed that they had not received any form of support from the Nigerian Government despite other countries providing such to their citizens trapped in other nations at this time.
Austin Okeke Esq, a Nigerian in South Africa, told SaharaReporters that the High Commission had not paid any attention to their plight especially those vulnerable among them.
He said, “Nigerians are not receiving any COVID-19-related attention from the High Commission in South Africa.
“Rather, it was the Nigerian Medical Doctors Forum in South Africa that took a donation of food items to the Nigerian High Commission for onward distribution to needy families in South Africa.
“The Nigerian High Commission in turn handed the food items to a splinter group of called the Nigerian Citizens Association South Africa.
“No one knows what they have done with the food items, this is amidst the allegations that the executives had shared the food items among themselves.”
Toafeek Oliyide, a third year student at North-West University, Mahikeng, said that being abandoned by the Nigerian Government at this crucial time of lockdown and crises had made their situations more miserable.
According to him, some of his neighbours from other African countries in South Africa have all received support from their home government, adding that he feels like an inferior human being as a Nigerian in that space at this time.
He said, “If not for the rent, I would have been okay but the rent has taken a lot from me because I stay off campus.
“The lockdown has prevented our parents back home in Nigeria to go to work and assist us with funds.
“It is even sadder seeing that other African countries are attending to their citizens in South Africa and Nigeria has abandoned its own people despite all the wealth in the country.”
Speaking further, Oliyide told SaharaReporters that since he started schooling in South Africa, he had not received any financial assistance from the Nigerian Government by way of bursary or any other means.
He said the situation had made life difficult for many of them not from rich homes in South Africa.
He stated, “Right from first year, there has not been any help from Nigeria, no bursary, nothing. It has always been like that, so Nigeria is not helping any student. The country has abandoned us to our fate.”
Majority of the Nigerians in South Africa, who spoke with SaharaReporters, blamed the Chairman/Chief Executive Officer of the Nigerian Diaspora Commission, Abike Dabiri Erewa, for their plight.
According to them, the commission understands their sufferings at this time but has deliberately decided to look away.
“The Nigerian Union which is the umbrella group for all Nigerians had a falling out with the Nigerian High Commission and Abike Dabiri-Erewa during the xenophobic attacks against Nigerians in South Africa in 2017 and this had led to the neglect of our people,” a Nigerian in that country said.
However, despite being shunned by their home government, Nigerians in South Africa are finding new ways to support each other with food and basic items at this crucial period.
“The Nigerian Union South Africa had at the initial stages of the Coronavirus lockdown made donations and distributed food items to needy Nigerian families in and around the major cities of South Africa.
“The Oduduwa Progressive Union in South Africa has also distributed large amounts of food items to their needy members and non-members alike.
“It is also comforting to report that the African Diaspora Forum, which is the umbrella body of the African Associations in South Africa received some funds from corporate entities to reach out to its constituent members who are in need of assistance of any nature, especially food items,” Okeke added.
But despite these interventions, there are scores of other Nigerians that are currently living by the edge in South Africa as a result of lack of support of any kind, SaharaReporters gathered.
When contacted by SaharaReporters on what was being done to support vulnerable Nigerians in South Africa and other nations around the continent at this period of Coronavirus lockdown, Dabiri-Erewa’s phone rang out while a text message sent to her was yet to be replied as at the time of this report.