The police have cast a dragnet to apprehend those who would buy items looted from stores and shops during Tuesday’s protests against xenophobic attacks against Nigerians and other nationals in South Africa.
Shops and businesses linked to South Africa in Lagos were invaded by hoodlums who looted valuables, while others were vandalised in other places.
Such shops include popular supermarket, Shoprite, just as several others with no links to South Africa but sharing mall spaces with South African businesses also suffered attacks.
Security experts said some of the expensive looted items especially smartphones, wristwatches and other electronics could be tracked.
The Lagos State police command, which made this disclosure on Friday, warned of stiff penalty for anyone found to have bought from the items that were looted during the Tuesday disorder.
It said it had already mounted surveillance with a view to recovering the stolen items from their possible buyers or the persons who actually stole them.
On Thursday, the command arraigned about 80 people suspected to have participated in the looting.
According to the state Police Public Relations Officer, Bala Elkana, stiff punishment awaits buyers of such stolen products.
“We have already put surveillance in place to make sure that all the looted items are recovered. Stiff punishment awaits anybody that buys from those who participated in the looting.
“The punishment for receiving stolen goods is tougher than that for the person who stole except the person used weapons to steal,” Elkana said.
He advised prospective buyers to make their purchases from recognised stores and shops to save themselves from embarrassment.
“It is assumed that you intentionally bought stolen items since you bought from an unusual place,” the police spokesman added.
Also, the South African police on Friday reported that they had arrested 497 suspects who had been looting shops in Gauteng Province.
The police said they were on high alert and monitoring the situation, just as they noted that some people had continued looting shops since Sunday.
Police spokesperson, Brigadier Mathapelo Peters, said 74 persons were arrested in Katlehong on Thursday, bringing the total number of arrests since violence erupted in Johannesburg to 497.
She said the situation in Katlehong and other areas in the province remained calm as the number of incidents continued to decline.
Peters said while 11 people were killed during the period, only seven deaths had been directly linked to the incidents of violence and the police would continue to investigate the circumstances surrounding each death.
Gauteng Provincial Commissioner, Lieutenant-General Elias Mawela, called on the people to respect the law.
He warned the people to stop spreading fake news on the social media.
“We must work together to make sure that no one gets to undermine the authority of the state and together, condemn the violence and criminality towards ensuring the safety of everyone in the province,” he said.
Meanwhile, even as the special envoy dispatched to South Africa was yet to return to the country, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ambassador Geoffrey Onyeama, has said that no Nigerian has been killed in the raging xenophobic attacks in South Africa.
He made the declaration on Friday in Abuja after he had a closed-door meeting with the chairman of the Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs, Senator Isa Bulkachuwa and his counterpart who chairs the Committee on Diaspora, Senator Ajibola Bashiru.
Ambassador Onyeama told newsmen that his visit to the National Assembly was to engage the lawmakers in fruitful discussion towards articulating a road map to tackle the ongoing development in the former apartheid enclave.
“Yes, we just met with the Senate committee to review the situation with regard to South Africa and we looked at all the possible options. We analysed the possible causes and agreed on a road map going forward.
“Part of that road map on the executive side was that Mr President has dispatched a special envoy to South Africa who would be holding discussion with the South African government at the very highest level.
“He should be back tomorrow. That will now give the government the basis for further action. In the meantime, the government is very much on top of the situation.
“We know for a fact that no Nigerian life has been lost, so we are extremely concerned now to ensure that there will be adequate compensation for properties that have been damaged.
“We know that a Nigerian airline is putting a plane at the disposal of most Nigerians that wish to take the opportunity to leave South Africa. This is purely voluntary, but we are particularly determined to make sure that this crisis does not recur.
“It has been happening for far too long. It is becoming almost endemic. So, the distinguished senators are helping with some of the options that we may have to ensure that this will be the last time we will ever be meeting to talk about Nigerians attacked in South Africa and to take definitive measures.
“To start doing that, we want to have all the facts available and then we will take the necessary measures,” the minister said.
Asked how he came to the conclusion that no Nigerian had so far been killed in South Africa when the special envoy was yet to return to the country, Ambassador Onyeama said he premised his statement on reports given by the Nigerian community in South Africa.
He also insisted that Nigeria would be pressing for compensation despite the insistence of the South African government that such demands were a tall dream.
“No, the envoy is not going there to fact-check because we have people on the ground. We have our envoy. We have a Consul General there, those who are engaging with the Nigerian Union in South Africa. So, the facts are coming out from them on the ground.
“We have a Nigerian union in South Africa and they are pretty much in touch with Nigerians who are living in South Africa and all the facts available indicate that no Nigerian life was lost.
“The Nigerian government will be demanding that the victims be compensated. This is important because the South African government is saying that there is no provision for them legally to provide compensation; that they will have to resort to other insurance companies or other private arrangements,” he added.
However, the House of Representatives, on Friday, called for the revocation of “old arrangements” Nigeria had with South Africa.
The Speaker, Honourable Femi Gbajabiamila, at a world press conference, in Abuja, on the xenophobic attacks on Nigerians in South Africa, pledged to authorise funding for citizens who might wish to take legal actions against identified perpetrators of the violence as well as those who sponsored them or permitted their actions to occur and to continue.
Gbajabiamila, who was flanked by other principal officers of the green chamber, pledged the resolve of the House to invite the 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.”
He said: “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.
“We do not intend to speak many words here today. The time for speaking has long passed, and the time for action has arrived upon us with a fierce urgency demanding nothing less than our total commitment to revoking the old arrangements that have made such abominations against our people possible
“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 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 bury 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 hearts. 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.”
While reacting to pockets of violent attacks on some businesses located in major cities across Nigeria, Hon. Gbajabiamila urged them to sheathe their swords as proactive actions were being taken by the authorities.
“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,” he noted.
To this end, Gbajabiamila commended the actions thus far taken by President Muhammadu Buhari, through the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Onyeama, in communicating the government’s displeasure at what has occurred and taking action to see to the return of those Nigerians who are willing to come home at this time.
He also urged the president to direct Federal Ministry of Health to assist the families of the bereaved in expediting the return of their loved ones who have lost their lives in the “unfortunate” events.
“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.
“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,” Hon Gbajabiamila said.