President Muhammadu Buhari on Thursday urged the South African government to repay Nigeria’s benevolence to its companies by opening up its economy for Nigerian businessmen and women.
Buhari, according to a statement by his Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, said this in Pretoria, South Africa, during the inaugural meeting of the 9th Bi-National Commission of the two countries.
During the apartheid era in South Africa, Nigeria was one of the foremost supporters of anti-apartheid movements, including the African National Congress.
Besides issuing passports to many South Africans seeking to travel abroad, Nigeria’s Murtala Muhammed – Olusegun Obasanjo regime, nationalised the British Petroleum for supplying oil to the apartheid South Africa.
Also after independence, South Africans companies, including MTN and Shoprite, were given an unfettered access to the Nigerian market.
At the ninth Bi-National Commission meeting, Buhari told the South African government to guarantee the safety of Nigerians. He also stressed the need for reciprocity in promoting trade and investments between the two countries.
President Buhari said South African companies had enjoyed unfettered access to Nigerian market and protection with enabling laws, urging the former apartheid enclave to design policies that would ensure investments from Nigeria.
He said, “We are pleased to inform you that our government has made doing business in Nigeria easier through the Ease of Doing Business Initiative to open up more opportunities for investors in Nigeria.
“We call on the government of South Africa to also take steps to ease the doing of business in the country, and open up its market space for Nigerian businessmen and women. In this context, we are gratified that a Nigeria-South Africa Business Forum has been organised in the framework of this state visit.”
The President, who said Nigeria would continue to value its relationship with South Africa, which is the second largest economy in Africa, stated that 32 agreements and memoranda of understanding had been signed by both countries.
He said, “We, in Nigeria, value the warm fraternal relations binding our two countries and cherish our special relationship. We consider South Africa an ally and a strategic partner.
“We need to implement those that have come into force, as well as expedite necessary actions to ratify the seven outstanding agreements that have not yet been brought into force. I welcome the robust defence cooperation between Nigeria and South Africa, and call for more support and solidarity with us in our fight against terrorism and violent extremism. We also welcome the increased collaboration against arms and drug trafficking, money laundering and human trafficking.”
According to the statement, Buhari condemned in the strongest terms, attacks on Nigerians and other African nationals living in South Africa, the looting of their shops and business and burning of their property.
He said, “We call for the strengthening and implementation of all the necessary measures to prevent the recurrence of such actions which threaten to undermine, not only our strong bilateral relations but also, what we stand for in the context of our vision for a strong and prosperous Africa we want.’’
The President also condemned the very few incidents of retaliatory attacks on South African businesses in Nigeria.
Buhari said, “I am happy to report that we took strong and decisive measures to stop the attacks and prevent any recurrence.’’
The President of South Africa, Cyril Ramaphosa, apologised over the attacks on Nigerians and other Africans.
Ramaphosa said the attacks on foreign nationals were regrettable, assuring that his government would do more to protect lives and property.
“We will always be grateful to Nigeria for the support we received during the dark days of apartheid. We shall never forget the role you played to ensure that our people get the freedom we are enjoying today”, he stated.
Also during a joint press conference with Ramaphosa, Buhari called on Nigerians living in various parts of the world, especially South Africa, to adhere to the laws of the country they reside.
He also pleaded with Nigerians to ensure compliance with business laws in their countries of abode.