According to reports, a spokesman for MTN said the protesters stormed the regional head office of MTN – the biggest South African company active in Nigeria – and stole customers’ phones, vandalized equipment and attacked customers.
Eyewitness reports narrate that the angry protesters forcefully entered the MTN office though security men were around but were unable to curtail them.
The protesters constituting of some touts and some students took away some customers’ phones and other valuables, according to a witness at the scene.
Though a South African government source described the attack as serious, however, there was no obvious damage noticed at the building, but security officers cordoned off the entrance.
Interestingly, the incident coincided with a visit by MTN chairman Phuthuma Nhleko to the Nigerian capital to see Acting President Yemi Osinbajo.
The attack is coming after a Nigerian youth body threatened to shut down South African businesses after shops believed to be owned by immigrants in the capital Pretoria were looted.
In reaction, Nigeria Police Force has warned individuals and groups against engaging in acts that will result in the destruction of property and cause a breakdown of law and order, especially against South African companies in Abuja, or in any other part of the country.
The warning was issued in a statement by the FCT police command after the attack on MTN’s head office. Also, the Ministry of Communications has said that the federal government would not make a premature statement on the attack but will address the issue next week.
Special Adviser to the Minister of Communications, Mr. Victor Oluwadamilare, however, admitted that the attack was a reprisal against MTN, following the xenophobic attacks in South Africa last week.
Prior to the attack on MTN’s office, the National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS) had staged a protest at the South African High Commission in Abuja.
The protesting students issued a 48-hour ultimatum to South African nationals to leave Nigeria and also expressed their grievance by burning the South African national flag, also
The students, led by their president, Aruna Kadiri, commenced their march from the popular Unity Fountain in the capital city before moving to MTN and Multichoice offices in Maitama and Central Area in Abuja.
They demanded that the officials of the South African High Commission cancel the dinner organized in honor of Regina Tambo, co-founder of the African National Congress (ANC) Youth League.
The students also visited the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, where they urged the federal government to take concrete action to protect Nigerians in South Africa.
The leader of the protesters said; “we are demanding that they should break the ties between both countries if there’s any, because the xenophobic attacks that happened a long time ago have recurred, we have decided to clear the madness with madness.”
According to him, the South African flag at the High Commission was burnt in order to pass a message that Nigeria no longer has a relationship with South Africa. Kadiri said all South Africans in Nigeria should leave within 48 hours, else their security won’t be guaranteed anymore.
In response, the spokesman of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Clement Aduku urged the protesting students to be calm, adding that the federal government was engaging in talks with its South African counterpart on the xenophobic attacks.
He also assured them that all diplomatic means would be explored to stop the killings of Nigerian nationals in South Africa.
Meanwhile, South Africa’s home affairs minister, Malusi Gigaba while speaking on Thursday, condemned the renewed anti-foreigner violence which has flared sporadically in South Africa.
During a media briefing, Gigaba disclosed that some residents in Pretoria had planned a march on Friday against immigrants, citing competition for jobs and allegations of criminal activity, such as prostitution and drug dealing in the poor township west of Pretoria.
In the same vein, South Africa’s high commissioner to Nigeria, Lulu Mnguni, has apologized to Nigerians, and other foreigners involved in the recent xenophobic attacks.
Mnguni said the unjustifiable attacks were a poor representation of South Africa’s values. He said the South African government had taken measures to stop them.