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Police stop tyre-burning mob from invading Shoprite in Abuja

The protesters burnt tires and set a billboard on fire as Police tightened security in Abuja.

Nigerian protesters have targeted South African-owned Shoprite in protest against xenophobic attacks on Nigerians living in South Africa (Naija News)
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The violent demonstration was in reaction to xenophobic attacks on Nigerians living in South Africa over the past three days.

South African mobs had launched attacks on foreigners, including Nigerians, and looted and burnt their places of business in suburbs of Johannesburg and surrounding areas on Sunday, September 1, 2019, and Monday, September 2.

The attacks have angered many Nigerians who have called for a boycott of South African businesses, like Shoprite, operating in Nigeria.

This led to the vandalisation and looting of a Shoprite store in Lagos and several other stores, including those owned by Nigerians, late on Tuesday, September 3. One protester was gunned down by the Police.

When police officers stopped protesters from gaining access to the closed Shoprite store on Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport Road in Lugbe on Wednesday, the mob burnt tyres along the road. A billboard was also set on fire by the protesters.

Officers fired tear gas canisters at the protesters to disperse them, but the demonstration continued.

Security was also beefed up at the Jabi Mall in Abuja and security checks done on people who entered the mall which also houses a Shoprite store.

The Minister of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Muhammad Bello, called on residents, in a statement on Wednesday, to desist from carrying out retaliatory attacks on South Africans and their business interests in the capital city.

"Malam Bello further informed residents that those South Africa business interests in the FCT are in partnership with Nigerian investors and are contributing to the economic development of the Territory.

"Attacking or vandalising them will ultimately have negative economic consequences for the Nigerian economy and employees of this organisation," Bello's spokesperson, Anthony Ogunleye, said.

Bello noted that the Federal Government is already in diplomatic talks with South Africa to address the conflict and urged for cooperation to ensure a successful resolution.

He also warned that law enforcement agencies have been mobilised to prevent any breakdown of law and other.

In a statement by Shoprite Nigeria, the retail franchise said it's 'highly concerned' by acts of violence against foreign nationals that sporadically flare up in South Africa and the resultant rhetoric of intolerance that is now being levelled against South Africans living in Nigeria. 

"As a company with deep African roots who employs thousands of African nationals and most importantly works to bring low prices to 14 countries outside of South Africa, we would like to see an end to xenophobia across the continent.

"Shoprite appeals to the general public of South Africa and Nigeria to protect the human dignity and safety of all people living in both countries," the statement read.

Shoprite said it remains committed to working with relevant groups to ensure decisive action is taken against those involved in violent crimes and intimidation against foreign nationals.

Nigerians have battled xenophobic attacks in South Africa for years, with at least 127 believed to have been killed over the past three years.

The South African Police Service (SAPS) disclosed on Tuesday that five people were killed in the recent spate of violence, although their nationalities were not revealed.

A total of 189 arrests have also been effected since Sunday for criminal acts including public violence, malicious damage to property, and theft. 

South Africa's President Cyril Ramaphosa has condemned the attacks and called for unity. 

"The people of our country want to live in harmony; whatever concerns or grievances we may have, we need to handle them in a democratic way. 

"There can be no justification for any South African to attack people from other countries," he said.

Nigeria's President Muhammadu Buhari has sent a special envoy to South Africa to express his displeasure with the fresh attacks.

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