Pretoria - The Nigerian High Commission in Pretoria has been urged to commit to taking part in initiatives against drug-related crimes committed by citizens of that country in South Africa.
Civil movement Abahlali Baahi marched to the Nigerian High Commission to raise concerns about the number of Nigerians alleged to be involved in drug dealing and trafficking.
Chairperson of the movement, Thabang Makhele said the march was a success and plans were already in motion for them to meet delegates from the embassy next Thursday.
From preliminary engagements it was likely that the meeting would be followed by a joint press conference where both parties would announce plans to work together to deal with the scourge of drugs, Makhele said.
He said that as of last week, there were 320 000 legal Nigerians living in South Africa. However, at least 2% of them were in prisons. This was not taking into account the Nigerians who may be undocumented and living in the country illegally.
“We marched to the Nigerian High Commission to highlight the plight of our people. Our children are losing their minds because they are being declared mentally unstable because of drugs.
“It is no secret and it is well-documented that most of the time when Nigerians are arrested, they are arrested for drug-related crimes. They also commit hijacking and human trafficking, but most of the time it is drug dealing and drug trafficking.
“You can go to Jeppe, Johannesburg, Pretoria and Booysens magistrate’s courts and you will see it for yourself when they appear. The embassy did not deny when we told them that some of their citizens were involved in drugs.
“The Nigeria Union South Africa also joined our march to the embassy on February 8, and said they were there to support us and represent the good Nigerians. They are also working to get their fellow Nigerian citizens to remove themselves from drug-related crimes.”
Makhele said the movement has been around since 2007, putting pressure on the government to champion issues of human settlement and land.
They decided to place further focus on the issue of drugs in the country.
“We actually met with the embassy prior to the march and they agreed and showed they were willing to work with us. Our demands are simple – we acknowledge that the damage is already done whereby so many young people now depend on the government’s social support because of the impact of drugs on their lives, so we want the Nigerian High Commission to commit to work with our NGOs to assist us address this scourge.
“We also demanded that they make investments towards rehabilitation. We also want them to speak to their citizens, to get them to familiarise themselves with diplomatic behaviour so that this involvement in drugs is discouraged. Sometimes we just have to be honest as people and admit when we have a problem, and then take steps to fix the problem.”
The Nigerian High Commission said it would start having regular engagements with representatives of the organisations that led the march and was willing to work with other stakeholders to address the issues that were raised.
“The truth is that drugs do not do anybody any good. For that reason, everybody must join hands together to tackle the issue of drugs so that we achieve a drugs-free society,” it said.