The Minister of Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Onyeama has explained why Governors Nasir el-Rufai and Kayode Fayemi of Kaduna and Ekiti States respectively, are attending the World Economic Forum (WEF) in South Africa despite the decision of the Federal Government of Nigeria to boycott it as a protest against the xenophobic attacks in that country.
Nigerians are currently criticising el-Rufai and Fayemi for attendimg the summit. On Wednesday, Bashir Ahmad, an aide to President Muhammadu Buhari, also criticised businessman and Zenith Bank chairman, Jim Ovia and former presidential candidate, Oby Ezekwesili, for also attending the WEF. Ovia however pulled out on Thursday morning.
But Onyeama who briefed State House correspindents in Abuja on Thursday explained that those governors and other individuals were already in South Africa before a decision was reached for Vice President Yemi Osinbajo to boycott the WEF.
He also pointed out that the WEF is an international function, which was not organized by South Africa.
“The forum started a long time ago and the governors were already there before our decision was taken”, he said.
According to him, Nigeria only stated a position that its top officials would not be in Capetown to register its protest against the xenophobic attacks.
Emir of Kano, Sanusi Lamido Sanusi and Amina Mohammed are other Nigerians attending the event.
In a statement annoumcing his withdrawal on Thursday, Ovia said he was withdrawing from further participation in the forum to add his voice against the poor state of security of foreign nationals in South Africa.
“Following the hypersensitivity of the issues surrounding the lives and well-being of Nigerian citizens living in South Africa and to contribute his voice against the poor state of security regarding foreign nationals living in Africa, the Founder/Chairman of Zenith Bank Plc, Mr. Jim Ovia has withdrawn from further activities at the World Economic Forum Africa 2019, taking place in Cape Town, South Africa,’’ the statement read.
“Before taking his exit, Mr. Ovia stressed the need for youth empowerment and better government policies to curb continual attacks on persons living within and outside Africa. He belaboured that until positive change towards collective growth happens on this front, the continent would not reach its potential.
“Mr. Ovia added that full support should be rendered in vocational education of the young persons living in not just Nigeria but Africa. According to him, the Jim Ovia Foundation has taken up a stance on this issue, having empowered over 3,500 students and entrepreneurs since its inception. He called on other members of the private sector to join hands and solve this menace plaguing the African continent.”