By Peter Ejiofor
Nigerians in South Africa have raised an alarm over fresh terror attacks being unleashed on them by a criminal vigilance group in Sasolburg, Freestate Province.
Nigerians under the aegis of Nigeria Union South Africa (NUSA), made the assertion in a statement by its National Publicity Secretary, Mr Habib Miller,
They claimed that the attacks were not only perpetrated on the streets but that the group also located, robbed, denuded and assaulted Nigerians in their homes.
The union also accused the police in the province of complicity in the fundamental human rights infringed.
“Three persons were killed. No arrest has been made. Survivors are living with traumatic scars. Some are terrified of leaving their places of abode to carry out their daily activities for fear of being assaulted.’’
Miller noted that what triggered the curiosity of the union was a viral video of a Nigerian being assaulted by a group of men, with the assailants wielding dangerous objects like sticks, shovels and rakes.
“The helpless man could be seen trembling and possibly wondering what could befall him in the face of the nightmare, judging by recent attacks on his compatriots in the province,’’ he said.
Miller said the NUSA national executive, led by the Acting President, Mrs Doris Ikeri-Solarin, had visited the city on Sept. 13 with the objective to unravel the cause of the inhuman treatment meted out to the young man in the video.
“When we met our citizens in Sasolburg, Mr Austine Chidi Chijioke, who spoke to the national executive of NUSA, on behalf of the Nigerian community in the city, narrated how they have been subjected to abuse since 2011.
“In early 2023, the harassment was perpetrated by the police until they started noticing the vigilante group. The most recent onslaught by the violent group led to the demise of a Nigerian identified as Mr Ifeeme Chinonso on Sept. 7, 2023.
“Chinonso was described as an easygoing young man with great prospects,’’Chijioke said, adding that he was not sure how the incident that led to his death began.
“But the victim was attacked in his place of abode by the same group of men in the video. What informed his presumption was the state of Chinonso’s dwelling place after he died. It was burgled and ransacked.’’
Miller said that Chijioke also narrated how witnesses related how Chinonso was mercilessly beaten with dangerous objects, and that sensing what was to befall him, he ran to a tuck shop nearest to his house.
“The assailants chased after him and compelled the Pakistani owners to bring him out, and they obliged, possibly out of fear of being attacked themselves.
“Chinonso had passed out when he was found in his hiding place by the attackers. He died before an ambulance arrived at the scene.’’
Miller recounted a situation of police brutality and extra-judicial killing where a Zimbabwean wife of a Nigerian and another Nigerian named Ikenna from Imo State were also battered to death by the police.
“The former was pronounced dead at the general hospital she was admitted to, while the latter died on the spot of the assault (his house where it was perpetrated).
“There was also a case of a Nigerian who approached the Police station to report a case of assault. On arrival at the police station, he was arrested for not having legal documents that permits him to be in the country. He is still in detention as at the time of filing this report.
“Chijioke himself was stabbed in his right eye on June 30, this year. He had visited the Police station to report an assault case carried out by the violent group two days earlier.
“He had an appointment with the station commander but on arrival for the meeting, he met the absence of the police chief and rescheduled his appointment.
“It was in the process of exiting the law enforcement building that he tried to mediate in another molestation of four Nigerians and got stabbed in the right eye,’’ Miller said, lamenting that the incident occurred right inside the police station with the police at the front desk fleeing the scene.
He said Chijioke’s eye injury was delicate hence an ambulance was called but the emergency service did not arrive on time, so, he found an alternative means to transport himself to a healthcare centre.
“A surgery was carried out on his eye though it left scars and is still in critical condition.
“Chijioke opened a case and was later coerced to withdraw the case. The police asserted that they could not arrest the suspects, therefore the case is pending.
“There have also been allegations of Sasolburg South African Police Services refusing to open a case docket for Nigerians victimised,’’ he said.
He added that after the NUSA executive had listened to the Nigerian community’s side of the story, they proceeded to meet with the Commander of Sasolburg Police Station.
Miller said the Police Chief, Colonel Galant, said the report she got from her subordinate who investigated the case, speculated that Chinonso was selling drugs.
According to the report available to her, he was confronted by locals, and an altercation ensued and he took to his heels during the melee.
“Chinonso then died of drug overdose as the report claimed drugs were found in his mouth,’’ Galant told the NUSA executive.
Galant added that samples of the corpse of Chinonso had been taken for autopsy and that the result would determine if the case remained an inquest or transformed to a murder litigation.
Another concern that was raised in the meeting with Galant was the allegation of Sasolburg police declining to open a criminal case against the suspected attackers.
Following the intervention of the National leadership of the union, the police chief promised to personally make sure that cases brought by Nigerians would be thoroughly investigated.
However, Miller said the commandant said she could not guarantee the safety of Nigerians in the city at the moment due to inadequate manpower but advised that Nigerians move in groups pending when a solution is found.
But the Nigerians in the city have contradicted the Sasolburg South African Police Services claim, arguing that they had visited the mortuary where Chinonso’s remains are deposited for examination, and saw bruises all over his head and body.
They also questioned how the law enforcement agents were able to determine that what they found in Chinonso’s mouth was illegal substance without carrying out a proper scientific investigation.
Meanwhile, the autopsy result of Chinonso was released on Sept. 18, and the outcome has revealed that he was murdered.
The postmortem shows he died as a result of the injury sustained during the usage of different harmful objects on his head.
The union said it had informed the Nigerian Consulate in Johannesburg of the murder for further action, while arrangements are being made to convey his remains to Nigeria.
“The Nigerian community has not been able to decipher the origin of the hoodlums carrying out these inhuman acts,
“Nigerian Union South Africa sends its deepest condolences to Chinonso’s family, friends and the entire Nigerian community in Sasolburg, Freestate South Africa.
“The union advises Nigerians in the Province to be law abiding, unite and desist from anything that is capable of infuriating the host community, while investigations are ongoing,’’ it quoted the NUSA Acting President, Doris Ikeri-Solarin as saying.
Other members of the executive of the union who visited the Sasolburg, Freestate Province to ascertain the situation of the attacks are Mr Trust Owoyele (Treasurer) and Mr. Yomi Awosemo (Assistant Welfare Officer).