Nigerians in South Africa live in the proverbial Hobbesian state of nature where life is said to be nasty, brutish and short. And so was it for Mrs. Elizabeth Uju Ndubisi-Chukwu, the Deputy Director-General of the Chartered Insurance Institute of Nigeria (CIIN) on June 13. The illustrious lady had been in South Africa to participate in a conference of the African Insurance Organisation (AIO). She was fully involved in the conference and in the final night had been at the conference’s dinner in conclusion of the event. She was scheduled to come home the following morning.
Her colleagues became a little anxious when they neither sighted her at the breakfast table nor at the departure lounge of the airport. And she was not picking her calls. So they went to the Emperor’s Palace Casino Hotel and Conference Centre, Johannesburg, where she had lodged and she was found dead. But since there was no sign of struggle or violence or disorderliness in the room, it was assumed she had died in her sleep. But the autopsy report revealed otherwise. It said, chillingly, she had “died of unnatural causes consistent with strangulation.”
Now twenty-five days after her murder, the Police have not looked into the closed circuit TV footage of the hotel, the hotel has not explained how an intruder could gain entry into her room without the help of hotel staff and leave without being seen. The disturbing aspect is that it is consistent with the handling of the murder of Nigerians in South Africa for years. It is as if Nigerian lives do not matter to law enforcement officials in South Africa who have, indeed, been instrumental to the deaths of many Nigerians. The Consul General of Nigeria in Johannesburg, Mr. Godwin Adama, says a formal protest for the killings is needed. The Consul says there is a list of at least 130 Nigerians murdered in South Africa in the last 30 months.
The number has jumped since then. He spoke of the killing of a Nigerian, Maxwell Okoye, by the South African Police. In October 2017, a similar murder was perpetrated, the victim, Badmus Olalekan, whose murder by the South African Police led to the arrest and arraignment of eight police men in Vanderbijlpark Park, near Johannesburg. Okechukwu Chukwumeziri, 39, of Imo State, was shot dead on a football field on August 25, 2018 at Retondale Park, Pretoria. Olushola Ayanleye, 42, from Ondo State, was shot dead the next day, August 26 at Essellen Street, Sunnyside, Pretoria. One of the latest police victims was Ebuka Udugbo, arrested by the Police over his quarrel with his girlfriend. Police beat him till he fainted. More Nigerians are killed in South Africa than in any other country in the world, and the number of Nigerians in South Africa is nowhere near the population of Nigerians in many other countries. We appreciate the sentiments of the Senate President, Mr. Ahmed Lawan, that the killings must stop before they damage the excellent relations between Nigeria and South Africa.
It is, indeed, sad that a woman of Mrs. Ndubisi-Chukwu’s stature could be killed in the claimed secure hotel where she attended a conference. This speaks volumes about the safety of visitors in South Africa, a fact which all Nigerians venturing into that country should bear in mind. We appreciate also the interest of the Federal Government in the matter, a demonstration that it cares for the lives of Nigerians wherever they might be. But it wouldn’t be enough to initiate the enquiries; they must be followed through.
This issue should be taken to the highest level of the government of both countries. While we appreciate the pious expressions by the South African government that there is no malice against Nigerians, the least we expect is that the law should take its course in a manner that is transparent and obvious to all. We expect Nigerians who commit crimes to be held accountable for their conduct. Nigerians should also wish to know of their citizens who behave badly in foreign countries. But we cannot accept what appears like prejudiced police profiling of Nigerians in South Africa.