Despite the historic role Nigeria played in the liberation struggle of South Africans during the apartheid regime, many Nigerians have been killed in reoccurring xenophobic attacks in the country.
While facts and figures as to lives and property loss are not well-established, an estimated 118 Nigerians have lost their lives in recent years. Although other nationals have suffered similar fate, Nigeria appears to be worst hit.
Prior to 1994, immigrants from elsewhere faced discrimination and even violence. After majority rule in 1994, contrary to expectations, the incidence of xenophobia increased. Between 2000 and March 2008, at least 67 people, among who were Nigerians, died in what were identified as xenophobic attacks. In May 2008, a series of attacks left 62 people dead.
In 2015, another nationwide spike in xenophobic attacks against immigrants in general prompted a number of foreign governments to begin repatriating their citizens. In April of that same year, there was an upsurge in xenophobic attacks throughout the country. It started in Durban and spread to Johannesburg, with Zulu King Goodwill Zwelithini, accused of fuelling the attacks by saying that foreigners should “go back to their countries.
Here is a timeline of Nigerians killed in South Africa since 2017. August 16 2017: Late Uchenna Eloh, popularly known as ‘Monkey, was allegedly killed by South African policemen , at about 11am, while walking out of his house toward the bus station, at the Western Cape Province of that country. A police van stopped to search him, suspecting that he might be in possession of illegal substance. Three policemen, one of who was identified as Williams, according to report, held him on the neck, suspecting that he swallowed a substance, while another police officer held him by the legs.
He was allegedly dragged on the ground by the policemen until he started foaming and suffocated to death. October 3, 2017: 35-year-old Jelili Onmoyele , a cellular phone repairer, from Ibadan, Oyo State , was allegedly shot dead by son of a caretaker of a parking lot , during an argument over an unpaid R300 (N11,400) rent, at Doornfontein, Gauteng Province. October 10, 2017: 25-year-old Ibrahim Olalekan Badmu, an indigene of Lagos State, who was a student at Vaal University of Technology , was killed at Vaal Vreneging, near Johannesburg. 2018 January 18, 2018: A 27- year –old Nigerian, Ebuka Okori, was allegedly killed by the South African Police , in Durban, South Africa. The native of Umunze in Orumba North Local Government Area of Anambra State , was jostled from sleep, at about 2am, following the invasion of his apartment on Campbell street, Durban, by two plain clothes policemen, who dragged him outside and shot him dead.
January 2018: Six houses belonging to some Nigerians were burnt in Rusternburg , South Africa.
April 2018: A Nigerian, Clement Nwogu, was attacked by a mob in front of some South African Policemen , in Rustenburg. Nwogu, an upholsterer, who hailed from Anambra State, was married to a South African woman and had two children; aged three and five. Eyewitnesses said the victim beckoned for help from the police to intervene but they turned a blind eye. When Nwaogu could no longer persevere, he ran for safety but the mob chased and caught him, poured petrol on him and set him ablaze.
June 2018: Another case of murder was that of one James Ekeh, 36, an indigene of Imo State and a Tomato seller , who was said to have been shot several times by unknown gunmen , at Mabopane Station near Pretoria. July 6, 2018: Unknown gunmen shot a Nigerian, Ozumba Tochukwu-Lawrence, six times , at 10 Koppe, Middleburg, Mpumalanga, South Africa. He died before reaching the hospital.
July 12, 2018 : Martin Ebuzoeme was killed by in Yeoville, Johannesburg around 7:30pm, barely 24 hours after the visit of South Africa’s president, Cyril Ramaphosa, to Nigeria.
August 25, 2018: Another Nigerian, Okechukwu Chukwumezeriri, 39, from Imo State, was shot dead on a football field at Rietondale Park in Pretoria.
August 26, 2018 : 42-year-old Olushola Ayanleye, from Ondo State, was shot dead at Essellen Street, Sunnyside in Pretoria.
February 3 2019: 2019 xenophobic killings in South Africa started with the picture of an unknown Nigerian in his mid-20s who was killed.
A twitter user Ndugozie, who tweeted with his handle @NduChiogie, gave more information about the killings. He said the Nigerian travelled to South Africa on January 14 and was killed on February 3. He tweeted, “This Nigerian guy travelled to South Africa on 14 January 2019 and was killed on February 3. Please, the Federal Government should try and stop this innocent Nigerians being killed anyhow in South Africa.”
March 15 2019: Another unidentified Nigerian was killed in a drive-by shooting at Troye Street, Sunnyside, Pretoria. According to eye-witnesses, the attackers were trailing his car and drove beside him when he stopped, shooting him multiple times.
The victim, 44, was attacked after he had dropped off his brother. April 5 2019: Goziem Akpenyi was stabbed to death at Bellville Stadium parking lot in Cape Town at about 1 pm. He was stabbed by three unidentified coloured South African men after an argument and died on the spot. April 6 2019: Mr Bonny Iwuoha, 48, from Ihitte/Uboma in Imo State, was also stabbed to death at about 11:45 pm in Johannesburg. It was gathered that he was trailed from 152 Hay Street Turffontein, and thereafter, stabbed and killed in front of his gate at Turf Road, Turffontein. April 27 2019: 34-year-old Nigerian, Samuel Nkennaya, was killed by some South Africans.
His attackers claimed to have thought he kidnapped a six-year-old girl he was holding. Nkennaya was mobbed together with his friend Chinonso Nwudo, when they came out of a supermarket. Nkennaya died at the scene of the mob while Nwudo was left in critical condition. April 28 2019: Ebuka Udugbo was allegedly killed by South African Police.
Udugbo was said to have had a quarrel with his girlfriend on the morning of April 28. His girlfriend reportedly called the police after he had left the house but the police went after him and arrested him. May 3 2019: Okechukwu Henry from Nigeria’s Imo State was stabbed to death by unidentified robbers in Mpumalanga.
Henry, a car dealer who specialised in used cars, lived in Middleburg Mpumalanga Province. Earlier before his death, some two local guys had indicated interest to buy his car – a white VW Polo. After negotiation, they requested to take the car for a test ride.
Henry accepted and drove along with them. As they drove out, he suddenly realised that they were robbers as they demanded the key of the car. They stabbed him several times, took the keys but could not manage to drive away from the car.
Their action attracted the attention of people around and they ran away with the keys without the car. June 13 2019: Obianuju Ndubuisi-Chukwu, a Nigerian insurance chief, was killed in her hotel room. She was found dead in her room at Emperor Palace Hotel after attending a meeting of the African Insurance Organisation in the South African commercial capital. Her death sparked outrage both in Nigeria and South Africa with the Nigerian senate urging President Muhammadu Buhari to issue a travel alert on South Africa.
June 14 2019: Maxwell Ikechukwu Okoye was reportedly killed by South African policemen at about 1am. The police invaded his house in Ladysmith in Kwazulu Natal Province. By morning, the police reported him dead claiming he was foaming when they broke into his house.
July 20 2019: The latest of the killings of Nigerians in South Africa was the death of 17-year-old Chinonso Obiaju ,who was killed in Johannesburg. It was reported that he went to buy an item from a shop with his friend when someone chased and opened fire on them, killing him.