South Africa slammed Nigeria on Sunday for recalling its ambassadors from the country following the recent spate of xenophobic attacks which left at least seven people dead.
A statement from Nigeria’s foreign affairs ministry said Acting High Commissioner Martin Cobham and Deputy High Commissioner Uche Ajulu-Okeke had on Saturday been asked to return to the country for consultations on the attacks.
The decision to withdraw the two was an unfortunate and regrettable step, said Department of International Relations and Co-operation spokesperson Clayson Monyela.
“If this action is based on the incidents of attacks on foreign nationals in some parts of our country, it would be curious for a sisterly country to want to exploit such a painful episode for whatever agenda,” he said.
A Nigerian delegation which attended an Africa-Asia Summit in Indonesia alongside deputy president Cyril Ramaphosa last week had at no stage made their intentions known about withdrawing their ambassadors.
South Africa remained committed to creating a strong bond and bilateral relations with Nigeria.
“It is for this reason that when 84 of our citizens perished on Nigerian soil, we did not blame the Nigerian government for the deaths and more than nine months delay in the repatriation of the bodies of our fallen compatriots, or for the fact that when these bodies eventually returned, they were in a state that they could not be touched or viewed as required by our burial practice,” said Monyela.
The 84 were part of a group of 116 that were killed when a guest house of the Synagogue Church of All Nations, headed by TB Joshua, collapsed in September last year.
Monyela said South Africa would raise its concerns through diplomatic channels with the new Nigerian administration which will assume office next month.