Xenophobia: We’ll work with Buhari to protect Nigerians in S/Africa – Gbajabiamila

The Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila, on Friday pledged the support of the lower chamber to President Muhammadu Buhari towards protecting Nigerians against xenophobic attacks in South Africa.

According to him, the President has been taking proactive steps on the issue.

Speaking with State House correspondents after meeting with President Buhari at the State House, he said that he is on the same page with the President on the issue.

Asked his purpose to the Presidential Villa, he said; “Engagement with Mr. President is not out of place even on a normal day but these are not normal days. The country in the last few days has witnessed unfortunate incidence in the last few days in South Africa.

“As you are aware, I cut my trip to Tanzania to return with the hope of reconvening the house so that we can discuss this very important issue.

“We have called that off because events have overtaken, the government has taken proactive steps, same we would have taken. We are all on the same page with the President and the government.

“So I came to fully discuss that with Mr. President and other national issues that require the attention of both the legislature and the executive, and we had very fruitful discussions on those issues.”

Asked if there are moves to cut bilateral ties with South Africa, he said “We are not there yet but nothing is off the table, we will take each day as it comes. As of now Mr. President has proactive steps in evacuating our citizens using recalling the high commissioner, we will stand with and by Nigerians.

“We have issued a statement today and is in tandem with what the executive is doing and we stand by our citizens. Our priority is to protect the welfare of our citizens and that is exactly what we are doing and that is what the president is doing.”

On the report alleging that South Africa won’t pay compensation to Nigerian victims of xenophobic attacks, he said “I don’t know if that statement is official or off the cuff statement by somebody. When it’s official we will take further steps. After the delegation in South Africa, I’m sure there are probably other avenues that are international that we can pursue.

He disclosed that other issues discussed with the President included returning national budget cycle to January to December, the $9.6 billion judgement against Nigeria and security issues.

He said “We discussed the issue of the budget, as you are aware we want to bring the budget circle back to what it used to be, January to December and the only way to do that is for an early presentation of the budget and we have discussed that.

“We discussed security issues and the issue of the recent $9 billion award against Nigeria. I say that with a smile but not really smiling. Clearly we are in opposition to that and steps will be taken.

Asked if the budget will get to the National Assembly this month, he said “I cannot give you a definite answer but I know the budget is going to come as early as possible. It maybe the end of this month or shortly thereafter, but I cannot give you and definite date.

“But it’s going to be an early presentation so that we can pass the budget before the end of the year and return to the January to December circle,” he said.

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