The Nigerian government has voiced apprehensions regarding the safety of its citizens residing in South Africa, expressing particular concern amidst potentially incendiary online comments aimed at Nigerians ahead of the 2024 African Cup of Nations (AFCON) semi-final match between Nigeria's Super Eagles and South Africa's Bafana Bafana. A statement from the Nigeria High Commission in Pretoria highlighted that the threats were largely influenced by the upcoming football match, scheduled for Wednesday, 7 February.
The online comments included veiled threats related to Nigerians cooking jollof rice and potential consequences if Bafana Bafana were to lose to the Super Eagles. The High Commission called upon Nigerians in South Africa to exercise caution in their speech and be mindful of their choice of venues for watching the match, especially in public spaces. It urged citizens to refrain from engaging in loud or provocative celebrations in the event of a Super Eagles victory and encouraged them to remain law-abiding.
While acknowledging the tradition of friendly banter among football fans worldwide, the High Commission emphasized the need for responsible conduct, particularly in the context of potential tensions related to the football match. The statement urged citizens to report any provocations to the appropriate authorities and reminded them to continue being law-abiding residents.
The history of xenophobic attacks against Nigerians in South Africa added gravity to the government's concern. Previous incidents of violence against Nigerians and other Africans have been attributed to accusations of dealing drugs or taking local jobs. The Nigerian government, through its High Commission, has consistently advised vigilance and caution due to such security concerns. This precautionary approach aligns with past instances, including a 2022 alert about a planned attack on foreign nationals, which urged Nigerians to be vigilant.
The Nigerian government's emphasis on responsible conduct and heightened alertness reflects its commitment to ensuring the safety and well-being of its citizens abroad. The history of xenophobic incidents underscores the significance of such advisories, as the government works to protect its nationals in the face of potential risks and tensions.