Bobby Moroe, Acting High Commissioner of South Africa to Nigeria, on Wednesday in Abuja, held a meeting with some Nigerian youth groups and proposed cultural exchange programmes between the two countries.
The meeting was organised by the high commission in collaboration with the National Youth Council of Nigeria (NYCN), Global Peace Initiative (GPI) and Committee of Youth on Mobilisation and Sensitisation (CYMS) and National Association of Nigeria Students (NANS).
While briefing the media on outcome of closed door meeting with NANS, NYCN and CYMS, Mr Moroe said that South African government would partner Nigeria to implement an exchange programme with the youths.
The high commissioner said that the initiative provides that Nigerian youths and students leaders travel to South Africa on cultural exchange and dialogue with their counterparts, as a way forward to the present situation.
According to him, this is to encourage exchange of ideas and views to promote relations between the two countries from the prism of youth leaders and come up with progressive recommendations.
Mr Moroe said: “The NYCN, GPI and CYMS have declared their readiness to do this and we are making arrangement to achieve the desired goals.
“Based on the discussion that we had, it is important for us to chat the cause for unity between Nigerians and South Africans at this period, because we share historical values.
“There is a need for us to cultivate the culture of tolerance and co-existence between the people of South Africa and people of Nigeria.
“It is important that we take advantage of the dialogue that we have had today to rebuild the much needed social engagement.
“It is important to educate the youth of South Africa and Nigeria to understand the history of cordiality shared between both countries and by such means there can be appreciation”.
Also speaking, Bala Shagari, President of NYCN, said the meeting was important for both countries to tow that path of peace, rather than looting of shops and business properties.
‘We believe that it is important that we engage in discussion with the South African people to proffer solutions to xenophobic attacks, rather than escalating the problem which can bring shame to the continent.
“As a result of our discussion we have agreed that we are going to South Africa to hear from them directly and to also get to the root cause of the problem and bring an end to it,” Shagari said.
He said that solution to the crisis should not just be left for governments of both countries alone, but urged youths to key into platforms for engagement in discussions to chat way forward.
Also, the Director General of CYMS, Obinna Nwaka, promised to produce comprehensive reports from the programme and submitted to governments of both countries.
“This issue about xenophobic attack is not just for governments alone, it is the youth, who can really proffer solution to it and they should not be left behind.
He, however, appealed to Nigerians to be patient, calm and remain peaceful in their dealings, to promote amicable resolution of the dispute.
Newsmen report that the date and duration of the proposed programme is yet to be decided by the high commission and the youth based organisations.
Meanwhile, the National Association of Nigeria Students (NANS), has opposed the proposed cultural exchange programme between Nigeria and South African youths to address xenophobic attacks on Nigeria and promote unity between the two countries.
The President of NANS, Danielson Akpan, said this shortly after a news briefing by the Acting High Commissioner of South Africa to Nigeria.
Akpan said the proposed exchange programme by the South African High Commission and the federal government for youths and students’ body would not work in view of the prevailing situation in South Africa.
”We do not need the proposed exchange programme; how do you carry out exchange programme in a place where you are not safe?
“Our members who are schooling in South Africa have been calling us that they want to come back home.”
He said attacks by South Africans on Nigerians and other nationals were unjustifiable and condemnable.