Lagos, Nigeria (PANA) - The killing of two Europeans by their abductors as well as the deportation of 125 Nigerians from South Africa overshadowed all other stories in Nigeria this week.
The Europeans were Chris McManus from Northwest, England, and Franco Lamolinara, an Italian.
The Guardian ran the story with the following headlines "Shock as European hostages are killed in Sokoto with the riders 'Jonathan, Cameron lament' and "Govt confirms arrest of masterminds" as well as "Boko Haram Denies Killing Briton, Italian".
In its first story on Friday, the Guardian said another sad chapter was Thursday added to the worrisome terrorism now domiciled in Nigeria as Italian and British hostages, held by kidnappers suspected to be members of Boko Haram sect, were confirmed killed in Sokoto in northern Nigeria by the group. The incident occurred during an attempt by Nigerian and British security operatives to free them.
Until the killing of the hostages, revealed Thursday by British Prime Minister, David Cameron, the authorities in Nigeria and the UK, had kept the kidnap of the victims, which reportedly occurred on 12 May, 2011, top secret.
According to the Guardian, the Nigerian and British governments have condemned the killing of the two engineers, who were working with a construction firm in Birnin Kebbi and condoled with their families.
In its second story on Saturday which had the riders 'JTF Arrests Three Suspected Sect Members In Borno, Recovers Rifles, Ammunitions, Bomb-Making Materials', and 'Italy Angry At Britain Over Botched Nigeria Raid', the Guardian reported that as outrage continued Friday over the killing of two hostages, the militant Islamist sect, Boko Haram, has denied committing the act.
A spokesman for the sect, claiming to be Abul Qaqa, in a telephone interview with reporters in Maiduguri Friday, said: “We have always claimed responsibilities for the operations we undertake, but we are not responsible for the killing of the said foreigners on Thursday.”
Boko Haram’s denial came as Italy’s President, Giorgio Napolitano accused Britain of an “inexplicable” failure to consult with his country before a bungled attempt to rescue the late hostages.
The Nation had four stories on the killing with the first headline saying "Jonathan mourns as Boko Haram kills Italian, Briton". The other three headlines were "Italy president condemns British behavior in Nigeria's raid", "Why we killed Briton, Italian -- Suspect" and "Nigeria, Britain, Italy in diplomatic row".
According to the Nation, President Goodluck Jonathan has expressed deep regrets over the killings and vowed that the killers will face justice. He disclosed that the abductors had been arrested and condoled with the British and Italian governments and the families of the deceased.
On why they killed the hostages, the men arrested in the aftermath of Thursday’s killing, told security agents that they were under instruction to shoot the hostages whenever they came under any threat from security agents.
One of the suspects was quoted as having said : “We had a standing instruction to kill the hostages immediately we sight security agents around the building.
“We were to kill the hostages since we were not sure of being alive after an encounter with security men," the Nation quoted them as saying.
The Nation also reported that Italy, Nigeria and Britain are now embroiled in a dual diplomatic row as a fallout of Thursday’s killing of the hostages.
It said Rome demanded from Abuja, on the one hand, a ‘detailed reconstruction’ of the events leading to the death of its citizen, Franco Lamolinara, in the rescue operation. On the other hand, the Italian government asked for a political and diplomatic explanation from London on why it was not consulted before hand.
Branding the situation “inexplicable”, Italian President Giorgio Napolitano said his country was not informed or consulted about the botched mission to rescue McManus and Lamolinara.
The reaction from Britain was swift in coming with Defence Secretary Philip Hammond declaring: “It isn’t inexplicable. It’s completely explicable what happened.”
The Italian Prime Minister, Mr. Mario Monti, requested President Goodluck Jonathan to provide a “detailed reconstruction” of the rescue attempt as soon as possible.
Senior British military sources said: “This has not been a good day but that should not take away from the fact that it was properly scoped, intelligence-driven operation that our special forces undertook. You can be the best in the world and still be unlucky.
“This operation was the best opportunity for a successful conclusion and everyone is mortified it went wrong.”
The papers also reported the diplomatic row between Nigeria and South Africa following the deportation of 125 Nigerians last Friday for alleged lack of authentic yellow card vaccination documentation.
In retaliation, Nigeria has turned away 131 South African from Nigeria.
However, truce on the matter came after the South African government sent a letter of apology to Foreign Affairs Minister, Olugbenga Ashiru, apologizing to Nigeria for barring 125 Nigerians from the country.
The Vanguard on Friday screamed "South Africa begs Nigeria", reporting that after six days of diplomatic stand-off following the deportations, Africa’s two powerhouses, Nigeria and South Africa, have mended fences and reached a five-point agreement to avert a recurrence.
“We apologize for this unfortunate incident and we hope this matter will not in anyway affect our bilateral relations,” South African Deputy Foreign Minister, Ebrahim Ebrahim, told reporters in Pretoria.
“We have put into place certain mechanisms to ensure this doesn’t happen again, and we believe that this matter is closed. Thereafter, we will move quickly to ensure that we put machinery in place so that it will be a lasting solution. We don’t want this to happen again because of our bilateral relations. We felt it was un-African to have deported well over 125 Nigerians in a space of two days,” he added.
Ebrahim said South African officials had agreed to reopen an airport clinic that would allow travelers to receive yellow fever vaccines on arrival. Immigration officials will also need a foreign ministry official’s consent before turning away large group of travelers.
Indeed, a Minister in South African Presidency, Collins Chabane, told reporters in Cape Town that “Cabinet expressed shock and regret at the reports regarding how African foreign nationals, particularly Nigerians, and other nationals from other parts of the world have been treated” at Johannesburg’s main airport.
Nigerian Foreign Affairs Minister, Olugbenga Ashiru, said that Nigeria had accepted the apology, saying a South African envoy was expected soon to formally apologize for the row.
Ambassador Ashiru said the apology and letter would be sent to President Jonathan as well as a reply to the South African Authority to show that it had been accepted.
He said during the Bi-National Commission meeting, “Nigeria would demand for waiver of the yellow fever vaccination card or present sample of Nigeria’s yellow fever card to South Africa seeking for respect for Nigerians visiting and living in the country, saying some of them were going there for medical treatment, seminar and tourism.
However, the minister urged Nigerians in the Diaspora to conduct themselves in a manner that would not bring disrepute to the country and to always obtain necessary documents whenever they were traveling abroad, adding that yellow fever vaccination cards were available in medical centres and airport clinics.
Also speaking, Minister of State (II) Foreign Affairs, Dr. Nurudeen Muhammed, said Nigeria would no longer tolerate any ill-treatment meted on her citizens on flimsy excuses.
To firm up the reconciliation, the governments of both countries reached a five-point agreement to end the face-off and prevent a recurrence in future. This came as Nigeria’s 360-member House of Representatives asked the Federal Government to review the country’s relations with South Africa.
The Sun reported the story with the headline "Deportation war: S’Africa surrenders" and the riders '•••We’re sorry, Pretoria begs Abuja', and '•FG accepts apology'.
Tribune and Thisday captured the story under similar headlines "Deportation: South Africa apologises to Nigeria", while the Punch saw it as "Row: South Africa bows, apologises to Nigeria".
The other headlines on the story were The Nation -- "South Africa ‘sorry’ and Nigeria, South Africa...truce, but cracks remain", and the Guardian - "S’Africa apologises to Nigeria over row".
Still on deportation of Nigeria the Tribune reported the deportation of 120 Nigerians from the UK on Friday. Its story, under the headline "UK Deports 120 Nigerians", said that as Nigeria is yet to recover from the rude shock of the unnecessary deportation of 125 of its citizens by the South African government last week, the country, on Friday, again suffered a similar fate from the British government, which deported 120 Nigerians over various allegations.
The deportees were brought into the country through the Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Lagos, aboard a chartered plane which landed Friday morning at the cargo terminal of the airport.
The deportees comprised mainly of young men and women, who lamented how they were brought back home unprepared. British immigration officials said they were alleged to have committed various immigration offences, ranging from over stay to lack of valid travel papers.
Most of the deportees looked particularly ruffled, making frantic phone calls to their friends and relatives to pick them up at the Lagos airport.
Their deportation attracted criticisms from other airport users, as they were brought into the country aboard a cargo aircraft rather than a normal passenger plane, which the deportees said was enough indication of the value the British government placed on them.
The Nation on Saturday also reported the story under the headline "UK deports 120 Nigerians in cargo plane".
-0- PANA VAO 10March2012