THE Nigerian community in Bulawayo has said identifying them as Nigerians is not correct as they were now Zimbabweans committed to the development of the country since they married local women.
The claim came on the heels of a 14-day ultimatum given to Nigerian-owned businesses in Bulawayo by the Zimbabwe Federation of Trade Unions (ZFTU) to vacate the city alleging that they were not paying wages nor remitting taxes to the government.
Speaking at a ceremony to donate groceries worth thousands of dollars to Thembiso and Master Seed children’s homes sourced by the Nigerian community in Bulawayo on Monday, the community’s chairperson Innocent Onovo said they were committed to serving the country as they were now “Zimbabweans”.
“We are sons and daughters-in-law of Zimbabwe. The name Nigerian community is now just a ceremonial name, as we are proud Zimbabweans,” Onovo said.
The Nigerians, mostly businesspeople, graced the occasion accompanied by their Zimbabwean wives.
“We are committed to serving this country with all our hearts. We are part of the Bulawayo community and we look forward to donating more goods and in a better way in the future,” Onovo added.
Speaking at the same function, George Collins, a senior consulate officer at the Nigerian embassy in Harare, said Nigerians were nice people.
“Typically Nigerians are the most travelled people in Africa, but when they travel they take with them beliefs that whatever place they live in is their second home,” he said.
“They assist in whatever means to communities they live in and the economies of the host countries. We have a saying in Nigeria: ‘Whenever you go in the world and if you don’t see a Nigerian it’s not comfortable’.”
In a letter addressed to Bulawayo Provincial affairs minister Eunice Sandi-Moyo two weeks ago and copied to the Labour ministry, the police and Nigerian community, ZFTU said Nigerians were abusing locals they employed and should be forced out of the city.
According to the letter, the Nigerians were accused of not paying wages, while some of their workers were not registered with the National Social Security Authority and their respective National Employment Councils, which ZFTU said was in violation of workers’ rights.
The government recently announced that it would ban foreigners from operating bakeries, barber shops, estate agencies and a host of other businesses from January 1 2014 in accordance with the country’s indigenisation laws.
The January deadline is set to affect nationals from China, the Democratic Republic of Congo, India, Nigeria and Pakistan, among other countries.