south africa takes a page out of Onovo's playbook

Despite the enmity between South Africa and Nigeria (as evidenced by last year's riots and the reactions to the recent District 9 movie), both countries seem to have a lot in common.

One of which is their intense desire to squelch the growing tide of crime within their borders. Understandable, seeing that South Africa has one of the highest homicide rates in the world and Nigeria can just about take the blame for everything that is wrong and morally amiss in this world we live in....(sarcasm folks, sarcasm). Last month, recently minted Nigerian Inspector General of Police, Ogbonna Onovo lobbied for increased powers to be lent to his police force on the occasion of the 2011 elections. Amongst other things, Onovo requested that police officers be allowed to open fire at those brandishing weapons at polling stations and the ability to arrest those who "commit electoral offenses."

Onovo's South African counterpart, Bheki Cele, recently made a similar "shoot-to-kill" request to members of the country's parliament in anticipation of the upcoming World Cup festivities.

Sadly, in both cases, Nigerians will end up the indirect targets of both proposed moves. The fear that exists in the minds of many is that Onovo's proposal could be utilized by political parties who could initimidate opponents through local police forces. This has already been well documented in my home state during the Bakassi era. Though such has been demonstrated with vigilante groups, the potential buying and selling of local police force loyalties is not teribly far-fetched.

Also, considering the xenophobic sentiments that mar the South African landscape, the targetting of Nigerian citizens through Cele's proposal, is not at all inconceivable. Several of the riots we all witnessed last year in South African slums were largely directed towards Nigerian immigrants who are believed to be at the root of the majority of crimes committed. With such stereotypes pervasive amongst some white and black South Africans alike, it remains possible that under the guise of maintaining peace, the lives of Nigerians in South Africa may indeed by sacrificed.