Xenophobia: South African President Jacob Zuma and Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan

South Africa Chickens Out, Returns $15m Seized from Nigeria

South Africa's President Jacob Zuma and Nigeria's President Goodluck Jonathan

South Africa’s President Jacob Zuma and Nigeria’s President Goodluck Jonathan

In a news conference on Friday, 24 October 2014, the South African Ambassador to Nigeria, Lulu Mnguni, said that the $15m earlier seized from the Nigerian Government by the South African Government during a failed arms deal had been released to Nigeria.

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He said: “South Africa’s relations with Nigeria has come a long way, so now this actually will make us much closer, to see how we can close some of these gaps that result in such accident.

“South Africa’s relation with Nigeria is priceless; it cannot be sold for $15m.”

The return of the purported illegal arms deal money averted what could have lead to a diplomatic showdown between Nigeria and South Africa, Africa’s economic super powers, which would have had dire consequences on the economy of Africa.

On 15 September 2014, Reuters broke the news that South African Government seized $9.3m cash belonging to Nigeria at the Lanseria airport Johannesburg on 5 September 2014. A month later, City Press, a South Africa-based newspaper, reported that another $5.7m sent by wire transfer from Nigeria was also seized. South African government had alleged that both funds were intended to be used for illegal purchase of arms.

“The passengers’ luggage was searched after Customs officials detected irregularities. The money was detained as it was undisclosed/undeclared and above the prescribed legal limit,” Marika Muller, South African Revenue Service (SARS) spokeswoman, told Reuters.

The three passengers (two Nigerians and an Israeli citizen), who brought the $9.3 million in cash, had told City Press South Africa that they were using the money to purchase buy arms for the Nigerian security services.

The Nigeria’s National Security Adviser, Sambo Dasuki, dismissed the claim that the money was for illegal purchase of arms as baseless and untrue, insisting that the arms transactions were legal. He had then implored the South African Government to avoid actions that could lead to unnecessary diplomatic showdown.

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