Nigerian billionaire, Jim Ovia, has announced he his pulling out from the ongoing World Economic Forum holding in South Africa amidst increasing backlash over xenophobic attacks on Nigerians and other Africans in Johannesburg.
A statement circulated Thursday morning by Zenith Bank, which Mr Ovia chairs, attributed with withdrawal to the public uproar.
Mr Ovia and a former minister, Oby Ezekwesili, came under severe censure for participating in the conference amidst calls for boycott over the xenophobic attacks.
The bank said Mr Ovia has decided to withdraw from further activities at the forum following “hypersensitivity of the issues surrounding the lives and well-being of Nigerian citizens living in South Africa and to contribute his voice against the poor state of security regarding foreign nationals living in Africa.”
The statement said Mr Ovia had, at the conference, stressed the need for youth empowerment and better government policies to curb continual attacks on persons living within and outside Africa.
He said until positive change towards collective growth happens on this front, the continent would not reach its potential.
“Mr. Ovia added that full support should be rendered in vocational education of the young persons living in not just Nigeria but Africa. According to him, the Jim Ovia Foundation has taken up a stance on this issue, having empowered over 3,500 students and entrepreneurs since its inception. He called on other members of the private sector to join hands and solve this menace plaguing the African continent.”
The latest xenophobic attacks in the South African capital has led to killing, and maiming of many foreigners, mostly black Africans.
Many Nigerians also lost their business to looting by the rioters.
Nigeria has recalled its ambassador from the country and dispatched a special envoy to convey the government’s stern position on the matter.
On Thursday Reuters reported that the South African government has shut its embassy in Nigeria.