South Africa, Nigeria Pledge Closer Ties After Mending Rift

Nigeria and South Africa pledged to strengthen diplomatic ties and boost trade in oil and other products after patching up a diplomatic row over deportations.

The governments of sub-Saharan Africa’s two largest economies fell out in March, after South Africa evicted 125 Nigerians because they didn’t have the relevant health documents to enter the country. Nigerian authorities responded by deporting 131 South Africans.

“That is old history and has already been sorted out,” Nigerian Vice President Namadi Sambo told reporters today in Cape Town today after talks with South African Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe. The relationship “has gone to the next level. Nigeria and South Africa can lead the achievement of driving away poverty in Africa.”

The two governments signed agreements on economic and technical cooperation and customs administration. Nigeria supplied South Africa with 40 percent of its oil imports in March, making it the biggest supplier.

“We would guarantee to our Nigerian brothers demand for their liquid fuels, because we don’t want to source our fuel in areas that are likely to be unstable,” Motlanthe said. “We are quite confident that Nigeria would become one of South Africa’s trusted suppliers.”

South Africa’s government is in talks with several countries about supplying it with crude, should it be forced to suspend imports from Iran to comply with U.S. and European sanctions.

Protect Property

Nigeria is willing to lend any assistance South Africa requires, including the supply of oil, and will take all necessary steps to protect the personnel and property of its companies’ Nigerian operations, Sambo said.

The Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta, Nigeria’s main militant group in the oil-rich region, has accused South African authorities of interfering “in the legitimate fight for justice,”

On April 14, the group reiterated a threat to attack Johannesburg-based MTN Group Ltd., Africa’s largest mobile-phone operator, and other South African companies operating in Nigeria.

Sambo denied reports that Nigeria opposed South Africa’s bid to have its Home Affairs Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma elected as chairwoman of the African Union Commission.

South Africa and Nigeria will address the issue of the AU leadership “as one country,” he said. “All positions are open to all Africans that are fit to take that position. Nigeria will support South Africa” in its bid to secure posts within the African Union or the United Nations.

South Africa supported a failed bid this year by Nigerian Finance Minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala to become president of the World Bank.

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