BY CLIFFORD NDUJIHE, PATRICK OMORODION, LAWANI MIKAIRU & WAHAB ABDULLAH
LAGOS— AN end to the raging diplomatic row between Nigeria and South Africa kick-started by the latter’s deportation of 125 Nigerians, including a serving senator over alleged possession of fake yellow fever vaccine certificates is not in sight.
Reason: South Africa is not ready to apologise for the dehumanising treatment and Nigeria is ready to reciprocate the ‘gesture’ with equal measure.
Feelers from both countries show that there will be more deportations on both sides as the South African government has refused to admit wrong doing and apologise as demanded by Nigeria government. A Foreign Affairs source said, “we are demanding unreserved apology from South Africa for this ill-treatment of Nigerian travelers or else, we will take more drastic actions.”
A highly placed Nigerian foreign affairs official confirmed yesterday that South Africa had persistently complained to the Nigerian government that most Nigerians coming to South Africa enter the country with fake documents but that Nigeria had not addressed the issue.
The deportation last Friday of 125 Nigerians from the Oliver Tambo International Airport in Johanesburg after denying them entry into the country for allegedly possessing fake yellow fever certificates was a good opportunity, according to South Africa, to let Nigeria know that they were serious about their complaint especially as a serving senator was involved.
Indeed, Vanguard learnt yesterday that Nigeria was not unaware that 125 Nigerians were to be deported. The source said Nigeria wanted South African Government to quarantine the deported Nigerians accused of possessing fake yellow vaccine certificates, give them the right vaccine and charge them the cost in dollars and then allow them enter South Africa. This was to save Nigeria diplomatic embarrassment as a serving senator was involved
It would be recalled that Nigeria retaliated on Tuesday by deporting 28 South Africans, who were denied entry into Lagos. The 28 passengers flew into the Murtala Muhammed International Airport in Lagos aboard a South African Airways flight at about 9.30 pm. A source said: “The Federal Government decided to deny these 28 South Africans entry because of invalid documents and relevant health certificate clearance. We are also deporting them back to South Africa. The Presidency has been notified of this action. We will no longer overlook certain procedures which we have condoned in the spirit of African brotherhood.”
Nigeria, Tuesday, deported 58 South Africans.Also, yesterday, another 37 South Africans were deported. They were said to have arrived the Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Ikeja at 8.30 pm aboard a South African Airways.
According to Airport sources, immediately the aircraft arrived and all the passengers disembarked and were going through immigration formalities, the South Africans among them were fished out and made to stay together before being deported to their country.
Earlier yesterday, Nigeria had threatened to retaliate South Africa’s maltreatment of Nigerians. Interior Affairs Minister, Abba Moro who spoke to reporters at the Presidential Villa in Abuja said: “I want to assure you on one thing. The Federal Government has the capacity to reciprocate appropriately if it is found that the deportation of Nigerians was not done in good faith. At the moment, Nigeria maintains a very cordial diplomatic relations with South Africa and I can assure you that we will react appropriately if it is found that South Africa has taken unfriendly action against Nigeria.”
S/A envoy summoned
Also, on Tuesday, the Federal Government summoned the South African High Commissioner to Nigeria, Mr. Kingsley Mambolo. When he got to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, he was asked to see the Permanent Secretary, Ambassador Martin Uhomoibhi, instead of the Minister of Foreign Affairs to explain why South Africa maltreated Nigerian travelers, last Friday. According to sources, “when the South African High Commissioner got to the Ministry, the Permanent Secretary was directed to ask him to explain why 125 Nigerians were deported without diplomatic courtesy. He spent about an hour interacting with the Permanent Secretary, but Nigeria was not convinced about the explanation given by South Africa.
The House of Representatives Committee on Foreign Affairs, Tuesday, asked the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Amb. Olugbenga Ashiru, to appear before it to clarify Nigeria’s relationship with other African countries. The Chairman of the House of Representatives Committee on the Diaspora Affairs, Hon. Abike Dabiri-Erewa, has asked the Federal Government to apply the principle of reciprocity in dealing with South Africa.