Nigeria, S’Africa agree to end row
NO fewer than 56 South Africans were on Tuesday deported, just as the Nigerian and South African government are exploring ways of resolving the crisis that has heightened diplomatic tension between both nations.
The South African nationals were denied entry as the Nigerian Immigration Services deported them for what it described as ” lack of proper documentation”.
The passengers had arrived Lagos aboard a South African Airways flight at 7.45pm. An Immigration source told The Guardian that immediately the A340 aircraft arrived, the disembarked passengers were screened while those who they claimed did not have ”proper documents” were denied entry.
Meanwhile, there were strong indications yesterday that South Africa and Nigeria are opting for an amicable resolution of the brewing diplomatic row occasioned by the yellow fever card deportation controversy.
Meanwhile, the Federal Government has warned that South Africa should not take Nigeria’s matured attitude and friendly disposition to other African nations for granted.
In the same vein, the House of Representatives has directed that urgent steps be taken to address the national embarrassment and ensure that no other country repeats same in future.
About 125 Nigerians were deported from the Johannesburg airport last Thursday while 28 South Africans were sent back from the Murtala Muhammed airport, Lagos, on Monday night in reciprocity to what the Federal Government termed indecent treatment of her nationals.
Indication of early thawing however emerged yesterday as both Abuja and Pretoria spoke positively about the outcome of the meeting held on Monday over which Foreign Affairs Minister, Olugbenga Ashiru, promised “a firm and matured stand on the matter.”
South Africa’s High Commissioner to Nigeria, Kingsley Mamabolo, was in marathon meetings yesterday, while the spokesperson of the High Commission, Mothusi Choeunyane, told The Guardian “Yes, we are very positive about the outcome of the meeting. It is being studied for the appropriate public pronouncement. The high commission is still receiving briefings on the matter. Let me assure you that the matter was taken up at the highest level with the headquarters.”
Asked about the South African line of action following a reciprocal move on the deportation by Nigeria, he said: “We are two brotherly countries. This is being treated as a serious issue. We are still engaged with the headquarters for the speedy resolution of the problem. We are in consultations and I urge all to remain calm.
Ashiru gave the warning at the Senate panel yesterday, describing the deportation as totally unbecoming and unacceptable to Nigerians.
According to him, no nation, not even South Africa, has the monopoly of deportation of travellers.
He added: “I find the action as totally unfriendly and un-African. You don’t treat fellow Africans that way and we will not leave any stone unturned to get to the bottom of the matter. They should know that they do not have monopoly of deporting travellers and if we feel that the action against our nationals was discriminatory, we will take action to reciprocate and there are various ways of reciprocating.”
At an emergency meeting with officials of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in the National Assembly, the House Committee on Foreign Affairs noted that Nigerians could no longer tolerate the frequent attacks on its sovereignty through the constant deportation over its citizens by other countries.
The committee gave Ashiru a week ultimatum to report back to the House on measures taken to address the national embarrassment caused by the deportation.
Chairman of the committee, Nnenna Elendu-Ukeje, said that the committee was worried by the series of negative attacks on Nigerians and its embassies, especially in Africa and the sub-region.
Elendu-Ukeje added: “The whole thing has turned into an affront and the tenets of reciprocity that is the thrust of our diplomatic policy should be invoked in tackling the situation because it was an illegal deportation. The Nigerian embassy was not informed before such an act was perpetuated on Nigerians, so it was illegal and should be seen from that purview”, Elendu-Ukeje said.