Twenty-eight South Africans were denied entry into Lagos – a tit for tat that has deepened the row between the two countries.
South Africa last Friday deported 125 Nigerians from the Oliver Tambo International Airport in Johanesburg after denying them entry into the country for allegedly possessing fake yellow fever certificates. The Federal Government frowned at the action.
The 28 passengers flew into the Murtala Muhammed International Airport in Lagos aboard a South African Airways flight at about 9.30pm.
They were expected to be deported last night or this morning.
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.”
Earlier yesterday, Nigeria had threatened to retaliate South Africa’s maltreatment of Nigerians.
Interior Minister Albo Moro 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) was not done in good faith.”
He added: “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.
Moro spoke to reporters at the Presidential Villa in Abuja.
Also yesterday, the Federal Government summoned the South African High Commissioner to Nigeria, Mr. Kingsley Mambolo.
Besides, the House of Representatives Committee on Foreign Affairs asked the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Amb. Olugbenga Ashiru, to appear before it today 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, asked the Federal Government to apply the principle of reciprocity in dealing with South Africa.
Mambolo was at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to explain why South Africa maltreated Nigerian travellers last Friday.
According to sources, when he got to the Ministry at about 3pm, Mambolo was asked to see the Permanent Secretary, Ambassador Martin Uhomoibhi, instead of the Minister of Foreign Affairs.
A source, who spoke in confidence, said: “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.
“We are demanding unreserved apology from South Africa for this ill-treatment of Nigerian travellers or else, we will take more drastic actions.”
Ashiru confirmed the invitation of the High Commissioner but he declined further comments.
The Minister is to appear before the House Committee today to clarify Nigeria’ relationship with its African countries.
The Chairman of the Committee, Hon. Nnenna Elendu-Ukeje, said it was disturbed by the series of negative attacks on Nigerians and its embassies, especially in the sub region.
Elendu-Ukeje recalled the recent lock-up of some Nigerians in Togo without any explanation to the Nigerian government.
She said: “We are indeed worried about all these indignation and scorn Nigerians are subjected to all over the world, especially by sister African nations. This calls for a review of our relationship with these countries.
“So, we have invited the Minister of Foreign Affairs to a meeting on Tuesday to come and explain to us, our relationship with these countries and why Nigerians are being subjected to ridicule all over the world,” she said.
To Mrs Dabiri-Erewa, the illegal deportation of 125 Nigerians by the South African government is “inhuman”.
In a statement in Abuja, she faulted the “continuous unwarranted hostilities against Nigerians by the South Africa government”.
She said: “It is pathetic that 125 Nigerians, the highest so far, which include women and children, were delayed for 24 hours without water and food in an inhuman condition before being bundled back to Nigeria”.
“Do Nigeria ask South Africans to fill Yellow card when coming to Nigeria? Even then, passengers must have passed through this process while applying for visa in the Embassy. Why treat Nigerians with scorn and indignation. This is really appalling.
“Is this the way to pay Nigeria back with their kind gesture? This is unfair and un-African.”
Mrs Dabiri-Erewa also recalled how South African businesses, such as MTN and Multi-Choice – owner of DSTV – among others, are thriving in Nigeria better than any part of Africa without any form of molestation from Nigerian government.
The lawmaker recalled how the South African government stopped charging Nigerians deportation fees when Nigeria Embassy in South Africa under the High Commissioner Mohammed Marwa introduced it.
She said: “I call on the Federal Government to protect her citizens by applying the law of reciprocity to South Africans coming to Nigeria by introducing the same stringent treatment meted to Nigerians going to South Africa.”
Speaking on Nigeria’s Porous border, Moro said: “It is unfair to say that we don’t know the category of persons that enter Nigeria. Nigeria, like any other big country, has this problem of border porousity. I agree with you that Nigeria’s border as vast as it is, is porous to some extent but that is not to say that we don’t know the category of people that enter Nigeria.”