March 7, 2012 –Nigerians angry with a country they helped liberate
The end is not in sight in the diplomatic row between Nigeria and South Africa, which deported 125 Nigerians last week.
Nigerians have urged the Federal Government to end South Africa’s alleged unfair treatment of its citizens.
Minister of Health Prof. Onyebuchi Chukwu said it was wrong of South Africa to have deported the Nigerians on the excuse that they carried fake yellow fever vaccination cards. Chukwu said the deported Nigerians did not carry fake yellow card, urging the country to stop politicising health issues.
The minister, at a news conference, yesterday said none of those deported held fake yellow cards.
According to him, the Port Health Services under the supervision of his Ministry vaccinate and issue the Yellow Fever cards to travelers at the airports, sea ports and land borders in Nigeria, while Health officials do the same in the states and LGAs. He said Nigeria is not at risk of Yellow fever because the last confirmed case of Yellow fever in Nigeria was in 1995.
He said: “So far, no country, no individual, no group has made any report to the Ministry on the possession of fake Yellow Card by an individual. If there are such cases, the Ministry would like to have reports for necessary investigation.
“Therefore, it is curious that a country that had issued entry visas to intending travellers which issuance was predicated on the presentation of a valid Yellow Card, will then turn around to deport those travellers. If these travellers had fake Yellow Cards, how did they come about valid visas.
“To the best of our knowledge, there was no reason to deport and embarrass these Nigerians. The action of South African immigration towards the Nigerian travellers is against the International Health Regulations (IHR) 2005 Article 32. I am happy this issue is being appropriately handled by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.”
On the last confirmed case of yellow fever in Nigeria, he said: “Nigeria is not endemic for Yellow Fever and there is no epidemic right now. However, Nigeria is one of the 44 Countries at risk. The last confirmed cases of yellow fever in Nigeria were in 1995 when 25 cases with one death were recorded.”
He went on: “In the states and LGAs, the Health officers give the vaccination and issue Yellow Cards to prospective travellers. The Port Health Services of the FMOH and the states collect yellow fever vaccines from the National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA) and give Yellow Cards to prospective travellers after the vaccination. A fee of N500 is usually charged for the Yellow Card but the vaccine is given free.
“The Port Health Services which are supervised by the FMOH are located in the following sites: Airports at: Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Lagos, Nmandi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja, Mallam Aminu Kano International Airport, Kano, Margaret Ekpo International Airport, Calabar and Port Harcourt International Airport, Port Harcourt.”
“Seaports at: Ibaka Seaport(Akwa Ibom), Apapa (Lagos), Tincan (Lagos), Calabar (Cross River), Port Harcourt (Rivers), Onne(Rivers), Bonny (Rivers), Brass (Rivers), Warri(Delta), Sapele (Delta) states.
“Land Borders at : Seme (Lagos), Idiroko (Ogun), Shaki (Oyo), Chikada (Kwara), Uyo (Akwa Ibom), Babana (Niger), Ilela (Sokoto), Kambe (Kebbi), Jiby (Katsina), Maigatari (Jigawa), Baga (Borno), Geidam (Yobe), Mubi (Adamawa), Gembu (Taraba) and Ofom ( Cross River).”
He added: “The validity of the Yellow Card extends for a period of 10 years beginning 10 days after the date of vaccination or in the event of a revaccination, 10 years from the date of the revaccination.
“In Nigeria, the approved vaccination centres have been issuing Yellow Cards and we want to advise travellers that where there is any doubt about the authenticity of the Yellow Cards given to them, they should report to the Federal Ministry of Health.”
Other Nigerians have also been commenting. A commentator on this newspaper’s website said: “South Africans have always believed that there are superior to Nigerians and they can live without having any relationship with Nigeria and Nigerians. I was in South Africa in 2010 for a workshop. While on the lift, a South African waitress said to me that they would never come to Nigeria. “We (Nigerians) would be the one coming to them”. I thought of this word deeply and concluded that reasons why we have many Nigerians in South Africa is because of development. The best 10 universities in Africa are in South Africa and better socioeconomic indicators. What is our government doing? What we need to do is to look inward into where we have missed it as a nation and channel a new path for better Nigeria.”
Another commentator said: “Most of the current South African leaders were educated here in Nigeria and precisely at the University of Ibadan and all at Nigeria’s expense and we even bought motorcycle for them to cruise around our country. We also fought alongside them, train them and gave them abode when they were chased out by their white Lord. What a way to pay us back. These South Africans are ingrates.”
Mr. Emeka Duru, in a comment on the newspaper’s website, said: “I hope we are not engaging in a preventable diplomatic war. The Nigerians who were deported from South Africa were deported based on a protocol: The Yellow Fever Vaccination. Are we satisfied that those Nigerians were compliant? If not why? We must take the blame to the appropriate authority. If the wrong certificate was used, then those responsible have some explaining to do.”
For Caleb Dagwak, Nigeria should continue to play the big brother role on the continent. He said: “Instead of tit for tat, Nigeria should demonstrate the attitude of a bigger brother to South Africa. We struggled to bring them to where they are today. They may be richer than Nigeria, but a child that was led to walk, after he has grown to adulthood should not fight his elder brother who led him to walk. Instead, he should appreciate him. Certainly, Dr. Nelson Mandela will not do this.”
Edet Okon, who also commented on the website, said: “The ill- treatment of Nigerians by South African Immigration is to say the least unfortunate. They should remember that Nigeria fought tenaciously against the apartheid regime and spent so much money for that purpose. The legendary icon Nelson Mandela and Bishop Desmond Tutu can justify this. Let South Africa know that to whom much is given much is expected.”
A businessman, Mr. Sunday Adefila, said South African has always been unfair to Nigerians. He said the country usually treats Nigerians shabbily when it comes to granting visa to Nigerians. His view is shared by Anthony Chike, who complained about how people were asked to stand on their feet for hours in the process of getting the visa, unlike other embassies which provide seats for visa applicants.
He said: “The first thing I observed is that, in other embassies like the Canadian, German and American embassies, they make provision for visa applicants to sit but here, people stand for hours and sometimes they leave eventually without being attended to.
“It is unfortunate that we are treated like this is our fatherland and our government cannot do something about it. If they are not aware, please help us bring this inhuman treatment to the notice of government and well-meaning Nigerians. Can you imagine that the embassy asked people to buy ticket, deposit N110, 000 before their visa application is processed? Some people have lost their money in the process. This is because if the visa is eventually denied, the deposit will not be refunded and you cannot get the full value for the unused ticket, that is, if you get anything at all.”
Mr. Ejike Okeke, while narrating his experience at the South African High Commission in Lagos, said: “I came from Owerri in Imo State and I have made several trips since I started the visa processing. Each time, I incurred huge expenses because I had to stay in hotel. At the end of the day, they denied me visa after I have bought ticket. Why should they ask me to purchase a ticket when they knew they will not give me visa?”
Mrs. Charles Bosede, who was once at the commission to submit repatriation claim, said: “I was told to come here and when I got here, they said they have closed and stopped attending to applicants. This is the worst embassy I have seen so far and I wished I never had anything to do with them in the first place.”