South Africa, Nigeria diplomatic tiff nothing new

By Konye Obaji Ori

Posted on Wednesday, 7 March 2012 16:05

Nigeria and South Africa are locked in a diplomatic row after Africa’s economic giant threw out 125 visitors from the West African country last week.

South African immigration officials accused the Nigerians of having “improper documentation of yellow fever cards.” And on Tuesday Nigeria reiterated by denying entry to 28 South Africans on the same grounds.

“We are also deporting them back to South Africa. The Presidency has been notified of this action,” a Nigerian immigration official told reporters on Tuesday. “We will no longer overlook certain procedures, which we have condoned in the spirit of African brotherhood.”

South Africa’s immigration department had insisted that it did not accept the certificates for yellow fever vaccination from the Nigerians because the signatures on them were irregular. Nigeria lodged a formal protest with Pretoria over the matter.

The West African country’s diplomats in South Africa also expressed dissatisfaction over the treatment of Nigerians in that country. They demanded that those deported be refunded the travel costs.

But whilst observes have already begun predicting a fall out between Africa’s two largest economies, reports of alleged ill-treatment of Nigerians in South Africa is not new.

Nigerian nationals are often depicted as criminals in high profile South Africa movies and have reportedly become targets of immigration and police scrutiny. And at one time former Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo was also forced to investigate the alleged abuse during a visit to South Africa.

High-profile victims of South African antagonism toward Nigerian visitors include Nobel laureate, Professor Wole Soyinka, who later received an official apology. Former Aviation minister, Kema Chikwe, was detained by immigration officials in 2001 who insisted that she must be vaccinated against yellow fever and quarantined.

Questions over the vanishing hospitality once shown by South Africa towards Nigerians in apparent appreciation for supporting the anti-apartheid movement abound in the aftermath of the controversy. But South Africans allege that Nigerian organised crime groups; mostly involved in illegal drug trafficking has grown over the years.

During the apartheid era in South Africa, the Nigerian government issued more than 300 passports to South Africans seeking to travel abroad as part of its support for the struggle.

Also read:

Nigeria-US: When terrorism dictates travel visa terms
Migration watch: South Africa
Storm over Nigerian traders in Ghana
Migration watch: Central and West Africa

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