Active Diplomatic Row Between Nigeria And South Africa

March 7th, 2012

FIFTY-Six South Africans were barred last night from entering Nigeria through the Murtala Muhammed International Airport in Lagos.

Twenty-eight were stopped on Sunday – in retaliation for the deportation of 125 Nigerians last Friday – as reported exclusively yesterday by The Nation.

The government may also review the status of all South Africans living in this country to ascertain the validity of their visas and work permit.

Besides, security agencies have been placed on the alert to monitor the activities of South Africans.
According to sources, the Federal Government decided to bar the 56 South Africans who flew in aboard a South Africa Airways flight SA060 last night from entering because despite the measures so far taken by Nigeria, the South African government has not shown any remorse.

A source said: “It is sad that South Africa is behaving as if it acted right in deporting 125 Nigerian passengers last Friday.
“We will also push them to the wall, until they apologise to the Nigeria.”
“We are prepared for the worst,” the source added.

Nigeria has given five conditions to South Africa to end the diplomatic row between the two countries.
South Africa is yet to respond to the conditions, The Nation learnt yesterday.
Foreign Affairs Minister Olugbenga Ashiru was at the Villa last night for a “crucial meeting” with President Goodluck Jonathan, apparently over the face-off.

The Federal Govt issued five conditions to end diplomatic row, according to sources, the five conditions are:

•unconditional apology to Nigeria over the deportation of 125 Nigerian travellers last Friday from the Oliver Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg;

•compensation for all the victims of the harsh treatment;

•disciplinary action against all the officials involved in the cruelty to Nigerians;

•a review of the Yellow Fever Vaccination Card policy; and

•a commitment that such a diplomatic slip will not re-occur.

A top government source said: “We have given all these conditions to South Africa to restore normal diplomatic and bilateral relationship with it. We believe that the action was deliberately targeted at Nigerians.

“We have made our position known to the South African High Commissioner to Nigeria, Mr. Kingsley Mambolo.

“Without an apology and a review of the policy on Yellow Fever Vaccination Card, among others, we are ready to retaliate in whatever way to prove a point that our sovereignty can no longer be taken for granted.”

Asked if South Africa has responded to Nigeria’s demands, the source, who pleaded not to be named because of the “sensitivity” of the matter, added: “Not yet; we are still waiting for them.

“I think they are also consulting in their country, but we are ready for the worst.”

Amb. Ashiru was at the Villa for a “crucial meeting” with President Goodluck Jonathan on the row, it was gathered.
“I think the Villa meeting will be for situation status review,” another source said.

Unknown to many, there has been a “cold war” between Nigeria and South Africa in the last one year over the Libyan crisis, which led to the ouster of the late Muammar Gaddafi.

Nigeria supported the then rebel-controlled Transitional National Council (TNC). South African President Jacob Zuma backed the late Gaddafi.

The source added: “In the last one year, there has been a cold war between Nigeria and South Africa, beginning with the Libyan crisis. At the time the world was against Gaddafi, Zuma openly identified with the late dictator. He bulldozed his way to head a committee of the AU on Libyan crisis but the report presented to African leaders was wishy-washy and biased.
“Nigeria succeeded in persuading most of the AU states to recognise the TNC. Nigeria’s position was also adopted by the UN.
“South Africa has not forgiven Nigeria for making it to ‘lose out’ in international politics. It was a major foreign policy setback for President Zuma, who is gradually being isolated by world leaders for opposing reforms in Libya.

“Also, Zuma wanted one of his wives to become the President of the AU Commission at the last session in Addis Ababa, but the election was stalemated. His wife could not win at the first ballot and this has angered South Africa, which believes that Nigeria wielded enormous power.

“You can now appreciate why the South African government is being harsh on Nigerian travellers.”
Ashiru confirmed the government’s position when he appeared before the House of Representatives Committee on Foreign Affairs yesterday.

He said: “No nation should take our brotherliness, maturity and friendly business environment whereby companies, including South African countries, are making more profits from Nigeria than in South Africa for granted.”

The Minister said the government was determined to maintain the dignity of Nigerians everywhere, adding: “When a Nigerian is deported on flimsy excuses, there will be appropriate reaction. It may not be retaliation but it will be reciprocal, one way or the other.

“Let it be known that South African officials do not have monopoly of deportation of travellers. Henceforth, any deportation of Nigerians will be met with equal measure of reciprocal measure; we will not let it go unreciprocated.
“It will be measure for measure; we will not let it go unreciprocated. The signal must go out not just to South Africa but to the rest of the world that when you treat Nigerians with disrespect, we also will find a way of treating your nationals with disrespect. No country has a monopoly of treating Nigerians with disrespect; we too can hit back.”

The Minister said relationships between the two countries at leadership level are cordial, but expressed regret that it did not trickle down the ladder to South African institutions.

“It is unfortunate that those fueling discord and hatred are two major institutions of the state – the police and the immigration,” Ashiru said, adding:

“Immigration officials are always unfriendly to Nigerians while the police would arrest Nigerians indiscriminately without genuine reasons.”

To buttress the dislike for Nigerians by South Africans, Ashiru said the process of deportation was against international conventions. “It was a shock and I find it difficult to accept that the deportation was on the basis of yellow fever card. Normally, the visa would not have been issued without the yellow fever card.

“Even in the event that the traveller was without the card, normal convention demands that such a person is quarantined and innoculated and allowed to enter after about three hours, if there is no adverse reaction.

“In this case, there was nothing like that. I was not informed of the incident before the deportation and neither was any official from our High Commission informed. Our officials were supposed to witness the deportation process as demanded by protocols.”

Nigerian officials who are meeting with their South African counterparts have been instructed to demand an apology as well as punishment for those involved in the deportation.

But Ashiru stressed that the incident was not premeditated by Nigeria’s support for the TNC of Libya.

The Chairperson of the Committee, Hon. Nnenna Ukeje, who said the deportation was an embarrassment to Nigeria, asked Ashiru to update the committee on what led to the deportation and the level of the ministry’s intervention.

Ukeje said: “This is an affront on Nigeria’s brotherliness and by that act, South Africa has overstepped its boundary. It is our opinion that the time has come to review, as a matter of policy, how Nigerians are treated by other countries.

“We have all kinds of foreign companies in Nigeria that enjoy concessions, like Multichoice, MTN and a host of others, and of course there have been arguments about Nigerian companies trying to open up in South Africa having serious problems.
“So, I do not think this is an isolated issue. We have to look beyond the brotherly relationships and actually start to look at what is happening to our people in the hands South African institutions.”

Another member, Hon. Opeyemi Bamidele, who cited the xenophobic attacks of 2008 and 2009 where Nigerians suffered more than other African nationals in South Africa, said Nigeria should begin to employ the principle of reciprocity when dealing with other countries.

The Foreign Affairs Minister also appeared before the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee where he reiterated what he said at the House of Reps.

The minister said it would be premature to list retaliatory measures being planned against South Africa, but noted that one of such actions was the deportation of 28 South Africans on Monday.
-The Nation