Wednesday, March 7, 2012

When Foreign Relations Break Down - Nigeria and South Africa

Posted in: ,
 Unity and Faith - VS - Diverse People Unite 

I saw some of the discussions on one of my BB groups yesterday with someone making an aside comment going something like "South Africa must go" with reference to the GMG most of us are more familiar with. I wasn't sure exactly what was going on but it seems that tensions escalated overnight with Nigeria practicing a reciprocal or tit for tat model of diplomacy.

I hear that the South African Government threw the first punch when they deported more than 100 Nigerians (all the passengers in an Arik Air to SA flight - including a Senator) for having “fake Yellow Fever Vaccination Certificates”. The Nigerian Government retaliated by sending back 25 South Africans on all the incoming flights yesterday, the number has increased to 44 so far.

Probably fired up by their deported colleague,  the Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs summoned the Minister, Ambassador Gbenga Ashiru asking for other tougher actions to be taken against South Africa. The Minister said:
‘Nigeria will take reciprocal action. The Federal Government has summoned the South African envoy to demand an apology and to ensure that the officers involved in the deportation are punished. The Federal Government will not tolerate the maltreatment of Nigerians in any part of the world. This country had done so much for South Africa and we will not tolerate a situation where South African police and immigration officials fuel tensions between both countries. I must confess that we must take tough action against any country that takes delights in ill-treating Nigerians. Nigeria will react in a mature and calculated way on the assault on our people to show that when you show disrespect to our people, we will hit back. They (South Africa) don’t have the monopoly of ill-treating travellers.’
Some comments I've read believe SA is being unfair and confrontational. Yellow Fever cards are just N500 according to the Minister of Health, Prof. Onyebuchi Chukwu, who has also said that none of the Nigerians deported from South Africa last week was in possession of a fake Yellow Fever card. The cards must have been verified before they were issued SA visas which the SA govt through their Nigerian embassy issued.

Already, Arik Air has temporarily suspended all flights from Lagos to SA over the controversial Yellow Fever documentation. The Nigerian Government is also said to be planning to investigate South African Businesses in Nigeria with a view to taking them over.

Personally, I've never been to South Africa but I've heard of the little ripples of tensions over the past few years. Who remembers the District 9 movie brouhaha? There have also been several instances of reported Xenophobia against Nigerians in SA - it's either they're taking over SA business landscape, or they are the criminal masterminds in SA cities. What is clear is that several Nigerian music videos and commercials are shot in SA on a weekly basis, and some of the biggest multinational companies in Nigeria are South African.

I wonder if SA thought on these, and other legitimate people and business, before their Foreign Relations decided to get in a tiff with Nigeria. What did they expect from the Nigerian end, that the govt would roll over and play dead? Still, I don't know that the government's response is the best, it smacks too much of a reactive reflex. I hope it is not because of a Senator whose ego has been ruffled that the two countries would spoil decades of relations.What is the end-game?


  1. I'm sorry this is happening. But we had a situation here where a congressman felt snubbed on our President's plane and, well, sought 'revenge'. Quite, honestly, tho, I never quite know what to believe when it comes to politics. Anyway, hope your situation is settled soonest.

  2. Knee-jerk reactions don't solve problems both with SA's reaction and Nigeria's retaliation. but then again from the public health angle I might not blame them..

    You should read this;

    1. I still think if the last YF case in Nigeria was in 1995 and they were accepting the cards the day before, the main motivation could only have been political. But NHW has a point, the Ministry of Health has to up it's game, and we Nigerians that are so quick to cut corners.

  3. interesting...did not know this happened.

  4. I just hope it would not get too far, a lot of business and economic consequence

    I know Nigerians like to cut corners, but there a whole lot of law abiding Nigerians doing things the right way too! My friend (planning to travel to SA next month) still got vaccinated yesterday to get her yellow card , and so many people get their yellow cards from the authorized centers.

    I dey siddon look...interesting drama.

  5. Our problem in Nigeria is that we are too reactive in every situation we face. We are not proactive at all.
    If only we had a government that cared, we would indeed be the giant of Africa and no country will be treating us or our green passport like thrash.
    Theres a yoruba adage that says its the way you carry your thing that people we help you carry it.

  6. I agree with @ilola about been reactive. We wait till something happens. I really don't see SA blinking first but let's watch and see. Both sides have everything to lose. When Nigerians have been complaining about SA companies (MTN and Multi-choice), FG no do anything. Na now them wan shut down them SA companies (according to rumors). If Nigeria keeps retaliating, and say ask them SA companies to leave, good for us to an extent. Let's rebuild our economy. MTN already has enough competitors so that's easy. Where Nigerians would suffer would be the DSTV issue cuz we don't have a credible alternative. Through not supporting our own and mismanagement HiTV went down so na to dey watch NTA and LTV remain. Shoprite too go suffer small. Spar isn't far and its prices too are equally good.
    SA like u said has had issues with Nigeria since. I remember my dad and sister planning to travel and they were rejected cuz the SA officials said they didn't include the address of where they were going to stay (popsie was going for a seminar and included the letter, receipt for course payment which included payment for the hotel they were going to stay in). That was when I knew SA has serious issues cuz I couldn't figure out what else they needed to know when the address was included in the letter.

    Anywayz I hope they settle it fast.

  7. There are smarter ways to deal with a situation than a reactionary retaliation.

    If we (the nigerians) were wrongly refused entrance, then we should file our grieviances with the embassy and ensure that we are duly compensated for every single inconvenience. I believe there were innocent people on that flight and they should be compensated, and those who really did have the fake certificates should get their acts straight.

  8. I wonder if this would have happened if that senator wasn't on that flight. But seriously it is like SA is championing the whole Hatred for Nigerians. Its getting too much. All the 100 passengers couldn't have all had fake yellow fever cards. And its hard to think that a senator would have a fake yellow fever card which is so easy to obtain. Abeg they should sort themselves out. I just pray it doesn't escalate. And we should start checking all these south Africans that work in Lagos to make sure they have the right papers to do so seeing they are not in ECOWAS.

  9. In International diplomacy,there is what is called Doctrine of Reciprocity.
    Since this news broke,I've also learnt that when such issues arises,it is expected of the receiving country to quarantine this fellows,give d vaccination & charge them in dollars.
    That is deterrent enough. S.Africa chose to go it her own way. Now this.
    Nigeria has played the Big Brother to the rest of Africa for so long without let but these countries go a long way to see that they undermine her interest at every given opportunity.
    I don't fault Government on these steps taking so far. Doctrine of reciprocity all the way.

  10. My 20cents:First the issue is-is there a possibility that there were fake yellow fever vaccination cards onboard? the answer is a resounding Yes! We no get shame as Nigerians neither do we respect ourselves enough- so why do we expect diff treatment from anyone else.even though it costs relatively zilch to get the vacination, i wont be surprised that the royal senatorship and their entourage can not be bothered to do it! typically they'd get the paper without the vacination since they dont value the vaccination in the first place and everything is really about how much money you can pay to get stuff done. I might b wrong but y'all know what is obtainable. Meanwhile some people actually value themselves and true SA was not diplomatic about it but o well, like i said (and paraphrasing my friend) - this can be likened to a case of a man who beats his wife and children publicly and is drumming up rage when his neighbour does same. Mschew!

    Take this back to the bokoharam issue, all the stigmatizing nigerians suffer while (travelling) abroad...each Nigerian in diaspora is learning to fight for themselves o bcos these figure head leaders have no vision, so much so it is blinding!


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