Minister of Health, Onyebuchi Chukwu
By Ike Abonyi and Chinedu Eze
The Federal Government yesterday continued to match its words with action by repatriating 42 South African, who had arrived the country.
Yesterday’s deportation brought the number of South Africans who had been deported to 136. The deportation row between Nigeria and South Africa deepened, following the deportation of 125 Nigerians by the South African government last Friday.
THISDAY gathered that the 42 South Africans were deported on board a South African Airways flight 060. However, in an apparent move to retaliate same action, the South African authorities deported five Nigerians-two on board an Arik Air, while the other three were on board a South African Airways.
Nigeria decided to respond on equal measure to the hostile attitude of the South African authorities, following the many reports of how the country maltreated Nigerians who travelled there.
An Immigration official who spoke to THISDAY, before the arrival of South Africa Airways flight, said the Service had not received any directive to back down on the decision of government to deport South Africans who did not meet Immigration conditions of Nigeria.
So immediately the aircraft arrived, the Immigration officials promptly carried out checks and deported the 42 South Africans who did not meet the stipulated conditions.
Last Friday 125 Nigerians were forced back to the country on the allegation of not having authentic yellow fever documentation that showed that they were inoculated against the disease.
The action of South African authorities was seen by Nigerians as hostile because they did not carry out well known diplomatic procedure before deporting those Nigerians there is no indication that yellow fever is prevalent in Nigeria as World Health Organisation (WHO) had designated Nigeria as yellow fever free. Clarifying on the issue, Minister of Health, Professor Onyebuchi Chukwu, had said there was no report of the disease in the country since the past 13 years.
According to the Immigration official who spoke to THISDAY, the action Nigeria decided to take on the issue was instructive because “by reciprocating their action it shows that nobody has all the wherewithal. If they are educated they would have known that everybody that has South African visa must have been vaccinated of the disease.”
At the diplomatic level, both countries have been meeting to resolve the matter and also after a crucial meeting on Monday, top officials in aviation agencies and organisation, including South African Airways and Arik Air, which operates to the country decided that they would send emissaries to know that was actually the problem which has led to a soured relationship between the two countries that are the bastion of hope in the continent.