South Africa apologises to Nigeria

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Yellow Fever Vaccine

Yellow Fever Vaccine

The Governments of the Republic of South Africa and the Federal Republic of Nigeria are considering implementing a variety of measures to strengthen the historic bilateral relationship between the two sister African countries.

South Africa deported 125 Nigerians last weekend over alleged possession of fake yellow fever cards, and in the resulting retaliation, Nigerian authorities also refused entry to dozens of South Africans since Monday. The Federal Government also threatened to go tough on South African companies operating in Nigeria.

The South African government conveyed the apology yesterday in a letter to the minister of Foreign Affairs, Ambassador Olugbenga Ashiru, and in a joint statement by the South African Department of International Relations and the Nigerian High Commission in Pretoria.

“The governments of South Africa and Nigeria view these developments in a serious light. Accordingly, the two countries have, through diplomatic channels, consulted at the highest levels on ways of avoiding a recurrence of such developments,” the statement said.

“The South African government has sent a letter of apology to the Nigerian government following this regrettable incident which the South African government believes could have been handled in a better way.”

As part of measures to forestall a recurrence, the Nigeria-South Africa Bi-National Commission and the Immigration Working Groups would be revived, the two countries said.

“The National Department of Health and the Gauteng Health Department should consider re-opening the vaccination clinic at the Tambo International Airport so that passengers without the  yellow fever card can be vaccinated upon arrival at the airport, rather than be deported while Immigration officials would be the first officials that deal with the passengers at the port of entry and if they experience challenges, they should invite other units (such as health) to help and not the other way round,” the statement said.

It added that both countries’ health authorities would exchange vaccine batch numbers and details about the official institutions that administer the vaccines for verification at the port of entry. This information would be made available to the South African missions in Lagos and Abuja that issue visas based on the proof of a yellow fever certificate. The airlines will also be informed about the verification process.

“When it comes to mass deportations, senior officials at the Department of International Relations and Cooperation (including Protocol) should be consulted by Immigration and Health officials at the airport before undertaking such action. This will provide the senior officials to consult with the Department before deporting large numbers of people,” the statement said.

In his reaction yesterday, Foreign Affairs Minister Ashiru said the apology has been accepted and that the letter would be forwarded to President Jonathan while a reply to communicate Nigeria’s acceptance of apology would be sent to Pretoria.

Ashiru said during the Bi-National Commission meeting, “Nigeria would demand for waiver of the yellow fever vaccination card.”

He urged Nigerians in the Diaspora to conduct themselves in a manner that will not bring disrepute to the country.

Also, minister of state for Foreign Affairs, Dr. Nurudeen Muhammed, said Nigeria will no longer tolerate any ill-treatment on its citizens based on flimsy excuses.

“We are not holding brief for Nigerians who commit crimes in another country, but our government is a people-oriented one that cares about her citizens and we would not tolerate maltreatment of any kind on our citizens from any country,” he said.