Nigerians living and doing businesses in South Africa has vowed to continue with their mass action against the Consul General of Nigeria (CG), Mr AbdulMalik Ahmed, who they alleged has refused to back down on the unfavourable exorbitant charges imposed on Nigerian citizens.
Recall that hundreds of Nigerians trooped out en-masse at the Consulate General in Johannesburg, South Africa on May 25 to stage a massive protest against Nigeria’s Consul General, reportedly over the unreasoned increase in fees for an international passport including charges for passport application, renewal, reissue and other consular services.
They listed the controversial charges to include an R120 (One Hundred and Twenty Rand) equivalent of N4,200 on all passport applications, R2000 equivalent N70,000 for lost or damaged passports, R10,000 equivalent N350,000 non-refundable bond from agents amongst others.
Defending their actions, President of Nigerian Union South Africa (NUSA) Adetola Olubajo, condemned the insensitivity of Nigeria’s Mission in the country saying the hike in fees is not only illegal but ill-timed, especially coming at a period when Nigerian Citizens in the Southern African country are still battling to survive the disparaging impact of the rampaging COVID-19 in the country.
According to the NUSA president, “efforts have been made on several occasions to draw the attention of the Consul-General to these issues of extra charges, the penalty for loss passport, illegal non-refundable deposits imposed on agents (passport and visa touts) and corruption at the Consulate General in Johannesburg”.
Riding on the success of the staged protest, Adetola says that the Nigerian citizens will not back down from their mass actions until the Consul General heeds to their demands of removing all the highlighted illegal charges.
StarMedia Renaissance learnt that in an effort to prevent the planned mass action from taking effect, the Consul General had called on the citizens to ignore the call by the organizers saying it was a calculated attempt by a section of the Nigerian community to “paint the country in bad light or dampening our collective reputation”. In a letter titled “RE: PLANNED DEMONSTRATION BY A SECTION OF HE NIGERIAN COMMUNITY AT CHANCELOT”, the Consul General Abdulmalik stated, “the Mission is conscious of the antics of some elements among our community, in this regard, and has therefore commenced consultations with well-meaning Nigerians with a view to addressing some of the issues, within the limit of the Mission’s capacity to do so. The issue of Admin fees for all consular services has been approved by the government and not limited to passports alone. Also, the penalty for lost passport instituted to check abuses and immigration violations is not peculiar to the Mission in Johannesburg.”
In a telephone conversation with our correspondent, the NUSA president Adetola countered the statement by the CG saying contrary to the “consultations” as specified by Abdulmalik, there was no engagement with concerned Nigerian citizens here, neither with any known representatives. He said, “The intention of the Consular General was mainly to silence the people using every means possible”.
“There is no such engagement rather the CG planned a press conference to justify the exorbitant charges and imposition of passport touts as agents on Nigerians. Few members of the community were selected by the CG to attend the press conference and not an engagement platform.” Adetola stated.
“Also, it is untrue that the multiple charges are government-approved. For the records, let me point out here that all government charges are made known through the Nigerian Immigration Services website, so other admin charges are subject to the prerogative of the head of mission just like the Internally Generated Revenue (IGR), hence, the reason why it’s not uniform as government-approved admin charges. Some mission imposed charges while others do not. But I have never heard of any mission asking passport agents to pay the head of mission to operate.”
“It is public knowledge that passport agents usually charge high fees for passport application, so asking them to pay the mission head in this case, the Consul General of Nigeria, Johannesburg, Mr Abdul-Malik M. Ahmed will inflict more financial pain on poor Nigerians.” He added.
According to Adetola, the peaceful protest was a huge success and victory for the people who stood their grounds despite efforts by some powerful forces to thwart the process. He said, “the CG, Mr Abdul-Malik, hired heavily armed private security and some member of South Africa Police Department to stop the protest despite our securing a permit for the mass action.“Our next line of action is to continue to press in our demands through a collective and peaceful demonstration like this until those unreasonable fees are dropped.” He declared.