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Mixed feelings over request to scrap SA visa

16 May 2013, 11:22Henry Ifeanyi

Lagos - Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan's request for South Africa to scrap visas for Nigerian passport holders has been received with mixed feelings.

President Jonathan made this proposal during his visit to South Africa where he later attended the World Economic Forum on Africa in Cape Town.

Although South Africa is yet to commit itself to Nigeria's request for a visa waiver, some Nigerians who spoke to CAJ News welcomed the development as a positive sign in strengthening relations between the continent's two biggest economies while others say the visa waiver request does not serve the general interest of the majority of the Nigerian citizens as it is limited to holders of official and diplomatic passports.

Apart from being Africa's largest economy, Nigeria is the most populous nation in Africa with more than 160 million people, where many people have the desire to live and work in South Africa.

In an interview with CAJ News, a senior special assistant to the Lagos State Governor, Babatunde Fashola, approves of the idea.

"I believe the idea is a good one! Both South Africa and Nigeria stand to benefit from it (visa scrapping) because government officials from both countries travel to and from each country.

"I think it is the most reasonable thing for the government of both countries to do," Ibrahim Kazeem told CAJ News.

While South Africa is still considering whether to scrap the visa or not, some critics have heightened fears that the high level of unemployment in Nigeria might drive millions into South Africa.

Kazeem, who welcomed Jonathan's request for a visa waiver, also urged other African countries to consider scrapping visas for Nigerians for the purposes of building strong relations among fellow African member states.

A Lagos lawmaker, Ademola Ademuwagun concurred, adding that Nigeria and South Africa had come a long way in terms of bilateral ties.

"Both countries have lots of business and official ties. Every day, government officials and top business leaders with official and diplomatic passports come into this country from South Africa.

" Nigerian officials do the same. I believe the memorandum will remove the bottlenecks of having to obtain entry visa every time one is travelling to South Africa. I applaud the idea," Ademuwagun said.

While the elite welcomed the move, the average Nigerians were cautious about the visa waiver only to those that hold business and diplomatic passports.

A textile fabric seller in Lagos, Abimbola Kolade, said Jonathan's proposal to President Jacob Zuma was 'selfish' government idea.

"I believe the memorandum will only benefit those in government. How many Nigerians hold official or diplomatic passports? Very few! Most of those who hold those passports don't even find it hard to travel to any country, so I really wonder why there has to be a memorandum between Nigeria and South Africa for the purpose," Kolade said.

An aspiring footballer, Amadi Dike, urged the government to entirely scrap the visa requirements for entry into South Africa saying he was hoping to try his luck with one of the South African premiership football clubs.

"I have been denied visa to South Africa twice now."

A job seeker, Nnorom Nkem, also felt if the proposition had been for free entry of every citizens of both countries, people like him would have had better opportunity to secure a job in South Africa.

"I believe that South Africa is a better country in terms of employment opportunities.

"Three years after graduating, I still don't have a job. I believe that if this visa entry memorandum had been open to all, I would have had better chances of getting a job there," Dike said. - CAJ News


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