Nigerians in South Africa on Tuesday protested at the Nigeria Embassy in Johannesburg over what they described as continued extortion by diplomatic officials working in the consulate.
According to the Nigerian Union South Africa (NUSA) in a communique obtained by SaharaReporters, Nigerians in the rainbow nation are extorted through the collection of diplomatic charges, hence the protests to air their grievances, in line with the constitution of the Republic of South Africa.
“Firstly, it is important to state that we have on different occasions raised 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 with the Hon. Consul General, Mr. Abdulmalik M. Ahmed. After we visited to welcome you to South Africa in October 2020, we wrote on 6th November 2020 a letter of appeal to your office to address some concerns of Nigerians on service delivery at the Consulate General.
“When the CG imposed extra charges of R120 for passport capturing and penalty of R1500 on loss passport, we also wrote appealing that you should reconsider your decisions on the extra charges and penalty. This was done on 20th January 2021. Instead of the Hon. Consul General to consider our plea, you increased the penalty for lost passport to R2000. We wrote again to Hon. CG on 29 April 2021 to further appeal for scrapping of these extra charges, instead of you to consider our appeal, you replied us with a press statement full of insults, name calling and threats. You made it clear in the letter that all Nigerians applying for lost passports are doing so with criminal intents and berated the activities of the passport touts. Copy of the shameful outburst is still on social media till date. We again wrote to you on 10th May 2021 making a number of demands.
“We are here today because none of our several pleas was considered instead the extra and illegal charges were increased while other status quo remains. On Saturday 22 May 2021, we met with you, the Hon. Consul General, and the head of the chancery at a location in Sandton City to explain to you the negative effects of these extra charges on Nigerians and also once again to appeal that you drop these charges. I personally begged you, Your Excellency, to at least stop the collection of the charges so that adequate consultation can be made but you wrote on Sunday to affirm your stand that all these extra charges including the R10, 000 non-refundable deposits for agents will not be removed,” the communique said.
It continued, “We demand that turnaround time for passport renewal and replacement should not be more than one month and also put in place a system that will accept applications and give both capturing and collection dates electronically. This is because the unnecessary delays make corruption inevitable as applicants will be desperate to get their travelling documents on time.
“We also demand that the Consul-General should look into the telephone and email of the Consulate-General, as it is a public knowledge that telephone calls are not usually attended to and emails are not replied. We equally demand that the Consul-General should remove the bottlenecks and close the loopholes arising from the process of passport issuance or re-issuance, instead of subjecting poor Nigerians to multiple admin charges and “non-refundable bond deposits”.
“We demand that the unreasonable R2000 penalty for lost passport and extra R120 for passport capturing (after payment of legitimate $106 dollars and extra charges of R50 imposed by Consulate and OIS services) should be stopped with immediate effect. And also the immediate removal of the R10, 000 non-refundable deposits collected from touts whom you have christened agents and refunds those whom you have collected money from already. This is because the cost will ultimately be passed to poor Nigerians.”
Speaking to journalists, President of NUSA, Adetola Olubajo said the protest was to demand the withdrawal of excessive charges dubbed “Diplomatic Extortion” by the Consul General of Nigeria in Johannesburg, South Africa, Abdul Malik M Ahmed.
“Today the 25th of May 2021 is a day Nigerians in South Africa will shun the fraudulent and excessive diplomatic charges, levies slammed on fellow compatriots by our diplomatic mission officials led by the embattled Consul General Mr Abdul Malik on passport renewal, lost or misplaced passports,” he said.
The police were on the ground at the Nigerian consulate to maintain law and order while the protests lasted.