The first ever press conference organised by the Nigerian Consulate in history was well attended. The conference which occurred at the Consulate General on June 4th, 2021 at 10.00am also included a community engagement had many groups in attendance.
The groups consisted of women groups, igbo community groups, the yoruba community and Northern Nigeria groups. Also, there were groups representing women, Akwa Ibom community, students, the clergy, businessmen and women from accross all walks of life.
I was the first media personality to pose questions questions to Consul General Malik. I posed two key questions concerning timely communication of reforms and the vexed issue of permits for Nigerians in South Africa.
Why Sir, given that you are a reformer did you not provide adequate information about those reforms to the community before now?
Sir, there is clear evidence that our people have great difficulty with securing permits and many are forced to even marry folks they don’t even know. How can you assist our people for whom permits have become an albatross?
I was rudely interrupted by the moderator before I finished my second question.
In future, a professional should be the moderator for such an important even. I salute the moderator for his efforts but these matters are best left to folks who practice the profession of journalism.
I would have also loved to have seen at least one female sit on the high table. There were seven men on the High table and there was none representing any professional organisation or business community.
The Consul General answered my question on communications by referring me to the Twitter and Facebook pages of the Consulate. Before attending the event I had checked the Consulate Facebook page which I already knew about and it has 2422 followers.
The Twitter handle @nigeriaconsulatesa.org which is themed ‘To serve Nigerian in South Africa’ has 151 followers only. It was created in May 2020 . The latest post was the list of attendees of the press conference on June 3rd.
The combined followership on Twitter and Facebook is 2573. The population of Nigerians in South Africa is somewhere between 500, 000 and 800,000 although there are no official figures.
The official figures by Statistics South Africa states that 10,355 Nigerians were given temporary resident permit in 2015 and 355 Nigerians were given permanent residency.
Finally, I give the event 70% for organisation and planning. I was worried that tea was not served as we arrived given that it was a winter’s day and I did not get to taste the snacks either because I had to leave after two hours due to the very long programme. In future both tea/coffee should be served as people arrive especially since some folks arrived well before 10am when it was scheduled to start.
The Consul General gave scathing remarks towards the Nigerian Union South Africa. He stated that since 2008 the organisation had been directing attacks at staff of the missions on a sustained basis through petitions, protests and a campaign of calumny. He further reiterated that the missions will not accept such behaviour and the campaign of lies especially those directed against his person.
The Consular General stated that the charges of R120 and R2000 for lost passport were directives via circular from headquarters and that no mission had the power to impose unilateral passport fee increases. The CG also spoke about the introduction of agents which he says was done to aid those Nigerians who dont have a bank card to effect payment at OIS or at the mission. He went further to state that the agents were fully registered businesses and they had been made to pay an bond/guarantee of R10,000 each which is non-refundable and goes directly into the government account. The list of the agents who are ten in number was published on the Consulate Facebook page weeks ago.
Regarding the question I posed on permits the Consular General said that was a tough one . He stated that Nigerians should familiarise themselves with the immigration rules of South Africa by ensuring that they meet the criteria for entry. He further added that South Africa prefers those applicants who have critical skills when seeking to enter the Republic and people should desist from travelling to South Africa without the requisite qualifications for entry.
All in all, a great day for the mission and the community especially given the challenges that have been posed by the passport backlog and the furore generated by the new increased passport fees.
The Consular General also gave a breakdown of the passport backlog numbers as being 3,946 and those awaiting capture as 1,421 bringing the total applications to 5367 passports in the system.
The CG also added that applicants with very urgent needs will be assisted and expedited provided they have proof. He identified those categories as those with medical conditionn and students needing to enrol at educational institutions.
I would like to interview His Excellency some day soon maybe during Mandela month.
The concluding part of the article will be published soon.
Barrister Omotola attended the event as a media practitioner. He is the Co-founder, Afrospace media, and anchor for How We Made It In Africa.