9th December, 2011
Nigeria has protested the siege to its chancery building in Johannesburg by 13 armed officers of the South African Police Service, the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports.
The officers lay siege to the chancery building for two-and-a-half hours on November 29 to protest a perceived delay in the issuance of visas to 66 South Africans planning to attend a church programme in Makurdi between December 3 and December 4.
Nigeriaâ€™s Consul-General in South Africa, Mr. Bashar Erubu, consequently wrote letters to the Head of the South African Diplomatic Police and the Provincial Police Commissioner, Lt.-Gen. Mzwandile, to protest the action.
He stated in the letters that â€œthis blatant and unacceptable action by the officers is a gross violation of the 1963 Vienna Convention on consular relation pertaining to inviolability of the missionâ€™s premises, officers and archives in a host country.â€
Erubu also demanded unreserved apology from the South African Police over the incident.
Nigeria and South Africa are signatories to the Vienna Convention.
Trouble began when Nigerian consular officers insisted on sighting genuine documents to authenticate the visa applications.
The applications were supported by the Twelve Apostlesâ€™ Church in Christ, with administrative offices in Makurdi and London.
It issued a covering letter signed by Dr. Olumuyiwa Akanbi, Apostle in Charge of Nigerian Congregation, who also is a senior lecturer at the University of Agriculture, Makurdi, where he teaches at the Forestry Department.
Documents obtained by NAN showed that the Twelve Apostles Church in Christ was operating under the umbrella of a limited liability company, Bona Divine Nigeria Ltd., a status categorised under business enterprise by the Corporate Affairs Commission.
Nigeriaâ€™s consular office, which had earlier issued the visas in anticipation that requested documents and clarifications would be made by the applicants cancelled the visas and returned the passports to their owners.
Reacting to the development, Dr. Akanbi blamed the South African branch of the Twelve Apostles Church in Christ for the siege.
He told the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) Thursday in Makurdi that the church â€œought to have reported the issues they had against the consulate to Interpol instead of going to the conventional police.â€
Akanbi said â€œas much as I am against creating barriers for the spread of the gospel, I think it was an error on the part of the church to go to the police.â€
He, however, took a swipe at the Nigerian consular office in South Africa for cancelling the visas after duly stamping the passports.
â€œBased on the information I received from our church in South Africa, the passports were all stamped and signed.
â€œThe consulate even went ahead to ask the church to book for flights and that is why more than N3 million was spent on bookings alone.
â€œHow could they cancel the visas on flimsy grounds that pastors should prove their membership of the church since one of their documents showed a certificate of a limited liability company.â€
Akanbi further explained that the 66 ministers of the gospel were people of integrity â€œwho had their passports signed by the same consulate for more than five times.â€
â€œThese people are people of integrity who should be treated for who they are. They are pastors and not ordinary people and in any case, when you have your passport stamped five times by a particular embassy, you deserve the respect of that country.
â€œOur Nigerian pastors also travel to South Africa but are never treated in this manner,â€ he stressed.
He denied that visa applications had inadequate information, arguing that â€œeverything the consulate wanted was contained in the information sent to them over the applications.â€
He admitted that the certificate of incorporation tendered by the church as part of the required documentation bore the name of Boma Divine Nigeria Ltd., which was the name of his personal company. He said the Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria (PFN) issued a covering note which showed that the church was properly inaugurated in Nigeria.
â€œWe are worried over the sudden attitude of the Nigerian consulate in refusing to issue visas to same people who are always coming to the country for the purpose of thanksgiving.
â€œLast year, those who came were 34 and it was the same documentation that was provided, yet, they were all cleared, so, why the change,â€ Akanbi queried.