Despite the recent visit of South Africa’s President Jacob Zuma to Nigeria, which was believed to be a healing balm to the smeared relationship between Nigerians and South Africans, the relationship is still strained as Nigerians, like Edwin Okoro Benjamin, who do business in the Zulu country recount their ordeals and pains in the hands of airport immigration officers at Johannesburg Airport as well as other airports in South Africa.
Sharing the story of his ugly experience in the hands of these officials as recorded on Daily Times, Mr.Edwin Okoro Benjamin revealed how he was detained at the airport by the immigration officers who forcefully made people pay into the South African economy. He warned Nigerians Traveling to South Africa to be careful of deliberate hostilities targeted at them by the immigration extortionists who hide under the checking of resident permits and hotels reservation to detain travelers and extort them. He said:
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“I was booked to spend four days in Johannesburg; upon alighting from the airplane, I was told to present the hard copy of my hotel booking which was already in soft copy. I was detained at the Analytical Risk Management Aviation Security (ARM) where I was told to present copy of 50 per cent of my hotel reservation, which I did through the internet.
“I never imagined that after paying through the internet that I will still have to travel with the hard copy, and the authority did not tell me about it. But because they needed me to give them some tip off which I refused, I was detained for three days. I watched them do the same with travellers; it has become so official they don’t care who you are. They even automatically change to speaking their local Zulu language whenever they perceive you are a Nigerian”.
Edwin Okoro Benjamin went on to disclose that the South Africans openly ask for bribe in dollars and some businessmen pay as much as 100 dollars or 250 Rands before they are allowed passage. He added:
“When it was my turn, I refused to give them. To my surprise, I was marched with other people to a place called the ARM where you will be kept like a thief until you bribe.
“Our passports were seized as well as our phones so we cannot communicate; and while we were there, the immigration officers kept coming to us for money and when you give Rands, they would refuse and demand for dollars. The worst part of the whole thing is that they must find one reason to nail one down. Like my own case I had no case but they now turned on the fact that the hard copy of my hotel bill must be produced”.
Bemoaning the culture of extortion prevalent at the Johannesburg airport towards Nigerians – particularly businessmen, Benjamin pointed out that the Government of South Africa has failed to synchronize the requirements of Home Affairs Services and VFS on the issuance of resident permits in the country. Hear him:
“Some Nigerians are actually having such problems on their resident permits and they cannot be held at fault for that; it is actually the problem of the two governments, yet SA immigration officers demand the hard copy of one’s resident permit; even when presented, they will also demand the soft copy again. I tell you, the crookedness of that system stinks and the country is not just worth it.”
Edwin Okoro Benjamin further revealed that one of the illegal ways South Africa generates money for its airlines, is by ensuring that people fly their country’s airways. He goes on:
“I have seen that most people detained at the airport are those who did not fly South African airways – and the idea is for you to miss your flight if you refuse to tip in dollars or Rands. But when you fly their National carrier, you will be given a little consideration. It is a whole lot of scam.”
Okoro finally called on the Federal Government, the Nigerian Immigration especially, to address the matter urgently to save Nigerians from the embarrassment by South African extortionists. He also warned travelers to beware of the 50 per cent of their hotel bookings before leaving Nigeria to South Africa, 1000 dollars travelling allowance and the hard copy of resident permit as the extortionists hold on to all these to detain Nigerians until they are pressured into bribing them.