COVID-19: How I Was Banished From Entering Nigeria – Soyinka
The renowned playwright, narrated his ordeal on Thursday, while speaking at a news conference held at Freedom Park in Lagos with the theme: ‘Covid, Technology and Citizens banishment.’
According to the Noble laureate, he was denied his right to movement twice, describing his experience has banishment.
“Not being able to return to your own country is banishment.” Soyinka said.
“I had my vaccination, I have taken the 72-hour Covid test, I was negative but there was one more, there was a new one called PCR (Polymerase Chain Reaction) which the Nigerian government had begun to insist on,” he said.
Soyinka said he believed it was his fault, so he went back to Paris with his luggage.
“But it happened the second time a week ago despite following all travel protocols and having the PCR,” he said.
“This time I had my PCR and of course it did not happen to me alone, there were other Nigerians who had a similar scenario, they couldn’t leave because they had already passed the immigration,” he added.
He said they were denied entry because they had not obtained a travel permit from the Nigerian government.
Soyinka stated that he was directed to make certain payments then “permission would be generated so I could travel back to my own country.”
He said despite his status in the country, he refused to contact any government authority to intervene.
Soyinka said the portal was inaccessible for him to generate the permit.
“I don’t believe that I or any Nigerian require a special treatment to enter the country, ” he averred.
“When an individual is prevented from entering one’s country due to the lapses of others, then there is a problem.”
Soyinka said he could have used his status to navigate his way through the strictures imposed by the government officials but he just wanted to experience the rigorous processes that ordinary Nigerians go through.
“This is a plea to the Ministry of Health and that of External Affairs which I believe must have participated in this.’
“The next day, about six staff of the aviation company tried to access the portal from different computers but it was not reachable,” he said.
He noted that although payment from his credit card was acknowledged, it still “did not generate this permit to enter Nigeria which has the barcode.”
The professor said at a point in a bid to gain entry into the country, he almost took a flight to Rome.
He added that it took “special permission” for him to enter his homeland.
He also berated the internal affairs and health ministries for making travelers fill a “ludicrous” questionnaire that has nothing to do with COVID-19 on the travel portal.
“What the majority of those questions have to do with COVID-19, I don’t understand. I went through some of the questions repeatedly… We do not require this kind of secret service questionnaire,” he said.
He said it was disheartening to see fellow Nigerians sleeping on couches, “trapped in limbo,” because some government officials are technologically inefficient.
Soyinka pleaded with the ministry of health and internal affairs to stop treating Nigerians as criminals and illegal immigrants.
He suggested that the Nigerian government provided an emergency line should there be technological hitches.