Nobel laureate, Prof Wole Soyinka, has narrated how he was prevented from boarding at the Charles de Gaulle Airport in Paris, France, for failing to obtain what the airline staff described as a ‘permit to travel’ to Nigeria.
Soyinka spoke on Thursday in Lagos on the theme, ‘COVID, technology and citizen banishment,’ during an interaction with journalists.
He said although no attempt was made to banish him, he nevertheless felt like serving a decree of banishment for 48 hours that the event lasted.
Every in-bound traveller is expected to upload their COVID-19 result on a portal created by the Federal Government, with the traveller’s details including passport and ticket numbers. At the end of the exercise, a barcode is generated, indicating a permit to travel.
READ ALSO: Nigeria Not A Total Disaster – Soyinka
The writer who lamented his experience said, “Of course, there is something known as force majeure that means you cannot help it. If there are floods, or there is turbulence and your plane cannot land and it is turned somewhere else, yes we understand that.”
He added that when an individual “is prevented from entering his own country through the lapses of others, then there is problem.”
Soyinka, who recounted two experiences, stated: “I had my vaccination, I have taken the 72 hours COVID test and I was negative. But apparently, there was one more, a new one called PCR (Polymerase Chain Reaction), which the Nigerian government had begun to insist upon. I was away from the country at the time. I didn’t know this. I thought I was all geared up. I couldn’t get on that plane. I had to go back to Paris. I spent three extra days in Paris before I could get back to the airport, after taking the test and getting my result.
“But it happened the second time, just about a week ago. This time, I had my PCR, and I still remained vaccinated. And of course, it did not happen to me alone; there were other Nigerians who passed the night at the airport. They couldn’t leave the airport because they had already passed through immigration. But at the gate, they were also turned back. This time, it was not PCR, or whatever it is called. It was that they had not gone to something called the Nigerian Travel Porter and obtained a permit to travel. Again, it was my turn. I said I have got everything, that I have the PCR. But they said no, that there was one more item which the Nigerian government now requires. So, I had to go back into Paris. Then I was directed where to go through a machine, and pay the necessary amount and then permission will be generated from Nigeria so that I could travel back to my own country. I rebooked, and the following morning, I was back at Air France. At the hotel, we tried to get on this porter, but we could not.”
He added that by 10:00 a.m., he realised that he might miss his flight again, so he told the Air France about his challenge.
Soyinka said:“Together with Air France staff, between 10:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m., we kept working. They brought their computers, some changed my password for me so that they could then try through their own but they could not. We succeeded maybe around 12 something in the receipt of the payment of my credit card being acknowledged. But it did not generate the permit to enter Nigeria, which has a square barcode. The process itself is really remarkable. I don’t believe that it was the Ministry of Health who created that questionnaire. I think it must be the Ministry of Internal Affairs. I invite you all to attempt to get on that portal and tell me what it has to do with COVID-19 after the first couple of questions. What the majority of those questions have to do with COVID-19 I understand. I asked them if there are other flights going to West African countries, which do not require this kind of secret service questionnaire, because that was what I consider it to be. And they said there was a flight leaving for Lome at 4:30 p.m. I told them to put me on it. Boarding began about 2: 40p.m; I carried my bags ready to go to Lome. In the meantime, one of the supervisors had come from the office. She was working with the phones like mad; suddenly, she broke into a sigh of relief and came running to where I was with my bags. She told me that she has good news for me, that I have been given special permission to enter my country. I don’t believe that I or any Nigerian should require special permission to enter his or her own country.”
Soyinka added that he didn’t believe that other nationals were obstructed from entering their countries the way Nigeria did for its citizens.
He added: “This is a plea to the Ministry of Health, Internal Affairs, which I am convinced must have participated in this form, to find out what is going on and why one should be subjected to this ordeal. Let us go out through the front door and come back through the front door as it is befitting to all normal citizens.
“Stop treating Nigerians like criminals and illegal immigrants who end up sleeping on couches or on the floor of the airport.’’
Commenting on the November 6, 2021 Anambra governorship poll which the Indigenous Peoples of Biafra had declared a one-week sit-at-home ahead of its conduct, Soyinka said, “We are in a mess. This country is in a mess. It is disintegrating before our very eyes. The government is floundering.”
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BREAKING: Fire Guts Supreme Court
A section of the Supreme Court complex in Abuja, was gutted by fire on Monday morning.
It was learnt that the fire, which started around 7am, caused panic among staff members of the court who scampered to safety.
Though no human casualty was recorded, however, it was not clear whether sensitive documents and files were destroyed by the early morning fire at the court situated at the Three-Arm-Zone, Abuja.
It was learnt that the fire might have been caused by electrical malfunction in one of the offices within the administrative wing of the court.
The source confirmed that three offices, including that of Justice Mohammed Saulawa, was touched by the fire before it was eventually put off.
Abiodun Pays Tribute To Alaperu’s Late Wife, Harps On Enduring Legacies
Ogun State Governor Dapo Abiodun has extolled the exemplary virtues of the late wife of the Alaperu of Iperu, Olori Kehinde Idowu Basibo-Odoru, describing her as a strong pillar for her husband and a unifying factor for the entire royal family while alive.
The late queen was born on April 23, 1962, and passed on at the age of 61 on 27th July 2023. Her funeral and thanksgiving service was held on Friday at the St. James Anglican Church, Iperu.
The governor, in his remarks, expressed his heartfelt condolences to the royal father, Alaiyeluwa, Oba Adeleke Idowu-Basibo, and the people of the town over the loss, as he prayed for necessary fortitude to carry on in her absence.
He recounted the enviable attributes of the late Olori while alive as bold, lovely and supportive; with passion to help those around her, adding that she would be sorely missed by her immediate family, the entire town of Iperu and Ogun State in general.
“On behalf of the government and the good people of Ogun State, I want to express my heartfelt condolences to my brother, the Alaperu of Iperu, Oba Adeleke Idowu-Basibo, on the passing of his adorable wife.
“The late Olori was a friend and reliable companion to her husband till death. She was also a doting mother to her children. We are going to sorely miss her; may the good Lord repose her soul,” Abiodun said.
The governor counselled the congregation on the need to be fair to all in all ways while alive, to leave worthy legacies after death as exemplified by the late Queen.
He continued: “Life is a journey; we all have our exit points. We have no power over that, it is inevitable. What is important is what we do while we are here, what type of tribute would be written about you when you are no more.”
BREAKING: Govt Increases Salaries Of University Lecturers, Others
In a bid to improve the lot of tertiary education, the Federal Government has increased the salaries of the lecturers and non-academic staff in the nation’s public universities.
The increase was approved by the National Salaries, Wages and Income Commission.
This includes payment of a newly approved percentage increment in salaries for academic and non-academic staff of all Federal Government’s tertiary institutions in the country.
This is as the percentage increment for junior staff of tertiary institutions was raised from 23.5% which was reviewed last year to 25%. Our correspondent gathered that the arrears of the increment from January 2023 will also be paid.
Though nothing was said about the withheld salaries of the academics and non-academics who embarked on strike in 2022, it was learnt that the Minister of Education, Professor Tahir Mamman, earlier wrote the Chairman of the NSIWC, Ekpo Nta, to demand the status of the collective.
According to sources within the Ministry of Education, the decision of the minister to write the NSIWC might not be unconnected from visitations by some of the academic unions and intervention by some pressure groups.
When asked if polytechnic lecturers were aware of the new development, the National President of the Academic Staff Union of Polytechnics, Dr. Anderson Ezeibe, said that the union heard of the news and were looking forward to the implementation.
“Definitely, we heard of it and we are looking forward to it. There will be 25% increment for junior lecturers while chief lecturers and professors will benefit from 35% increment,” he said.
The National Vice-President of the Academic Staff Union of Universities, Prof. Chris Piwuna, disclosed that such a letter would be addressed to the management of universities and not ASUU.
A letter by the Chief Executive Officer/Chairman of the NSIWC, Eyo Nta, which was addressed to the Minister of Education on September 14,2023 shortly before his departure to the United Nations General Assembly in New York
tagged ‘RE: Implementation of the 35% and 23.5% salary increment for staff of tertiary institutions,’ reads: “I refer to your letter No. FME/IS/UNI/ASUU/C.I/IT?/90 dated 8th September 2023 in respect of the above-subject. Find attached the circulars pertaining to the four salary structures in the Universities, Polytechnics and Colleges of Education for your information (attached).
“The 23.5% earlier reflected in our letter SWC/S/04/S.149/I/59 of 28 July 2022 and stated in paragraph 2 of your letter, has been increased to 25% which accounted for the increased cost implications. This Commission is really pleased with the success your informal discussions have achieved. We shall endeavour to support all your efforts aimed at repositioning the Education Sector. Please accept the assurances of my warm regards.”
Consequently, the commission proceeded to issue a circular also dated September 14, 2023 and addressed to the Chief of Staff to the President, Femi Gbajabiamila, Office of the Head of Civil Service of the Federation, Office of the Accountant General of the Federation among others informing them of the implementation of the newly reviewed salaries.
The circular reads: “ The Presidential Committee on Salaries at its 13th meeting having taken into consideration the various stages of collective bargaining in various sectors, and specifically engagements between the Federal Ministry of Education and Tertiary Institutions-based Unions, and consequent upon the Federal Government’s approval, as well as 2023 budgetary provisions, approval is hereby conveyed for the revision of the Consolidated Polytechnics and Colleges of Education Salary Structure for academic staff of Federal Polytechnics and Colleges of Education, with effect from 1st January 2023.”
Also, a letter from the Office of the Auditor General of the Federation dated September 21, 2023 which was made available to our correspondent on Friday in Abuja confirmed the increment.
The letter which was signed on behalf of the Director, Human Resource of the office, Ajanaku F.O reads, “I am directed to inform you that the Presidential Committee on Salaries at it’s 13th meeting having taken into consideration the different stages of collective bargaining in various sectors and specifically engagements between the Federal Ministry of Education and Tertiary Institutions-based Unions and consequently the Federal Government’s approval, is hereby conveyed as revised for the following:-
“Consolidated Polytechnics and Colleges of Education Salary Structure for Academic Staff of Federal Polytechnics and Colleges of Education with effect from 1st January, 2023.
“Consolidated Tertiary Institutions Salary Structure II for non-Academic Staff of Federal Universities, with effect from 1st January, 2023.
“Consolidated Tertiary Education Institutions Salary Structure for non – Academic Staff of Federal Polytechnics and Colleges of Education, with effect from 1st January, 2023.
“Consolidated University Academic Salary Structure II (CONUASS II) for Academic Staff of Federal University with effect from 1st January, 2023.”
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