NOBEL laureate Professor Wole Soyinka has revealed that he was prevented from boarding at aircraft at the Charles de Gaulle Airport in Paris for failing to obtain what the airline staff described as a permit to travel’ to Nigeria.
With countries worldwide lifting travelling restrictions as the coronavirus pandemic eases, Nigeria is caught up in the complicated process. Due to a lack of coherent government guidelines in vaccination and clearance, many travellers are unsure of what documentation they should carry, which in turn has spurred a lucrative vaccination industry in Nigeria.
Upon arrival in Nigeria, travellers are being asked to take Covid-19 tests at their own personal expense and when leaving the country, they have to take another one. Describing the whole process as confusing, Professor Soyinka said that although no attempt was made to banish him from Nigeria, he nevertheless felt like serving a decree of banishment for the 48 hours that the event lasted.
Speaking in Lagos on the theme Covid, Technology and Citizen Banishment, Professor Soyinka 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, however, that when an individual is prevented from entering his own country through the lapses of others, then there is problem. At the moment, every in-bound traveller into Nigeria is expected to upload their Covid result on a portal created by the federal government, with details including their passport and ticket numbers and at the end of the exercise, a barcode is generated, indicating a permit to travel.
Professor Soyinka added: “I had my vaccination, I have taken the 72 hours Covid test and I was negative. However, apparently, there was one more, a new one called Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) test which the Nigerian government had begun to insist upon and I was away from the country at the time, so I didn’t know this.
“I thought I was all geared up as I couldn’t get on that plane, so 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.
“However, 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 as 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 where 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.”
According to professor Soyinka, by 10am, he realised that he might miss his flight again, so he told the Air France about his challenge. He added that that he did not believe that other nationals were obstructed from entering their countries the way Nigeria did its citizens as Nigerians were treated like criminals, forced to sleep on airport floors.