COVID-19: I was ‘banished’ from Nigeria – Soyinka

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Nobel laureate and renowned playwright, Wole Soyinka, on Thursday, narrated how he was ‘banished’ from entering Nigeria.

In a press conference at Freedom Park, Lagos Island, the Noble laureate said he was denied his right to move twice.

“Not being able to return to your own country is banishment.” Mr. Soyinka said.

The ordeal
The Professor of Literature said a few months ago when he wanted to come into the country from Paris, at the point of boarding the airplane, he was told he couldn’t get on board.

“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 which the Nigerian government had begun to insist on,” he said.

PCR means Polymerase Chain Reaction. It’s a test to detect genetic material from a specific organism, such as a virus. It is a covid-19 travel test requirement for travelers coming in and out of the country.

Mr 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 said.

He said they were denied entry because they had not obtained a travel permit from the Nigerian government. He said 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.

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Mr. Soyinka said the portal was inaccessible for him to generate the permit.

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 Lome. He added that it took “special permission” for him to enter his homeland.

‘Ludicrous questionnaire’
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, 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.

Mr. 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 provide an emergency line should there be technological hitches.

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