Amid fears of xenophobia in Nigeria and South Africa, bilateral trade between the two countries reached $2.9 billion last year, with hopes of increased trade with the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA).
According to the Consulate of Nigeria in Johannesburg, Nigeria accounts for 64% of South Africa’s trade in West Africa and is one of South Africa’s top three crude oil suppliers. The Consulate reported that, in 2020, South Africa imported R35 billion ($2.48 billion) in goods from Nigeria, primarily crude oil, and exported R6 billion ($425 million) to Nigeria.
While the economic relationship may be considered a win-win situation, the balance of the relationship favours South Africa, according to the Consulate, necessitating the need to strengthen ties and address any irritants to the partnership.
In addition, the consulate claims to have issued 10,341 passports to Nigerian citizens in South Africa between March 2020 and May 2021.
In a statement issued from Johannesburg, South Africa, Consul General Malik Abdul stated that the consulate had a backlog of 3,946 applications awaiting production, with 1421 applicants scheduled for data capture. The consul general stated that the Mission had 404 unclaimed passports and advised all those whose passports had expired.
Abdul also stated that the consulate was working diligently to clear all COVID-19-related application backlogs, urging the public to be patient while the mission worked to clear the backlogs.
Abdul explained that the reintroduction of admin fees for lost passports was done to harmonise and standardize consular services after receiving approval from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Abuja.
The fees for lost passports had been raised from R1,500 to R2,000, with an additional R120 admin fee for data capture.
“On this issue, the Mission could not unilaterally impose any charges without headquarters’ approval or consent. The admin fees of R120 pertains to all services rendered by the two Missions,” he said.
The Nigerian envoy decided to eliminate inconsistencies in all consular services, including visa fees.
Abdul noted that between August 2020 and May 2021, 484 Nigerian passports were reported missing at the mission with requests for re-issue.
According to Abdul, the so-called lost passport declarations were discovered to have criminal undertones and immigration rules violations.
“In line with practice in other Missions, there was a need to impose fines to deter people from engaging in such infractions. “At such an astronomical rate of loss declarations, the option will be to refer such losses to Nigeria for processing. This will save the booklet for genuine requests of re-issue and thereby reducing the backlog and pressure on the Mission,” the envoy said.
Abdul revealed that the consulate had received a directive from headquarters to halt the processing of lost passports pending further instructions.
The consul general went on to accuse some Nigerian groups in South Africa of “peddling lies and outright falsehoods” about the Mission and him.