Soji-Eze Fagbemi- Abuja
IN what looks like a further dent on the image of Nigeria and disrespect for the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and its 16-member states, the Togolese government, on Monday, refused the president of NLC, Comrade Ayuba Wabba, entrance into Togo.
Besides, the government of Togo rejected the valid ECOWAS travel certificate, which allowed any person from the16-member countries entrance into all ECOWAS states; and which the NLC president tendered on his way to Togo.
Wabba was on his way to Lome, on Monday morning, for an activity of International Trade Union Congress (ITUC-Africa), but at the point of boarding, officials of Asky Airline, turned him back, claiming to be acting on the instructions of the Togolese government.
In a swift reaction, however, the NLC has written to the Minister of Interior, Major General Abdulrahman Dambazau (retd), requesting for urgent intervention and action from the Federal Government.
The letter, signed by the General Secretary of the congress, Dr Peter Ozo-Eson, was also sent to Minister of Foreign Affairs; the Executive Secretary, ECOWAS Commission; the Ambassador, Embassy of the Republic of Togo in Nigeria and the Controller-General, Nigeria Immigration Service.
Dr Ozo-Eson said the congress, considered to be a matter of national significance, demanded the urgent intervention of the Nigerian government.
He explained that the president of the congress was prevented from travelling from the Nnamdi Azikwe International Airport, Abuja, to Lome, Togo, by officials of Asky Airline.
The NLC scribe said: “Officials of Asky Airline who denied Comrade Wabba boarding on account of his tendering an ECOWAS travel certificate duly issued by the Federal Government of Nigeria on behalf of ECOWAS, said they were acting on the instructions of the Togolese government. In other words, according to them, the government of Togo, a member of ECOWAS, does not recognise this document.
“Comrade Wabba’s ECOWAS travel document, as could be attested to from the attached photocopies, was issued on July 16, 2015 and has an expiration date of July 15, 2017. He has used the same document to enter into Senegal and Ghana in the past.
“Immigration officials, who witnessed this incident, said many Nigerians had been subjected to this humiliating experience. It is curious that at the time of ticket purchase, Asky Airline did not deem it necessary to warn prospective passengers of ECOWAS origin that the Togolese government does not accept or recognise the ECOWAS travel certificate.
“We are not aware of the fact that the Republic of Togo has withdrawn its membership of ECOWAS. And if it is a subsisting member of ECOWAS, we find it inexplicable that it could mete out this kind of treatment to travellers of Nigerian origin.
“We hold the view that Nigerians, wherever they are, are deserving of protection if they act within the law. The disruption of his travel plan and by extension, denial of his participation at this major activity, has caused him considerable embarrassment, as well as constituted a set-back to the Nigeria Labour Congress and Nigeria.
“Other Nigerians who have been so similarly treated, no doubt, have suffered various degrees of losses.
“In light of the above, we would wish to invite your intervention on this matter, at least, in order to save future occurrences.”