Nobel laureate, Prof. Wole Soyinka, on Thursday, narrated how he was prevented from entering Nigeria over COVID-19 requirements.
In a press conference at Freedom Park, Lagos State, Soyinka said he was denied his right to movement twice.
He said although no attempt was made to banish him, he nevertheless felt like serving a decree of banishment.
“Not being able to return to your own country is banishment,” he said.
According to the professor of literature, a few months ago when he wanted to come into the country from Paris, at the point of boarding, 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 (Polymerase Chain Reaction) which the Nigerian government had begun to insist on,” he said.
PCR is a test to detect genetic material from a specific organism, such as a virus. It is a COVID-19 travel test requirement for travellers coming in and out of the country.
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.
Soyinka noted that. 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.
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.
The playwright 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, adding that it took “special permission” for him to enter his homeland.
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.
Soyinka pleaded with the Ministries 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.
Speaking on the November 6, Anambra governorship election which the proscribed Indigenous Peoples of Biafra(IPOB) 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.”