“Our government has a responsibility to ensure that Nigerians are treated fairly and correctly within the law. Somebody using that certificate commits no crime, it’s a legal instrument that is accepted and therefore to then be subjected to the embarrassment of not being allowed to board a flight,” Dr Ozo-Eson said.
The Nigerian government must rise to the defence of its citizens both within and outside the country.
This position of the Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC, is a reaction to the treatment, said to have been meted out onto its President, Ayuba Wabba at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport Abuja, Nigeria, on his way to Lome, Togo.
He was to attend a conference of the International Trade Union Congress, ITUC-Africa, when his traveling document was rejected by an airline.
Even though the President eventually travelled to Lome with his international passport, according to the NLC, the rejection of the ECOWAS Travelling Certificate from Nigeria based on an alleged directive by the Togolese government, was an affront to Nigeria.
In an exclusive interview with Voice of Nigeria in Abuja, Dr Peter Ozo-Eson, the NLC General Secretary, urged the Nigerian Government to do everything possible to ensure that its citizens were not embarrassed by other governments.
He insisted that the government had a responsibility to ensure that Nigerians were treated fairly and correctly within the law.
Narrating what happened at the airport the NLC General Secretary said “ the Togolese government seems to be playing a game we don’t understand. The ECOWAS Travel Certificate is a document that is usually used within ECOWAS to travel. The President obtained that document, sometime, I think last year or so. He travelled with it to Senegal, no problem; he travelled with it to Ghana, no problem.
He was on his way to Lome to attend a meeting and the Askey Airlines refused to board him on the strength that the Togolese government does not allow Nigerians to travel to Togo on such travel certificate. You know each country issues its own, ours is issued from our Immigration, so as far as we know, this refusal is in respect of Nigerians and we thought that this was clearly unacceptable,” Ozo-Eson said.
He said NLC was not complaining because its President was involved, but because it is a demonstration of the type of situation being meted out on Nigerians.
According to him, in the process of the altercations at the airport, the NLC President was informed that many Nigerians face the same embarrassing situation everyday “…and so we thought it’s something that is important that is cleared,” Dr Ozo-Eson added.
Nigeria and Togo are historic partners in pushing ECOWAS, particularly in the early formative years, and the NLC said that the action by the Togolese government rejecting the ECOWAS Travelling Certificate issued by Nigeria was a cause for concern and that the attention of the Nigerian government must be drawn to it.
On why the NLC is making an issue over the incident in which the airline said the problem had been existing, Dr Peter Ozo-Eson insisted that “many Nigerians would ordinarily opt for their international passports rather than make a case, so we decided to make an issue of it now, not because of what they did to the person of Comrade Ayuba as President, but like we in the same way take up other issues.
Nigerians are subjected to many things, they are exploited through escalated electricity tariff, they may grumble but may do nothing, but it requires an organized group with collectivity to be able to take on such issue.”
It was alleged the Togolese Government on Tuesday prevented the President of the NLC, Ayuba Wabba, from travelling to that country for a meeting of the ITUC-Africa.
Officals of the Askey Airline who were accused of stopping the NLC President from travelling at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja, said they were on instructions to prevent his entry into the country.
In a protest letter to Nigeria’s Minister of Interior, NLC’s General Secretary, Dr Peter Ozo-Eson said such a refusal amounted to abuse of the fundamental rights of the NLC President.