Some Nigerian students who applied for different research fellowship programmes in South African Universities have accused the South African High Commission of frustrating their programmes by refusing to issue them a visa eight months after application.
They said the high commission had refused to respond to their mails in an attempt to make enquiries about the reason for the delay.
One of the affected students, Abiodun Afolabi, who was offered admission for Fellowship Doctorate at the University of Pretoria said he applied for the fellowship in October 2021 and got a letter of offer in December 2021.
He said for any Nigerian to apply for such a category of visa must get a police report from the South African police which he got around April.
It was gathered that the applicants were sent with a message via email notifying them of the closure of Lagos and Port Harcourt centers for the visa application as applicants were told to go to the Abuja centre.
Afolabi was scheduled for a visa interview on April 26, 2022, in Abuja where he provided all the necessary documents. He said they were made to sign a disclaimer that visa processing might take longer than usual.
He said, “They gave me an appointment in Abuja and I travelled all the way from Lagos. I provided everything they requested. Usually visa applications for this category take three to six weeks.
“But since April till date I have not received an update on my application and no reason was given. Around October, one of their agents called to come to Abuja to fill a form and that if I did not come, my application would be cancelled. The agent also asked me to send a letter to my host University for confirmation that I am a genuine applicant.
“On getting there, I was made to fill the same form I completed in April. The Vice Chancellor of my host University had also sent letters to the high commission to make enquiries about the update on the process of the visa. I also sent them mail but there was no response from them till date. We are just in the dark and nobody is responding to all our enquiries.”
SaharaReporters gathered that some of the affected students had lost their fellowship admission offers owing to the fact that they could not get the visa.
Afolabi said he was on the verge of losing his offer after the expiration of the November 2022 deadline given to him by the university.
The students condemned the action of the high commission toward their plight and for keeping mute and ignoring their messages describing it as an attempt to deny Nigerians students’ admission into South African universities.
The students therefore called on the relevant government authorities to come to their aid and prevail on the high commission to process their visa without further delay.
In a statement issued by the aggrieved students, they said, “We are bringing the attention of the government and the public to the utmost disrespect and disregard for Nigerians by the South African high commission.
“Overtime, Nigerians applying for SA visa have been constantly frustrated. While it may be understandable that some western countries have strict visa issuance policies against Africans, African countries are expected to have a relaxed visa policy for fellow Africans.
“However, this development cannot be said of South Africa. The South African high commission has been notorious for accepting visa applications from Nigerians without any hope of attending to them, thereby traumatising Nigerians.
“They wasted applicants’ time. Some applicants have had to wait for more than eight months just for a visitor’s visa. Application for visitor’s visa usually takes seven days. Of course most people miss their appointments because visa outcome was not ready.
“Furthermore, the South African High Commission and their allies send messages to threaten applicants over their own negligence. For instance, some people were sent messages to go back to resubmit the application form, months after they have submitted. The awkward thing is that no genuine reason was given for this move. Rather, they threaten applicants to follow their inhumane condition or risk losing their application.
“They neither respond to mails nor allow calls to their contact numbers. The applicants are left traumatised. So many people have lost, or on the verge of losing, research fellowship opportunities just because of the Commission’s uncanny treatment of visa applicants.
“One could allege that the phenomenon could be part of tactics to prevent Nigerians from visiting the country in another subtle xenophobic move that has been the case over the years.
“If they are not willing to offer Nigerians a visa, they should be plain about it rather than waste people’s time. The Nigerian government ably represented by the Minister of foreign affairs must rise up to challenge this dehumanising conditions from SA high commission.”