Participants advocate greater mutual trust among Africans
By Vicky Bricks
A Colloquium convened by The Difference, a pan-African newspaper published from Lagos, Nigeria has made the case for whole-hearted support for the Common Africa Passport Project, urging African peoples and their governments to resolutely stand behind the project because its advantages far outweigh its disadvantages.
The event which took place on Thursday, May 25, was part of the worldwide commemoration of Africa Day, a date set aside to mark the founding of the Organisation of African Unity, OAU in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, on that day in 1963.
Held at the Bankers House in Lagos, it was graced by a multi-disciplinary panel of speakers and participants that included the Consul-General of the South African High Commission in Nigeria, Mr. Darkey Africa, Deputy Comptroller of Immigration and Head of the Ikoyi Passport Centre, Barrister Segun Adegoke, the West Africa Public Policy Manager for Uber, Jacquelyn Omotalade, the film-maker, Osezuah Elimile and the Head of the Department History and International Studies, Babcock University, Dr Abiodun Adesegun.
Presenting the lead paper, Barrister Segun Adegoke assured that the Nigerian Immigration Service was ready at the moment to commence the process of issuing the new passports given that the country had already migrated to the e-passport format upon which the new documents would be based, since 2007. He then called on the National Assembly to work on the relevant processes to ensure that the enabling statutes are domesticated to give legal weight to the service to proceed with the implementation, once all of the necessary protocols have been cleared and approved.
Making his remarks at the event, H.E Darkey Africa lamented the continuing mistrust between Nigerians and South Africans, pleading that the vexing incidents of xenophobia that had been witnessed in recent times had to be put in proper context.
Asserting that the majority of South Africans were yet peace-loving and hospitable as could be attested to from Nigerians and other nationals living in the country, he however noted that in the instances where such unsavoury incidents had been recorded, his government had seriously condemned it.
For Adesegun, it is most important that all stakeholders keep their focus on the overall objective of the proposed Common Passport Scheme, which he is most confident would be a game-changer in the region.
Drawing examples from his personal travel experience within the continent, he noted that he had been in flights with Nigerian traders taking spare parts to Sierra Leone and others taking fish to the DRC, noting that while some of these initiatives were largely informal, the opening of the borders would see a necessary acceleration of travel and economic activities across the continent.
On taking the stand, Omotalade assured that Uber as a responsible corporate player was willing and ready to work with other stakeholders in ensuring better management of movement within the continent while at the same time impacting upon the lives of their partner-drivers.
She debunked claims that Uber was hurting the local transport industry, saying that the firm’s mission was simply to complement other stakeholders in ensuring that the very desirable goal of seamless intra-city movement is achieved and improved upon.
As for Elimile, he stated that he envisaged the consequent transformation of what is presently known as the Nollywood industry, into an even more inclusive African motion picture industry, which however would leave Nollywood practitioners holding the shorter end of the stick on account of the fact that many Nigerian motion picture participants today do not do all that is required in ensuring that their productions are most qualitative and standard.
He pointed to the example of the 2016 Toronto Film Festival where none of the Nigerian entries made the sound bar!
Welcoming participants to the event, the Managing Director of The Difference, Mr Richard Mammah recalled that in the course of the 2016 edition of the Africa Day commemoration, the newspaper establishment had promised to continue to ensure that Nigeria would no more be ‘one of those odd African nations that do not appreciate the import of their Africanness and as such do not join in marking the Africa Day event every year.’
Hosting the 2017 event then he said was making good on the promise even as he pledged that the annual Africa Day convocation has not just come to stay here in Nigeria but that The Difference will continue to do everything to ensure that it gets bigger and better year on year.
Mammah also outlined why Nigeria must take a more prominent role in the pan-African enterprise, saying that the country was too important to the African renaissance to be left behind:
‘Nigeria occupies a most critical spot in Africa. It is home to the highest number of Africans and host to the continent’s biggest economy in GDP terms. It was one of the principal anchors during the formation of the OAU and the AU. It tops the chart in member-states’ contributions to ECOWAS, and for good measure, when it put its foot down in the mid-1970s that indeed, ‘Africa had come of age,’ many foreign dominos knew they had to end the charade and set free their African captives. And then, you can add the nation’s yeoman engagements in peace-keeping from Congo to the Mano River Region and South Sudan.’
He however went on to lament some of the continuing failings of the ‘giant of Africa’ saying that ‘even as Nigeria has been gifted to help advance the cause of a better Africa, it has also been part of several of the many negatives on the continent.’
According to him, the real purpose of Nigeria: to build itself and inspire other states in Africa to also build themselves in like manner.
The Common Africa Passport Project is an initiative of the African Union, AU, which is the successor to the OAU. It was adopted and launched at the 27th Summit of Heads of States in Africa held in Kigali, Rwanda in July, 2016, along with a calendar of activities that will see member states begin the process of ratifying and issuing the new passports to their citizens from next year.
l-r: His Excellency, the Consul-General of South Africa to Nigeria, Darkey Africa, the West Africa Public Policy Manager for Uber, Jaquelyn Omotalade, Deputy Comptroller of Immigration and Head of the Ikoyi Passport Office, Mr Segun Adegoke and HOD, History and International Relations at Babcock University, Dr Abiodun Adesegun at the Africa Day Colloquium hosted by The Difference Newspaper in Lagos, Thursday