By Ajuma Edwina Ameh
South African President Cyril Ramaphosa has thanked the leaders of Nigeria, Cote D’Ivoire, Ghana and Senegal for expressing dissatisfaction with the travel ban imposed on South Africa and other African countries in the aftermath of the discovery of the Omicron COVID-19 variant.
He described the travel ban enacted against his country and its neighbours as “harsh and unfair”.
President Cyril Ramaphosa who said this on Wednesday, when he paid a visit to President Muhammadu Buhari at the State House in Abuja, called the “imposition of arbitrary and discriminatory restrictions are not only unscientific, but will be counterproductive in the long run.”
President Cyril Ramaphosa’s visit to President Buhari is coming hours after the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) confirmed the first three cases of the Omicron variant of COVID-19 in Nigeria, saying they are linked to passengers from South Africa.
He said: “I think it is important that I emphasize this in the light of the discovery by South African scientists of the Omicron variant of the Coronavirus, and subsequent imposition of extremely harsh and unfair travel restrictions on flights from and to South Africa as well as on a number of other African countries.
“President Buhari, the solidarity expressed by yourself and the Government of Nigeria sends the strongest message. It says that as African countries we are standing united against the imposition of arbitrary and discriminatory restrictions that are not only unscientific, but counterproductive in the long run.
“This is a global pandemic. And overcoming it requires that we collaborate and work together collectively. The resulting damage to this travel ban to the economies of the countries affected will be considerable and long lasting. So I want to use this opportunity to once again call on the countries who have imposed this ban to reverse their decisions.”
President Buhari disclosed that new Memoranda of Understanding between Nigeria and South Africa in diverse areas were signed, while existing ones were reviewed for the progress and prosperity of citizens of both countries.
Buhari said: “Despite the scare generated by the new COVID-19 variant, we have been able to hold successful meetings, while observing strict COVID-19 protocols, through fraternal cooperation and understanding.
“Today, has witnessed the signing of new Memoranda of Understanding between Nigeria and South Africa in diverse areas including Youth Development, Women and Child Empowerment and Political Consultations; critical areas that will lead to increased people to people contact.
“Also, existing MOUs signed during previous Bi-National Commission meetings were also reviewed. These include MOUs on Military Cooperation, Power, Cooperation in the field of Geology, Mining, and Mineral Processing, Oil and Gas and several others.
“Today, we also jointly launched the Nigeria-South Africa Youth Dialogue, another veritable tool for interaction among our youth with the aim of creating shared values and aspiration. Many of our youth, from Nigeria and South Africa joined us virtually during the launch.”
He said the inauguration of the Joint Ministerial Advisory Council on Industry, Trade and Investment, would enable the private sectors of the two largest economies in Africa to further promote economic cooperation and development.
”We appreciate that we need to do much more to achieve further integration of our two economies and take full advantage of the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA).”