The Nigeria Labour Congress on Tuesday petitioned the minister of Interior, Abdulrahman Dambazau, demanding an immediate investigation into an allegation that the Togolese government was rejecting travel certificates issued by the Economic Community of West African State (ECOWAS) to Nigerians travelling to the country.
Copies of the petition were also sent to minister of Foreign Affairs; executive secretary, ECOWAS Commission; Togolese ambassador to Nigeria; and comptroller-general of the Nigeria Immigration Service.
The petition, signed by the general secretary of NLC, Peter Ozo-Eson, said the national president of the NLC, Ayuba Wabba, was personally humiliated by officials of Asky Airline at the Nnamdi Azikwe International Airport, Abuja on Monday, when he was about to board the flight to Lome, Togo.
Mr. Ozo-Eson said Mr. Wabba was denied boarding and prevented from travelling out of the country by officials of the airline after tendering his ECOWAS Travel Certificate duly issued by the Federal Government of Nigeria on behalf of ECOWAS.
The NLC scribe said officials of Asky Airline who denied Mr. Wabba boarding on the flight said they were acting on the instructions of the Togolese government.
He explained that the travel document issued on July 16, 2015, with an expiration date of July 15, 2017, was previously used by the NLC president on trips to Senegal and Ghana, both members of ECOWAS.
Urging the federal government to consider the issue as a matter of national significance and urgently intervene to save Nigerians the humiliation and embarrassment, Mr. Ozo-Eson said he did not understand why Togo would not recognize a travel document issued by ECOWAS, of which it is a member.
“It is curious that at the time of ticket purchase, Asky Airline did not deem it necessary to warn prospective passengers of ECOWAS origin that the Togolese government does not accept or recognize the ECOWAS Travel Certificate,” the NLC scribe stated.
He said the NLC believes Nigerians, wherever they are, deserve protection if they act within the law, pointing out that by denying Mr. Wabba the right to make the trip, the central labour body was denied the representation at the International Trade Union (ITU)-Africa activity held in Togo.
“The disruption of his travel plan and by extension, denial of his participation at this major activity, has caused the NLC president considerable embarrassment as well as constituted a set-back to the Nigeria Labour Congress and Nigeria,” Mr. Ozo-Eson noted.
When PREMIUM TIMES contacted Sandra Elleingand, the director of communications of ECOWAS, she declined comment, saying she was in a meeting.
But another senior official of the community said on the condition of anonymity that ECOWAS had since stopped issuing travel certificates.
“They should know that ECOWAS does not accept travel certificate anymore, because we do not issue it anymore. What we issue is laissez-passer (a kind of travel document).
“ECOWAS travel certificate is only issued by the embassies in a country when somebody is stranded and is coming back.
“If he said he has used the certificate to travel to Senegal and Ghana before, how long ago? If you go to immigration, being a government official, it does not take a few minutes it would be issued to you at N5, 000 and save yourself from all those embarrassment.
On the petition to the minister, the ECOWAS official said nothing is going come out of it as all government officials already know that travel certificate were no more accepted.
“I don’t know what purpose the petition would serve. He can’t get anywhere with that petition. There was a time ECOWAS was publicising that everyone should get laissez passer. Everybody, including traders, has it,” the source explained.