South African Police Storm Nigerian Embassy Over “Bribery” Allegation
A diplomatic storm is brewing after police allegedly tried to storm the Consulate General of Nigeria in Johannesburg last week.
The drama played out on Tuesday when 68 members of Twelve Apostles Church in Christ who were to travel to Nigeria on Wednesday demanded their passports back after being denied visas over claims they “refused to pay a bribe”.
They had wanted to attend an annual prayer meeting in Nigeria.
Heavily armed police from Bramley police station arrived and, denied access by consular officials, allegedly tried to storm the gate before attempting to scale the electric fence. CCTV shows armed officers arguing with security guards and embassy officials while trying to get on to the consular premises. Church members were handed their passports with cancelled visas.
Thami Khanyile of the church said they were told “bluntly” by an official that staff had been sweating over 68 visas for “nothing”.
“When we stated that we were not willing to pay a bribe, the officials reacted angrily and proceeded to revoke the visas which had already been issued in our passports,” he said. “We called the police to come to our rescue because they refused to hand our passports back. We wanted to open a case but we were advised to take this through international relations.”
Khanyile said the church has lost more than R500m in booked air tickets and accommodation for the 68.
“They (consular officials) told us that the Nigerian church which we were visiting did not provide them with a genuine certificate that our church was registered,” he added. “We saw this as a ploy to try and solicit a bribe from us.”
Consular sources said the church members had tried to stage an “illegal sit-in” at the consulate after they were told to return the next day with extra documents.
Security was called to forcibly remove them, but police arrived and tried to force their way in.
“They ordered the guard on duty to open the gate and when he refused they threatened to gain entry by force,” said a source.
A consular official who cannot be named said the officers acted “in violation of the diplomatic protocol and will have to answer serious questions for invading Nigeria”.
Clayson Monyela, spokesman for the Department of International Relations and Co-operation, said the department would raise the issues through diplomatic channels with their Nigerian counterparts.
The SAPS would investigate once an official complaint was received, said national police spokesperson Captain Dennis Adriao. The SAPS “respects international diplomatic protocols and any violation of these protocols will be seen in a serious light”.