By Peter Nkanga
August 1, 2009 11:00AMT
The Canadian government denies visas to two Nigerian students for being students, while Nigerian government officials do nothing.
When Oluwaseun Oyewole and Adeolu Adeyemi began preparing to represent Nigeria at the seventh Certiport worldwide competition on Microsoft Office software application in Canada, they never knew that the host country would deny them visas because they were students.
In the refusal letter to the two students of Thomas Adewumi International College in Kwara State, dated July 15, the Canadian High Commission in Nigeria wrote that the two 16-year-old’s current employment situation was not satisfactory. The Commission’s visa officer also told them that they would run away if allowed to participate at the competition starting July 30 to August 1, 2009.
“I have travelled abroad several times before. In my passport I have UK, American and French visas. So I was shocked when I learned the Canadian embassy denied us visas because they said we would run away,” Miss Oyewole said.
Edna Agusto, the Managing Director of ReadManna Ventures Limited, Certiport’s Nigerian partners, further faulted the Canadian government for their action. She presented all relevant documents that should have guaranteed visas for the children.
“It’s obvious the visa officer didn’t look at the papers we submitted. If not, why should they be denied visas because of their current employment situation when they are students and not workers? When they came to Lagos to collect their prizes, they even came in their uniforms,” Mrs. Agusto said.
The founder of Thomas Adewumi International College in Kwara State, John Adewumi, said all required documents were submitted.
“Our school is on holidays now, but I assure you that we shall write to the Canadian ambassador when we resume in September to complain about what we consider an embarrassment. Above all, I think the Ministry of Foreign Affairs may have to do more for Nigerians of all cadre to get better respect from the various Consular Offices,” he said.
The Canadian High Commission in an email response to NEXT said, “We are sorry, we do not deal with third parties under the Privacy Act”.
An inactive Nigerian government
Since Monday this week, copies of 14 documents the children submitted to the Canadian embassy were forwarded to the House of Representatives committee chairman on Foreign Affairs, Umaru Bature and the Foreign Affairs ministry spokesman, Ayo Olukanmi. Mr. Bature said he would look into the matter while Mr. Olukanmi said not much could be done.
“I advise the handlers of the kids to bring the issue to the attention of the director, Consular service in the ministry. If they come with all necessary documents to Abuja, we can appeal to the Canadian authorities. That’s what we can do,” Mr. Olukanmi said.
All phone calls and text messages sent to the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ojo Maduekwe and the Senate committee chairman on Foreign Affairs, Jubril Aminu, were unanswered.
What was submitted
Some of the documents submitted to the Canadian Embassy included Certiport’s Letter of Invitation, the children’s international passports, letters of consent from the children’s parents, bank drafts for visa fees, the company’s (Readmanna) certificate of incorporation and bank statement, Lufthansa airline return tickets worth over $7,000 and pictures of the children in their school uniform when they received their prizes as published in national dailies.
Certiport’s invitation letter, signed by the company’s president and CEO, Ray Kelly, read “all travel arrangements, including roundtrip airfare have been purchased by and are under the control of Certiport and its partners. Over the years, we have hosted hundreds of guests and participants… We are pleased to be able to say that… all of those participants have been faithful in complying with the terms of their visas and have returned to their home countries in a timely manner after their brief stays abroad.”
Isn’t it unbelievable that while American Sean Alsilski(below) travelled from America to Nigeria, on a Hawking Research grant, and actually sold Gala on the streets of Lagos, Nigerian kids who are to represent Nigeria in an international competition in Canada are denied visas?
Ofcourse, America is not Canada and vice-versa, but I would like to know what kind of visa Mr Sean has. Student-Visa or Hawking-Visa?
Or perhaps, can’t the Canadian Embassy differentiate between a student/s who is to represent his/her country in an international competition and another who has no reason for travelling abroad?
I have always questioned the applicability of the word ‘reciprocity’ especially in the diplomatic circles.
your opinions are welcome!!