By Ekemini Ladejobi
Nigeria’s Ambassador to Ethiopia, Mr. Bankole Adeoye, has advised Nigerians travelling to that country to adhere to its currency declaration law in order to avoid sanctions.
Adeoye, who is also Nigeria’s Permanent Representative to the African Union (AU), gave the advice in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) on Sunday in Addis Ababa.
“Since my arrival as Nigerian envoy here barely a month ago, the issue of confiscation of valuables, including foreign exchange of Nigerians in transit on Ethiopian Airline, has been of great concern to us.
“The money is in thousands of dollars from the reports I have received and we have engaged the government of Ethiopia. I have personally raised it in the meeting between our Foreign Minister, Geoffrey Onyeama, and his Ethiopian counterpart.
“The Ethiopian rules and laws guarantee that you must not travel with more than three thousand dollars or its equivalent in cash while on transit and this is for passengers sleeping overnight in Ethiopia.
“This does not affect those transiting only through the airport and not going into the city.
“ We are working very hard to ensure that all the monies confiscated are returned and if they (offender) have to pay a fine because there is no ignorance in law, then they will,’’ he said.
The envoy said there was the need for Nigerians to adhere to rules and regulations of host countries as going contrary could become an “irritant’’ in relations between both countries.
According to him, the greatest advantage the country has is that Ethiopian Airline is one of the largest operating airlines in the Nigerian aviation market.
“We have engaged with the airline authority and its government and we have been given the assurances that they are looking into the issue.
“Another way out of the situation is to get it right before Nigerians leave the country on transit through Ethiopia,’’ he said.
Adeoye said Nigeria and Ethiopia would collaborate on sensitisation with a view to creating more awareness to ensure that Nigerians were not caught violating the rules.
“We intend to use the same formula used in the yellow vaccination card awareness to let Nigerians be aware that unlike most other countries in the world where the maximum you can carry in cash when travelling is $10, 000, it is not so in Ethiopia,’’ he said.
The envoy, who also spoke on consular relations with his host country, said one of the top priorities of his mandate in Ethiopia was to promote the welfare and wellbeing of Nigerians.
He, however, said that there were few Nigerians in prisons serving terms for different offences ranging from drug pushing and peddling to forgery.
“It is not a majority but small number of Nigerians involved in this and we are engaging the Ethiopian authority to ensure that their welfare is taken care of even while in prison.
“We undertake regular prison visits; we support them and when they have served their terms, we also support and facilitate their repatriation to Nigeria,’’ the envoy said.
He also emphasised that most Nigerians resident in Ethiopia were professionals.
“You have Nigerian professionals working in regional, continental and international organisations like the AU Commission UN Economic Commission for Africa and other UN agencies and international NGOs.
“So you have Nigerians in very choice places demonstrating their commitment to supporting Africa’s development and this is very uplifting,’’ he said.
He reiterated the Federal Government’s commitment to stepping up its relationship to the highest level with Ethiopia saying, “ that is going to be complemented by economic cooperation, trade and investment.’’
“Currently, Dangote group has a cement factory here, there is also an oil lubricating industry built by a Nigerian.
“There are issues of managing trade but both countries can work together.
“`My priority also is to resuscitate and revive the Nigeria-Ethiopia Joint Ministerial Commission.
“With that, both countries can sit on the table and resolve all their issues and move on to a path of growth, a path of friendship that will benefit both countries mutually in the name of African solidarity,’’ the envoy said.
Nigeria and Ethiopia have long-standing relations even before Nigeria became independent in October, 1960.
Ethiopia opened its embassy in Lagos in 1961 and both countries have common interests in the consolidation of their bilateral relations.
The two most populous countries in Africa with a combined population of well over 200 million are multi-ethnic and multi-religious.
Nigeria and Ethiopia signed an agreement in June 2000 to provide teachers for various universities and high schools in Ethiopia.
Since then, Ethiopia had been the leading beneficiary of Nigeria’s Technical Aid Corps teachers, an excellent example of South-South relations. (NAN)