By Our Correspondent
The government of Seychelles has explained why it is banning Nigerian passport holders who want to visit the country for holiday purposes. Prior to the ban, Nigeria enjoyed a long-standing visa-free agreement with Seychelles, allowing Nigerian citizens to enter the country without visas for up to 30 days.
According to Seychelles News Agency, the country’s Vice President, Ahmed Afif, said the ban became necessary because of an increase in drug trafficking and fraudulent activities by Nigerians. He, however, said Nigerians with diplomatic passports, valid work or resident permits issued by the island nation, would be allowed to visit.
“For the others, government will keep its eyes open and the Seychelles Electronic Border System (SEBS) will analyze much more, to find out for what reasons they are coming,” he was quoted as saying.
“For example, for someone who is coming for a holiday for only one day, we have to ask questions because it is strange, and we have seen that happening.” He said there were several instances where many Nigerians said they were coming for holidays, but only for one or two days. When they checked the payments made for them to come to Seychelles, it was from only one source. This was for different people coming on different days which showed an organised syndicate.
He explained that in the past year, especially the past few months, the government had observed a tendency it deemed as dangerous for its border control and economy, due to criminal activities happening in the country. “We have seen a clear link between this and certain people from Nigeria,” he said. “In the past two weeks, for example, 13 people who were coming from Nigeria were arrested as they entered Seychelles because they were carrying drugs into the country.
“In the past few months also, there had been incidents where Nigerians used false credit cards in tourist establishments. In one case, 62 Nigerians who said they were on holiday, used false credit cards, and the money was never credited to the accounts of these establishments,” Afif said. “These establishments lost money. These people spent free holidays in the country at the expense of the establishment owners and there was nothing that could have been done for them.”
He said there have been other incidents implicating financial institutions and in one case, Nigerians were involved in a fraud where £1 million was lost. “There are other online scams originating from Nigeria. We have seen that these people are also coming to Seychelles to do those scams,” he said. “We do not have a problem with Nigeria or its people, but we do not tolerate such criminal activities in our country.”
The news agency reported that Sylvestre Radegonde, the country’s minister of foreign affairs and tourism, is set to meet with the Nigerian ambassador to Seychelles, to discuss the matter. Only in December 2022, Nigeria and Seychelles signed a pact that would enable direct flights between both countries. Hadi Sirika, then minister of aviation, and Anthony Derjacques, the Seychelles’ minister of transport, both agreed that the pact would promote the African Union agenda 2063, while enhancing business and promoting tourism.
The Republic of Seychelles is a group of islands that is about 1,000 miles off the eastern coast of Africa and northeast of the Republic of Madagascar. The archipelago is made up of about 115 coral and granite islands, known as the Outer Islands and Inner Islands, respectively. According to the Seychelles Tourism Board, only two of the Outer Islands have accommodations for tourists. About 90% of the population lives on Mahe Island.
There are three official languages: Creole, English and French. A nature-lover’s paradise, Seychelles is famous for ecotourism. The islands’ permanent residents include giant tortoises and over 200 species of birds, and the clear water and abundant marine life make it a diver’s paradise.
The archipelago boasts of two UNESCO World Heritage sites: Aldabra Atoll and Vallée de Mai Nature Reserve. Aldabra Atoll is a relatively undisturbed coral island that is home to more than 150,000 giant tortoises and 273 species of flora. Vallée de Mai Nature Reserve has the world’s largest population of coco de mer which, according to UNESCO, is “a flagship species of global significance as the bearer of the largest seed in the plant kingdom.”
With fewer than 90,000 people, the Republic of Seychelles has the smallest population of any African country. People who hail from the Republic of Seychelles are known as Seychellois. Tourism and foreign investment are the largest economic drivers. The services sector, which includes tourism, commerce and fishing, makes up nearly 70% of its gross domestic product (GDP)
The island, a former British colony is also reputed as a heavenly groove for the rich and mighty and for attracting high profile guests. Prince William and Kate Middleton spent their honeymoon on a private island in the Republic of Seychelles, an archipelago in the Indian Ocean famous for its exclusive white sand beaches, majestic coral reefs and tropical climate. Sir Paul McCartney, Pierce Brosnan and Salma Hayek are among the celebrities reported to have vacationed there.
Wavel Ramkalawan, born 15 March 1959, is a Seychellois politician and Anglican priest who has been serving as the President of Seychelles since 26 October 2020.