The Nigerian professor, Edwin Okey Chikata Ijeoma, who had previously renounced his Nigerian citizenship, was expelled from South Africa for his marriage.
Ijeoma, a professor of public sector economics at the University of Fort Hare (UFH) in the Eastern Cape, had his citizenship revoked by the Ministry of Home Affairs after fraudulently relying on a large marriage to a South African woman to obtain naturalisation and citizenship.
Prof. Ijeoma arrived in South Africa from Nigeria on a study permit in 1998 to pursue academic studies at the University of Pretoria. He obtained a PhD in economics in 2003.
According to DispatchLIVE, Ijeoma took home affairs under review before the Bhisho High Court, but in the 2020 judgement the court held that the minister had not erred in finding that Ijeoma had made false representations about his marital status in the department or that his SA citizenship had been null and void.
Acting Judge Mickey Mfenyana denied Ijeoma leave to appeal her ruling, stating that another court would not differ from her finding that he was false, if not dishonest, and that there was no reason to interfere with the Minister’s decision.
Confirming the domestic behaviour that made him an unwelcome inhabitant of the country means that Ijeoma, who had previously renounced his Nigerian nationality, has nowhere else to go.
The head of the UFH public administration school is suspended by the university in connection with the unlawful registration of axed health MEC Sindiswa Gomba for a degree in public administration when she was not eligible to register for postgraduate studies.
Ijeoma was granted permanent residency in SA in the same year that he graduated from Tukkies, having been exempted from immigration restrictions due to his marriage to a local woman two years earlier.
In 2005 he was granted SA citizenship by naturalisation, but in 2007 he divorced his South African wife, apparently because the couple was unable to conceive of a child.
He was then joined by a Nigerian woman, Anne Tomo, in SA. Home affairs officials indicated that Ijeoma had committed bigamy by marrying a SA woman after Tomo in her application for permanent residence, and that she had attached a copy of her marriage to him in Nigeria in 1993.
Officials said that Ijeoma’s only mission to marry the SA woman was to gain citizenship.
In its original judgement, Mfenyana found that Ijeoma had given conflicting reasons for his great deeds—that, as an African man, he claimed that he had the right to marry more than one woman; and that he represented himself as a single man because he did not realise that SA accepted common marriages.
She said that he had not disclosed the presence of his marriage in Nigeria on three occasions: when he applied for permanent residence in SA, when he was married in the region, and when he applied for citizenship.
Slating the highly qualified academic “who by his own admission is of good and sound mind and an intellectual giant”, she said it was highly improbable that, throughout his stay in the country and his encounters with immigration matters, he remained ignorant of the implications of not disclosing his Nigerian marriage.
Ijeoma told the court that he had secured a permanent residence permit because of his “good and sound character” rather than his marriage to the SA woman.
He said that his contribution to SA had not been taken into account in internal affairs as a result of his academic work and in the light of the New Partnership for Africa’s Growth.
Mfenyana argued that the exemption certificate clearly showed that marriage was the reason for his exemption, and Ijeoma also acknowledged, during the 2015 domestic plea, that he had sympathy on him, that he had gained citizenship through naturalisation as a result of marriage.
Home Affairs provided the court with a certificate for Ijeoma’s marriage in Nigeria to refute the idea that it was a customary marriage. In any event, the Nigeria Marriage Act prohibited marriage where one of the parties had already been married to another person under customary law.
In two immigration submissions to SA, when an immediate family member still residing in Nigeria had to be identified, Ijeoma named Anne Ijeoma as his niece.
Officials have said that Ijeoma would have remained a permanent resident for five years if he had not been exempted because of his marriage to a citizen of the SA.
Mfenyana said the court’s role was not to reconsider the minister’s decision but to review it for legality and reasonableness. The court found the minister was bound by the law, which determined the misrepresentation which Ijeoma had committed was a criminal offence.
UFH spokesperson Thandi Mapukata said she would need time to check with the university’s human resources department what steps might be taken after the court’s finding against Ijeoma.
“The university wasn’t aware of this development until now. We will contact law enforcement agencies to obtain a full briefing.”