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Concerns Rise Over Treatment of Nigerians Imprisoned Abroad

Concerns Rise Over Treatment of Nigerians Imprisoned Abroad

When Dr. Paul Ezike’s video highlighting the alleged plight of Nigerians in Ethiopia’s Kaliti Prisons, Addis Ababa, circulated on social media, it served as a stark reminder of the challenges faced by Nigerian inmates in prisons outside their homeland, particularly in Asian countries and Libya over recent years.

Disturbing reports have emerged about the inhumane treatment of Nigerians in Guangdong Prisons in China, with allegations of secret killings and organ harvesting. This situation appears to be mirrored in other Chinese prisons, including those in Beijing. Additionally, the conditions for Nigerian inmates in Asian countries such as Indonesia, Singapore, Thailand, and Malaysia have been far from ideal.

Nigerian migrants attempting to reach Europe via Libya have also faced dire conditions in Libyan prisons. Dr. Ezike expressed fear in his video, claiming that over 250 Nigerians were at risk of losing their lives without urgent intervention from the Nigerian government or other aid agencies. He emphasized that most of these inmates were innocent travelers who merely had a stopover in Ethiopia’s airport, a transit hub.

The prevailing narrative suggests that many of these Nigerians committed no crimes apart from being Nigerian. Dr. Ezike supported this claim in his video, stating that merely possessing a Nigerian passport made individuals suspicious. In many cases, authorities delayed travelers and demanded exorbitant fees to reschedule their flights. Those who protested faced detention without trial, with sentences of 18 to 20 years imposed arbitrarily.

Earlier this year, two Nigerians, Ms. Favour Chizoba and Mr. Joachim Uchenna Nwanneneme, reportedly died under questionable circumstances in Kaliti Prison, further fueling concerns of mistreatment.

While the Ministry of Foreign Affairs dismissed Dr. Ezike’s claims as exaggerated, both chambers of the National Assembly have taken the issue seriously. The Senate mandated its Committee on Diaspora and Foreign Affairs to investigate the situation in Kaliti Prisons and other Ethiopian facilities holding Nigerian inmates. The House of Representatives invited the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Yusuf Tuggar, and Chairman of Nigeria in Diaspora Commission (NIDCOM), Abike Dabiri-Erewa, to provide more information on the matter.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs refuted Dr. Ezike’s account, deeming it exaggerated and misleading. However, these actions by the National Assembly reflect a commitment to uncover the truth.

Senators expressed skepticism about the Ministry’s response, calling for a thorough investigation. They argued that the alleged treatment of Nigerians in Ethiopia had no legal basis in international agreements signed by both Nigeria and Ethiopia. Senator Godswill Akpabio emphasized the importance of valuing the lives of Nigerians in the Diaspora and urged authorities to address discrimination against Nigerians in other countries.

In a similar move, the House of Representatives summoned the foreign affairs minister and NIDCOM’s chairman to clarify the situation. Lawmakers reiterated claims of Nigerian detainees facing maltreatment in Ethiopian prisons and called for swift action.

While the legislative arm of the Nigerian government have intervened, many Nigerians are also urging the government to employ diplomatic means to secure the release of innocent Nigerian inmates or arrange for their return to Nigeria to serve their sentences. Migration, they argue, is not a crime, and the government should protect its citizens abroad, especially those facing unjust treatment.

Migration consultant Osita Osemene emphasized that while some Nigerians in foreign prisons may have committed crimes, others are unfairly targeted simply because they are Nigerian. He acknowledged that Nigerians often face severe consequences in countries without favorable migration laws.

Osemene suggested prison swaps for those convicted of severe offenses and advocated for the release of those with minor migration-related offenses.

Former lawmaker Shehu Yusuf emphasized the need for Nigerians convicted abroad to adhere to the laws of both their host countries and Nigeria. He suggested that the Nigerian embassy in Ethiopia should investigate the matter, ensuring that the rights of Nigerian inmates are upheld.

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