Reactions trail cruel treatment of 250 Nigerians in Ethiopian prisons

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Dr. Paul Ezike’s video, which surfaced on social media recently regarding the purported mistreatment of some Nigerians in Ethiopia’s Kaliti Prisons in Addis Ababa, served as a brief reminder of the treatment of Nigerians in various prisons outside of their country of origin, especially in Asia and Libya in recent years.

There have been unsettling reports in the past regarding the cruel treatment of Nigerians in China’s Guangdong Prisons. It was even once claimed that some of them were being assassinated in secret and that their vital organs were being taken for commercial gain.

Nonetheless, the state of affairs is nearly identical to that of Nigerian inmates in other Chinese jails, particularly those located in Beijing. For Nigerian prisoners incarcerated in other Asian nations including Indonesia, Singapore, Thailand, and Malaysia, the situation is likewise not looking good.

There have also been graphic accounts of the ordeals that Nigerian migrants—many of whom have frequently ended themselves in Libyan prisons—go through when attempting to flee to Europe through Libya. Because a fellow African nation is implicated this time, many were more alarmed when Dr. Ezike’s footage surfaced online.

In the video, Ezike conveyed his concern that more than 250 Nigerians would perish if the country’s government or other intervention organizations did not act quickly.

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He claimed that the majority of the prisoners were virtuous tourists whose only transgression had been to make an overnight stop at Ethiopia’s busy airport.

According to reports, the majority of those Nigerians did not break any laws.

The article said that their offense was simply for being Nigerian. Ezike’s statement in his video, “Once you have a green passport, you are like a suspect,” confirmed this. They’ll separate you, cause you to be late, and cause you to miss your flight. They will tell you, well, you need to spend $5,000 to obtain another flight back to your country, once they’ve got you all worked up and arguing.

“They’ll take you straight to the hospital if you talk too much, and they’ll take you straight to prison if they check you out and find nothing.” They also give you a document stating that you will spend 18 to 20 years in prison without having to appear in court.

Remember that two Nigerians, Mr. Joachim Uchenna Nwanneneme and Ms. Favour Chizoba, were rumored to have passed away in suspicious circumstances in the same Kaliti Prison earlier this year. Since they were Nigerian, many people assumed that their deaths were the result of intentional torture.

Both houses of the National Assembly are not accepting the report at face value, despite the Ministry of Foreign Affairs dismissing it as too dramatic. Their goal is to identify the source of the issue.

The House of Representatives has invited Yusuf Tuggar, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, and Abike Dabiri-Erewa, the Chairman of the Nigeria in Diaspora Commission (NIDCOM), to shed more light on the unfortunate development, while the Senate has directed its Committee on Diaspora and Foreign Affairs to examine the report and investigate the circumstances that led to the imprisonment of over 250 Nigerians in Kaliti Prisons and other prisons in Ethiopia.

“The Ministry of Foreign Affairs considers Dr. Ezike’s narration as exaggerated and blown out of proportion, while his assertion of inaction by the Nigerian Mission in Addis Ababa to the alleged plight of Nigerian inmates is unfair and misleading,” the Foreign Affairs Ministry said in a statement in response to the report.

The Senate’s Committees on Diaspora and Foreign Affairs were given instructions on Wednesday, October 4, to look into the circumstances surrounding the detention of 250 Nigerians in Ethiopia and come back with their findings in a fortnight.

This came about in response to a motion made on Wednesday in the plenary by Senate Minority Leader Simon Mwadkwon.

Like many other Nigerians, Mwadkwon refused to accept the Ministry of Foreign Affairs when it denied the online rumor that over 250 Nigerians were being abused in Ethiopia without having committed any crimes.

Some Nigerians resorted to social media to demand that the federal government step in and immediately address the alleged illegal incarceration of Nigerians by the Ethiopian government, despite the Ministry’s dismissal of the report as inflated and blown out of proportion.

Mwadkwon, who presented his motion during the plenary, had characterized the report as unsettling, claiming that it lacked legal support from the international tribunals to which Ethiopia and Nigeria are signatories.

“An immediate intervention and comprehensive investigation are necessary, as the video tape making the rounds on social media suggests that Nigerians are being held captive in Ethiopia’s highest prison and are in grave danger.

“There is no justification whatsoever for taking away the dignity of any person, let alone taking away a citizen’s life, given the sovereignty of this nation and the sanctity of lives and property of all Nigerians worldwide as enshrined in the Nigerian constitution, particularly Sections 33, 34, and 35 of the 1999 constitution as amended, which contain similar provisions in order international courts, instruments, and convention that the Nigerian and the Ethiopian are signatories to.

“In the twenty-first century, when nation-states are calling for unity, it is pathetic that citizens of a nation as populous as Nigeria, the giant of Africa, are being held in captivity. However, Ethiopia has chosen the easy route to mistreat and maltreat Nigerian citizens without any justification, as demonstrated in a video,” the speaker said.

The motion’s seconder, Mohammed Mongunu (Borno North), urged the administration to step up as well, pointing out that safeguarding residents’ lives and property is the primary duty of any government.

“Citizen-driven diplomacy is intended to be the cornerstone of our diplomatic approach. Nigerians ought to be the focal point of our diplomatic relationship, no matter where they may be. Since the preservation of life and property is the fundamental function of government, they ought to be centered on the needs of the people, as stated in our constitution.

“A government that is incapable of fulfilling its fundamental responsibility of safeguarding the lives and welfare of its people ought not to exist for a moment longer than what is absolutely required,” stated Mongunu.

In his speech, Titus Zam, speaking on behalf of Benue Northwest, urged the government to communicate with the Ethiopian embassy in order to arrange the release of Nigerian nationals incarcerated in Ethiopia’s highest prison.

It talks about the basic rights that Nigerians have both at home and abroad. Despite the fact that we lack sufficient knowledge regarding the types of crimes and offenses committed by Nigerians included on Ethiopia’s death list, I believe it is our duty as human beings to try to safeguard Nigerians wherever they may be.

“Despite whatever the circumstances may be over there, I support that immediate action be taken in coordination with the Ethiopian embassy in Nigeria to find ways of resolving this matter without sacrificing any Nigerian.”

Godswill Akpabio, the president of the Senate, denounced prejudice against Nigerians abroad in his remarks following the committees’ investigation of the matter. He pleaded with the appropriate authorities to give the problem of Nigerians living abroad due consideration.

Every Nigerian’s life is precious, and I would want to take this occasion to implore the Federal Republic of Nigeria’s relevant authorities to treat Nigerians’ lives seriously, both at home and abroad.

“I am aware that a lot of Nigerians face discrimination in countries like South Africa, and some have even stopped granting green passports, claiming that they are ineligible to visit those nations—some of which are not even the size of Enugu State—because of this.

“It is imperative that, in the process of examining this matter, we also take action to restore the authority of Nigeria—the largest Black nation globally,” stated Akpabio.

Similarly, the House of Representatives called NIDCOM head Dabiri-Erewa and foreign affairs minister Tuggar to testify over the development.

On Thursday, October 5, Kingsley Chinda, the Minority Leader, and others made a motion that was later adopted.

Reiterating that there are presently 250 Nigerians in prison in Ethiopia, Chinda also affirmed that there is widespread victimization and mistreatment of Nigerians in the nation. However, he pointed out that some of the detainees were apprehended while utilizing Ethiopia as a transit point.

Currently incarcerated in Ethiopia’s Chaota Maximum Security and other prisons are a few Nigerians. The majority of them are tourists who utilize Ethiopia’s airport as a connecting point. Due to ongoing attacks, over 250 Nigerians are incarcerated in Ethiopia and face the possibility of death there if immediate action is not taken to save them, the man said.

Thus, the House decided that Tuggar and Dabiri ought to testify before the Foreign Affairs, Diaspora, and Human Rights committees. The committees are then required to deliver their reports in a span of two weeks.

Even though Nigeria’s legislative branch has taken action, Nigerians are urging the government to use all of its diplomatic resources to guarantee that Nigerians detained in Ethiopian prisons are either released unconditionally if it is determined they are innocent or sent back to Nigeria to serve out their sentences for any crimes they may have committed.

Those making this argument contend that the Nigerians shouldn’t be let to stay in prison there until they have committed other crimes in addition to immigration offenses. They said that as migration is a necessary component of human existence, it is not illegal, whether it occurs regularly or irregularly.

Osita Osemene, a Migration Consultant and the founder of the Patriotic Citizens Initiative, participated in the conversation and stated that he thought there was nothing new about the development because, in his opinion, Nigerians are already dispersed around different countries’ jail systems for a variety of offenses.

He pointed out that while in certain cases Nigerians are truly found to have committed some sort of crime, in other cases they are simply being singled out because of their nationality. It’s a widely held belief that the majority of Nigerians are dishonest and should be dealt with harshly even in the absence of any evidence of wrongdoing.

He pointed out that several Nigerians incarcerated abroad were known to have committed crimes ranging from narcotics offenses to financial fraud to cult-related offenses to entering other nations without the proper documentation.

“We even brought up a similar topic when I was recently in Italy, and our Italian counterparts cited reasons why a lot of Nigerians are incarcerated there.

Aiye, Black Axe, Vikings, and other cult-related activities have landed some Nigerians in prison in Italy. What then can you say in a circumstance when a huge number of Nigerians are incarcerated in Italy for the reasons mentioned above? This does not imply that people in Ethiopia are also at fault. Many of them might not be guilty.

“Just because we all support migration, it does not imply that you will travel to another person’s nation and start committing crimes and horrors there.

“Many Nigerians are committing atrocities abroad, even if it’s not impossible that some of them have committed crimes that are not that serious and should be investigated.

Additionally, many nations take the issue of unauthorized migration seriously; it is a crime against the state. The majority of countries take serious offenses when someone enters their borders without the required paperwork or is brought in illegally.

As a result, regulations favoring migration are lacking in Ethiopia and the majority of Arab nations. Thus, as a migrant, you may suffer grave consequences for even the smallest transgression, and this is precisely what is occurring in Ethiopia at the moment.

The majority of Nigerians face harsh consequences after committing one or two offenses there. Additionally, not all of them have the same paperwork.

Osemene, who is also the Network Against Child Trafficking, Abuse and Labour in Nigeria’s National Secretary and Head of Programs, bemoaned the fact that another issue is that most Nigerians pretend to be foreign nationals in order to enter a country and only reveal their true identities when they encounter difficulties.

The majority of Nigerians do not enter Ethiopia as Nigerians, he added. They identify themselves as foreign nationals. Some say they are from Mauritania and other such places; some say they are from Ghana.

But they’ll start claiming to be Nigerians when something goes wrong. We shall so keep raising awareness among Nigerians as there is a great deal of deceit and they frequently run into issues.

Osemene responded, “Well, I know that the Nigerian government has some level of relationship with all these countries,” when asked what the government ought to do.

“They should activate, investigate, and determine how they might assist in the areas where they have bilateral agreements and signed treaties with Ethiopia. Treaties or bilateral agreements may be used by the government to allow individuals convicted of serious crimes to return to Nigeria to complete their jail sentences.

And because what they are going through there is too much, Nigeria ought to get involved in the situations of those with small infractions in order to pardon them and allow them to return.

Stated differently, I propose prisoner exchanges in the event that Ethiopia and Nigeria reach such a mutual agreement. Indeed, there may be a prison swap if they have others in Nigerian jail as well.

“Those whose offenses are related to migration or regular movement offenses ought to be released, as migration is not a criminal act. Everyone has the freedom to migrate, whether on a regular or irregular basis, and as long as they haven’t committed any other crimes, they are protected by the law.

Former Katsina State House of Assembly member Shehu Yusuf also made a contribution, saying that “any Nigerian who commits crime outside Nigeria should know that there are various laws guiding our country and other countries.”

“While there are laws and guidelines guiding a convict, we do not support Nigerians who commit crimes outside of Nigeria’s borders.”

“In whatever nation where a Nigerian is convicted, there are fundamental human rights that must be upheld.

“That this is taking place is a positive thing. The Nigerian embassy in Ethiopia ought to investigate the situation and identify the underlying issue.

“The government should step in and try to save those who are innocent of any crime, utilizing all diplomatic avenues at its disposal. It is not that Nigeria is endorsing criminals in other nations. I suggest that prudence be the operative word,” he declared.

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