Languishing in Italian jails — THISDAY EDITORIAL

Posted by News Express | 19 August 2021 | 282 times

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Nigeria should put its house in order

Over 300 Nigerian youths are currently languishing in prisons in Italy on alleged mafia-related offences. The plight of these detainees was only brought to public knowledge after an outcry by a former Edo State Commissioner for Arts, Culture, Tourism and Diaspora Affairs, Osaze Osemwingie-Ero. There are similar cases of Nigerians in prisons across Europe and elsewhere, mostly stemming from their inability to defend themselves. We appeal to the Nigerian diplomatic mission in Italy and the Nigerians in Diaspora Commission (NIDCOM) to liaise with the Italian authorities so that the innocent ones among them do not get punished for offences not committed.

Unfortunately, in the past decade or so, and up till this moment, some of our nationals abroad have become synonymous with all manner of crimes–ranging from internet scams, credit card fraud, forgeries of travel documents to drug trafficking. While these crimes are committed by a handful, they are enough to damage the reputation of the entire country and other compatriots in such countries. According to a figure given a few years ago by the Federal Ministry of Foreign Affairs and generated from consular records, there are close to 17,000 Nigerians already convicted in prisons across the world.

Meanwhile, the case in Italy has once again brought to the fore the myriad of challenges Nigerian citizens face abroad. In most cases, many of them don’t get a fair trial and are largely left with no legal assistance. The intervention in 2019, which facilitated the evacuation of stranded Nigerians from various countries and allowed the rescue and safe return of those trafficked for heinous activities like slavery and sexual abuse, is commendable as it will give hope to Nigerians that are in dire need of assistance. However, the government needs to urgently address the root causes why Nigerians are migrating to several parts of the world in search of the proverbial greener pasture without giving a thought to the attendant risk such poses to their lives. In Bangladesh, Malaysia, China and Indonesia, many Nigerians are currently on death row, having been convicted for offences such as drug-trafficking, credit card scam or infractions on immigration laws. Hundreds of our nationals are also in jail across India and Thailand, mainly for drug-related offences. Elsewhere, there are others who are also in jail because of outright racism, some of them convicted without legal representations.

The economic situation compounds the challenge. On daily basis, we are confronted with the embarrassing sight of several Nigerians, regardless of age and gender, who choose to embark on the perilous voyage across the Sahara and the Mediterranean Sea to Europe. In the process of this risky journey, many of them are either attacked by bandits or lose their lives when navigating the difficult desert terrain. There have been cases where the ladies are abused by criminals while a good number of those who venture further drown in capsized boats filled with migrants in their bid to cross the sea.

It is only when government tackles the feeling of hopelessness and dejection that is driving illegal migration that there will be a curb on economic migration. Meanwhile, it is important for the government to embark on enlightenment campaigns on the need for our nationals to know the dire implications of committing crimes abroad. Besides, the government should also employ all diplomatic means to assist those who may have been wrongly convicted. Since the principle of reciprocity drives diplomacy, we must insist that other countries treat our citizens the same way we treat theirs.

Source: News Express

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