Following several disturbing reports of maltreatment and disrespect meted out to Nigerian migrants by officials of foreign countries, some concerned citizens under the aegis of the Office of the Citizens of the Federal Republic of Nigeria have petitioned the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Onyeama, demanding immediate action to address the ugly situation.
In a petition signed by its national coordinator, Mr. Victor Terhemba, the group lamented that the inhumane treatment which Nigerians suffer outside the shores of the country has become more pronounced and frustrating particularly now that it has started to reflect in the West African region and even from countries like Cape Verde.
Their petition was premised on the basis of the ordeal of a young Nigerian who was said to be travelling with her American friends amongst other friends with citizenship from other countries, only for her to be deported at the airport on the simple basis that she was a Nigerian while her American friends were allowed to enter the country.
The concerned citizens said they were taken aback that as at the time of writing their petition, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs was yet to react to the incident.
The group also expressed surprise that despite the ECOWAS mandate on the free movement of persons and goods which forms the cardinal points of the ECOWAS Integration Programme, Nigerian immigrants still get turned back at the port of entry of fellow West African Countries.
They said, “Article 3, paragraph 2 and Article 27 of the ECOWAS Treaty establishes the right of free movements of persons and the right of residence. Also, 21 years ago, on the 27th of March 2000 at the ninth summit of heads of states and governments, the creation of a borderless ECOWAS was set in motion. To further establish this mandate, at the 33rd ordinary session of Head of States and governments in January 2008, an ECOWAS Common Approach on Migration was adopted.
“Article 3, paragraph 2 of the ECOWAS Treaty states in part … the community shall… ensure the establishment of a common market through the removal of barriers between the Member States of obstacles to the Free Movement of Persons, goods, services and capital and the rights of Residence and Establishment”.
According to them, Cape Verde in turning back Nigerians by the virtue of this treaty has violated the spirit of the ECOWAS Integration Programme, adding that this was not the first case and that Nigerians have consistently been returned on the basis of having the green passport.
They expressed fear that should the ministry overlook this issue and allow such to continue, everyday Nigerians will continue to languish in maltreatment and indignified attitudes while reputable Nigerians will continue to enjoy the power of the support of the state creating an inequality of some sort.
The group acknowledged the support of the Minister of Foreign Affairs for providing the needed support for reputable Nigerians to aspire to global positions with the full backing of state apparatus with the likes of Dr. Ngozi Okonjo Iweala becoming the Director-General of the World Trade Organisation, WTO, Dr. Akinwumi Adesina the President of African Development Bank, AfDB, Dr. Amina Mohammed as Deputy Secretary-General of United Nations, adding that Nigeria has thus continued to take a place of pride in global affairs with representations at the highest level.
They however complained that the level of effectiveness with which the ministry supported and protected the welfare and interests of these prominent Nigerians is not replicated when it comes to everyday Nigerians who are moving from one country to another, studying, doing business or just travelling as tourists.
In its petition, the group made a three-point demand which included that the Minister must state clearly that Nigerians must be treated with respect and treaties bounding member states in ECOWAS must be respected and there will be consequences if these are violated.
Secondly, the group demanded that the Ministry must engage the ECOWAS Commission on laid down rules and sanctions must be meted to member states who violate its protocols and the sanctions must be set in motion immediately for erring states who refuse to correct the anomalies carried out by their officials or representatives.
Lastly, they demanded that the Ministry must set in motion an investigation into the treatment of Nigerians in Cape Verde and influence the ECOWAS Commission to set an investigation in motion including to find out if Cape Verde has consistently violated the ECOWAS Treaty or stated that it is not bound by them.
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