Nigerian Ministry of Foreign Affairs has revealed that over 270 Nigerian inmates are serving various prison terms in Ethiopia. The agency added that most were imprisoned for drug-related offenses. The ministry was reacting to a viral video by one Dr. Paul Ezike making the rounds on social media on the alleged plight of Nigerian inmates in the Kaliti Prison in Ethiopia. In the video, Ezike said that a Nigerian inmate reached out to him, stating that they had been maltreated and punished differently for the same crime committed by other nationals. However, spokesperson for the ministry, Francisca Omayuli, stated that Ezike’s narration was blown out of proportion.
Omayuli’s statement read, “The attention of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has been drawn to a video by one Dr. Paul Ezike making the rounds on social media on the alleged plight of Nigerian inmates in the Kaliti Prison 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.”
FG in the process of signing MoU for transfer and exchange of prisoners.
According to the spokesperson, with over 270 Nigerian inmates in Ethiopian prisons, the Nigerian Mission in Addis Ababa regularly visits these prisons to ascertain the well-being of the Nigerian inmates, adding that the Ethiopian authorities have maintained that the inmates are not treated differently. Most of these inmates were incarcerated for drug-related offenses. Also, the Ethiopian authorities have always maintained that Nigerian inmates are not treated differently from other inmates. Scarce resources and budgetary constraints, amidst the growing number of inmates, often feature as the main challenge for the prison authorities.
Speaking further, she noted that the Federal Government of Nigeria, in response to the demands of Nigerian inmates, was in the process of concluding a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on the Transfer/Exchange of Prisoners with the Ethiopian Government. When finalized, this will enable Nigerian inmates to complete their jail terms in Nigeria, where their family members could assist with the government’s efforts towards their maintenance in prison. She said that this will be particularly beneficial to inmates with underlying illnesses.
High number of Nigerian offenders creates bad stereotype.
Furthermore, the Federal Government had kept reiterating the call for the few unpatriotic Nigerians involved in transnational organized crimes, including drug and human trafficking, to desist from such acts that lead to imprisonment and tarnish the image of the country, thereby subjecting innocent citizens to undue profiling across international borders. Being a transit hub, Ethiopia’s Bole International Airport receives massive movement of passengers and cargo to over 127 international destinations daily. So, there are reported cases of daily interceptions of drug traffickers.
Sadly, Nigerians have been identified as major culprits. This has contributed to the undue profiling and ill-treatment of a few innocent Nigerians traveling through the airport. But the ministry maintains that it is still an exaggeration for Dr. Ejike’s claims that all holders of the Nigerian green passport are subjected to profiling at the Bole International Airport, which receives four commercial flights from Nigeria daily with over two thousand passengers. “The Federal Government of Nigeria, through its Mission in Addis Ababa, will continue to engage with the Ethiopian authorities to address irritants in the bilateral relations of the two friendly countries, caused by a few individuals,” Omayuli noted.
Profiling of Nigerians due to recent happenings is now getting more sensitive.
Recently, Nigeria as a nation has been subjected to scrutiny before the whole world. The case of the president of the country allegedly forfeiting $460,000 to the US government in a drug-related case has also raised eyebrows with everyone both home and abroad. While it was debated both in court and in the media whether the forfeiture really did take place and whether it was criminal, Nigerians have had to face intensified profiling from outsiders. Perhaps this explains why Dr. Ezike would come to a conclusion that Nigerian inmates in Ethiopia are being mistreated on the basis of being Nigerian.