Posted by Ifedayo Oshin on Tuesday, December 17, 2013 Under: Our Headline Articles

As parts of their oversight functions, members of Diaspora Committee of the Federal House of Representatives led by its chairperson, Honorable Abike Dabiri-Erewa visited South Africa on the 25th of November 2013. She was accompanied by two members of the committee, Hon. Ajibola Famurewa and Hon. Umaru Shindanfi, consular officers of the Nigerian High Commission and the executives of the Nigerian Union in South Africa (NUSA). Their mission was to find out the plights of Nigerians in South African prisons and in South Africa generally.

The committee chairperson decried the increasing rate of Nigerians in South African prisons. She described it as “ridiculously embarrassing”. She told reporters at the media briefing at the Nigerian High Commission office in Pretoria that there are 409 Nigerians in South African prisons, four of which are women. The committee discovered that some Nigerians have completed their jail terms, but they were still kept in prisons. Some of the inmates complained officials tore their passports into pieces and refused to grant them bail while other nationals who committed similar bail able offences were granted bail. The chairperson advised the inmates to stay away from crimes because it does not augur well for them.

The committee members were later hosted by the Nigerian High Commissioner Ambassador Sanni Yussuf at the Nigerian High commission office later in the day. The Ambassador welcomed them and their entourage. He told the gathering that the legislators are visiting as part of their oversight functions. “This is an on-going activity not only in SA but in our other missions abroad. Some important issues germane to the committee work have been discussed earlier in my office, and we are handing over to them a report complied by the high commission to further assist them in the course of their work”, said the ambassador.

In her response, Hon. Dabiri-Erewa commended the ambassador and his officials for the good work they are doing in South Africa. She said that the committee had been to two prisons where they interacted with some Nigerians there.  She noted that “one point that cuts across all of them is the way they are being treated by the South African authority in the prisons we visited. In the words of one of them, ‘even prisoners deserve respect and dignity’”. The committee chairperson appealed to the ambassador to talk to South Africa authority to listen to the prisoners concerns and stop the discrimination the police are meting out to them.  “We also appeal to you too that the Embassy should pay more visits to the prisons. We know you have been doing that, but we discovered that with some measure of communication some of them will not be there for long and that are little cases that can be solved easily through the Nigerian Embassy. We also saw four women in the prisons. It is quite a shame though that offences ranging from drugs, murder, robbery and other things. But, they are still Nigerians citizens, anyway”.

Hon. Dabiri-Erewa also hinted that their visit to South Africa was not only on negative note, but in recognition of good things some Nigerians are doing in the country. “We saw some Nigerians in prisons, but we also know that Nigerians are excelling in South Africa. Nigerians are doing great things in South Africa, and we are proud of such Nigerians. We as a Committee believe that we should celebrate such Nigerians.

The committee chairperson also used the opportunity of the visit to present to the ambassador copies of the committee’s initiative- a magazine called the Diasporan- WAZOBIA. She said that the magazine is a platform to tell our stories by ourselves and celebrating Nigerians in the Diaspora. She promised that Nigerians in South Africa will be featured in the next edition of the magazine.

 She informed the audience that the first edition which she presented was officially launched by the Vice President in July. “The picture on the cover is that of the Nigerian who owns Gatwick airport in England. I am sure many Nigerians do not know who owns the Gatwick airport. All the stories we hear are about fraud and drugs. So, we are hoping that our next edition will feature South Africa. We will talk about what we see in prisons, but we will also talk about our brothers and sisters that are doing great things here”.

The honorable chairperson expressed belief that South Africa and Nigeria can rule the world if they work together. “We must learn to love another and treat one another with respect and dignity. And, when we say this, your Excellency, we have heard from everywhere. So, we are not being emotional or sentimental. It is what we have heard on the streets of South Africa. So, appeal to South African authority to treat our people with respect and dignity”. She also suggested to the Embassy to have a quarterly visit to prisons and see how they can solve some of the problems Nigeria inmates are having.

Hon. Shindafi observed that some women they met in the prisons were caught with passports of other countries. He was worried about the fact that anybody from anywhere could be caught with drugs or other crimes and claims to be a Nigerian whereas they may not be Nigerians.

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